Today, traditional structures of energy markets and industries across the world are evolving and inevitably being disrupted. With connectivity increasing hand in hand with the capability of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, opportunities in the energy sector are plentiful. From where I see it, ten years from now, the Internet of Things will have the same level of productivity and efficiency impact that enterprise software-as-a-service has had on businesses over the past decade.
As we move into the future, energy systems will continue to decentralise, and the number of “prosumers” who have both generation and energy storage capabilities will continue to rise. This presents an opportunity for consumers to manage their energy usage and production in a more efficient manner. From this standpoint, the adoption of IoT technology into homes and businesses will become increasingly important.
IoT enables intelligent monitoring, maintenance, and optimisation
A key selling point for energy management technologies is the monetary savings that will come from improved energy management. For companies working with physical assets, whether those are buildings or industrial machines, IoT enables the intelligent monitoring, maintenance, and optimisation of those assets. Individual businesses can benefit from energy savings of around 10% from moderate efficiency improvements. In some cases, it can be much higher, particularly for capital-intensive projects, depending on the age and condition of the equipment and the operating patterns at each site.
For consumers, the opportunity goes beyond energy savings. There is significant untapped potential for activity monitoring in addition to tracking energy usage at a level that is easy for people to connect to their daily lives. At Ampotech, we regularly see homeowners inquire about appliance monitoring, curious about issues like how many times the washer and dryer are being used, or how long the air conditioner is running. Consumer technology has evolved so quickly over the last few years that, in some ways, consumers are the ones pushing businesses to adopt IoT. Employees may be using fitness trackers and voice assistants in their homes, but in the office they would still use pen and paper and legacy software tools.
Consumer technology has evolved quickly over the last few years
Taken together, the impact from homes and businesses using these technologies can be enormous. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released a report that revealed that 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2 were avoided by technical energy efficiency gains between 2015-2018. There is certainly more work to be done in the 2020s and it will take a sustained, multifaceted effort from policymakers and the entire industry to decarbonise economies. I see technologies like Ampotech’s playing a key role, particularly in the early part of that journey to understand and prioritize efficiency improvements, then to verify and maintain the performance level. This is borne out in recent standards such as ISO 50001:2018, which calls for continuous monitoring and improvement.
As Internet of Things technology matures, interoperability (the ability to share data and resources between multiple systems) and interconnection (the linking of two or more systems for the mutually beneficial exchange of traffic) are becoming increasingly important. Early IoT projects, particularly at the pilot scale, tended to be siloed and piecemeal from different vendors. Now we see customers requesting integrated solutions, and therefore vendors are working together more closely to deliver the multifaceted systems their consumers desire. From experience at Ampotech, I believe the best philosophy is to pursue product excellence and partner with complementary vendors and system integrators.
Another important consideration for vendors is cyber security. Many energy systems are, rightly, viewed and regulated as critical infrastructure. IoT solutions that interact with those systems should not become a weak link. For data collection and analysis systems like Ampotech’s, our core concern is protecting customers’ data confidentiality and integrity, which led us to collaborate with Infineon Technologies. For automation and control systems, data availability is generally the most important factor, which presents another set of challenges for vendors in that space. Regardless of where vendors sit – hardware, software, sensing, control – security is an issue that is not going away.
IoT in energy will help build a future of smart buildings and cities across ASEAN
The expanding markets in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore are playing their part in driving the growth of IoT-enabled energy solutions. We’ve already seen this begin to play out in Singapore, but it has been slowed down temporarily by an overly competitive electricity market. Last year we started to see a consolidation among retailers in Singapore and I’m confident that the remaining players will place greater emphasis on IoT-enabled solutions to further differentiate themselves and retain customers.
In the end, IoT in energy will help build a future of smart buildings and cities for residents across ASEAN – and it’s already happening. This change will happen at different paces depending on the market – in certain countries there will be large-scale smart city development projects that incorporate a range of different technologies and in other places it has been more bottom up driven by smart building vendors and energy providers. In the long term, the result will be the same: a more dynamic, efficient and sustainable energy ecosystem built around responsive demand and distributed generation in buildings.