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Access Granted: 5 Ways Smartphones Are Unlocking A Sustainable Energy Future

Electricity today has come a long way since it was first used as source of power in the 19th century. Today, power companies no longer just focus on providing stable electricity supply; they are also looking at ways to personalise the supply of power, leading to improved customer experience and more efficient use of resources.

This progress has grown in stride with that of another industry: technology. Every day, consumer tech continues to dominate our lives – from laptops to wireless earphones, you name it, we’ve bought it. There is a clear frontrunner in this vast universe though; a device so common today it is found inside the pockets of persons both rich and poor – the smartphone.

Smartphone usage boomed across the world alongside the advent of the Internet, enabling greater and wider access to information. On average, the 5.19 billion mobile phone users around the world spend over three hours accessing the internet on mobile devices.

With that many connected consumers, the opportunity to create a smarter, more informed market is present at the touch of a fingertip. Below, we explore five ways the power industry is using smartphones to unlock value.

1. Informed Choices with Smart Meters

Smart consumption is further empowered by the rollout of smart meter technology. Smart meters utilise the latest digital technology to connect consumers and energy networks with accurate, real-time energy consumption numbers. This type of metering not only provides aggregate consumption insight, but in many cases, can provide detailed statistics for individual appliances themselves.

users have access to real-time, or near real-time data of their current energy usage.

By linking up these devices to smartphones, consumers can understand when electricity is consumed, which electrical appliances are in use, and how much electricity they are consuming with just a few simple taps. This insight empowers households to reduce waste, improve electricity efficiency, and reduce their electricity bills.

In Malaysia, national utility Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB)’s myTNB app serves as the centralised information source that provides insight into electricity consumption, bills, payment schedules, as well as customer service functionality. Similar apps are available throughout the region, from the likes of Singapore Power to Vietnam’s Metropolitan Electricity Authority. When linked to data gathered from nation-wide smart meters, users have access to real-time, or near real-time data of their current energy usage.

2. Energy Efficiency through Smart Home Devices

Ever come back after a long day at work to find your TV running, or air conditioner on full blast? With smart tech, you would receive a high energy alert in the middle of the day, quickly check consumption on your smartphone, then input commands to turn off air conditioning or TV which had been accidentally left running.

By connecting smart technology within the home, users are provided electricity consumption updates and alerts, and can control automated devices via their smartphone. In Malaysia, the Maevi platform provides an integrated smart device system that combines energy monitoring, home security, and home automation. The online tool also comes in the form of a mobile app that shows consumers detailed energy consumption numbers, provides recommendations on reducing energy consumption, and even allows remote operation of home appliances.


3. Extending the Energy Network: Rural Electrification

On an individual scale, smartphones provide a world of empowered opportunity for consumers. Similarly, the connected nature of smartphone networks and data insights also allow us to tap into the opportunities of a wider energy infrastructure.

Smartphone networks and insights could mean opportunities for understanding rural electrification needs. The effect of this would be particularly powerful in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where just 22% of rural areas have access to electricity.

One of the greatest challenges in these locations is understanding where grid infrastructure is required, and what level of energy usage may be expected. Mobile phone data provides geotargeted insight that could help planners understand when and how infrastructure should be developed.


4. Extending the Energy Network: Electric Vehicles

Smartphones can (and are) supporting the rapid growth of electric vehicle (EV) use across the globe. Passenger EV sales grew from 450,000 in 2015 to 2.1 million in 2019 and the global EV fleet is expected to reach 116 million by 2030.

South Korean energy company KEPCO announced a smartphone app in 2017 to support the growing adoption of electric vehicles. This app helps users locate and access nearby electric charging stations, bypassing challenges faced by early adopters who found it difficult to locate charging stations as easily as petrol stations.

South Korea’s largest car supplier, Hyundai, is also looking at integrating smartphone applications directly with EV functionality through a smartphone app, enabling users to optimise performance features of their vehicle.

5. Extending the Energy Network: Balancing the Energy Demand

Since mobile phones provide valuable insights for smart charging solutions, they could play a big in further pushing the adoption of electric vehicles. Higher adoption of EVs would represent a huge transformation to our electricity ecosystem, requiring grid and on-ground infrastructure changes. This higher demand for electricity to charge cars will also impact the way utilities and regulators plan for national energy generation.

This is part of what is widely known as ‘demand side’ changes, as the electrification of products such as vehicles leads to more intense demand by domestic users. This change of demand could put significant strain on traditional grid infrastructure. Smart charging uses data insight from EV charging stations, combined with user smartphone data, help the energy industry to predict, analyse, and match suppler infrastructure with consumer demand.


The Future of Energy is Connected

Digital technology is expected to be responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, but done right, the opportunities inherent in smart connected energy infrastructure far outweigh the concerns. Data-driven understanding can not only help create a more informed future of electricity infrastructure, but a more informed future of consumption for industry, businesses, and households. Our pocket supercomputer will be a powerful gateway to that opportunity.

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