The impact of IoT on the energy industry 

The technological transformation initiated by the rise of the Internet has given way to a form of interconnection with infinite possibilities. Such is the case of the Internet of Things or Internet of Things (IoT), whose use has spread rapidly. The term was publicly named in 2009 by Kevin Ashton, although this expression has been used passively since 1999. Since then, the concept has had a vertiginous and exponential growth.

Taking into account the above, its application covers a large number of scenarios, the energy industrial being one of the most promising (Vega et al., 2015). This article will address its historical progress, the principles and the underlying technologies. From there, 3 successful examples of the IoT applied to the energy industry will be presented and finally the challenges it faces will be described.

IoT and Industry 4.0

The industry has had a vertiginous advance in terms of technological developments and its constant growth. It all started in the 18th century with the first industrial revolution, characterized by the transition from agricultural to industrial economies. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, serial production was the main scheme that marked the second industrial revolution. Subsequently, between 1980 and 1990, the third revolution was marked by the entry of digital technology which increased automation.

In the 21st century came the fourth revolution, known as Industry 4.0 (Del Val Roman, 2016), where information technologies and connectivity (IoT) converge. At this stage, supply chains have a new control and organization model where “cyber-physical” systems predominate. Thus, the devices connected by sensors and the industrial interconnection have made a big difference (Vega, et al. 2015).

Basic principles of IoT in Industry 4.0 and associated technologies

The principles governing industrial IoT were described by Vega et al. (2015) and are mentioned below:

  • Interoperability: interconnection of all elements through the use of IoT and its services.
  • Virtualization: virtual copy that schematizes the operation of sensors and systems, including simulation models.
  • Decentralization: objects and systems with autonomous decision-making capacity.
  • Real-time capabilities: real-time data collection and analysis for decision making.
  • Service orientation: allow the confluence of customers and suppliers to facilitate the interaction and creation of new functionalities.
  • Modularity: adaptation and maximum flexibility to add, replace or eliminate any of its elements.

From the above, it is possible to talk about the emergence of technologies closely related to industry and IoT. These were described by Del Val Roman in 2016, being the most prominent: mobile communications, such as mobile internet. The cloud or cloud computing, which allows a large amount of data to be stored virtually. Big data, which analyzes the data generated by systems and identifies patterns, inefficiencies and future events. Machine-to-machine communication, which facilitates the exchange of information between objects and intelligent systems. Social platforms that enable active communication between customers and manufacturers. 3D printing that facilitates rapid prototyping. Advanced and collaborative robotics. Augmented reality (in application process). And the security evidenced in data encryption.

The IoT and the energy industry

The energy industry has been significantly impacted thanks to the intervention of the IoT. Among the most important applications are smart metering, smart grids and the SCADA system in electrical management. Here is a brief description of each one:

Smart metering

Smart metering, or consumption measurement, allows for integrated consumption analysis. This form of measurement has a large market in sectors such as electricity, gas and water. In summary, it allows the early detection of failures, as well as the optimization of consumption and networks (Vega, et al. 2015)

Among the advantages of smart metering or smart metering, real-time communication of the energy flow is highlighted. The user can know how much energy he uses and what actions he can take to optimize his consumption. Another advantage is to verify the state of the distribution network to avoid service failures, which increases energy efficiency. The compendium of these functionalities leads to the minimization of the economic and environmental impact due to the use of energy (Casellas, Velasco, Guinjoin and Piqué, 2010).

Intelligent networks

The purpose of smart grids is to change the vertical electric transmission model to a distributed one. That is, that the distribution of electric power ceases to be the responsibility of an operator so that more actors participate. With this, several companies are responsible for the generation, distribution and operation, which also favors the interaction of end users. In this way, the supervision and control of the electricity network is facilitated (Velasco, Ángeles and García, 2013).

Redes Inteligentes

SCADA system in electrical management

The SCADA system (in English, Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) is a process monitoring, supervision and control software. In electrical management, you can use various forms of communication to access remote stations (satellite system, radiocommunications, etc.). If there is a failure in the electrical transmission, it is reported to the control center to segment the location of the error. This represents a breakthrough given that a considerable number of users are prevented from having this interruption (Padrón, 2011).

Challenges of the IoT in the energy industry

One of the challenges is the adaptation of IoT in traditional business models. Rules are needed that enable the transition to a model based on smart metering and smart grids. That is the starting point to generalize and guarantee its use. Another challenge is the availability in the short term of the necessary technology, evidenced in the use of the SCADA system.

Finally, it is essential that professionals in the area of ​​engineering and software have greater representation and participation. By solving these needs, the IoT, related to the energy industry, will favor the development of local and regional territory. Together, it will tend to decentralize processes, energy efficiency and the scope of better collective results.

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