When we think about the energy industry, we don’t always think fast-paced innovation. While we are making advancements in wind and solar, much of today’s energy still relies on fossil fuels — a substance literally formed millions of years ago.
The general model for energy hasn’t changed very much in the last century either. Today, energy is generated in centralized locations, powered by a few major fuel sources, and distributed by the electrical grid for use in homes and businesses. This model has proven to be reliable and everyone has standardized on it making widespread innovation difficult.
The IoT (internet of things) is changing all of that.
The role of utility companies is to balance energy generation with demand in a cost-effective way. For most of the world, energy is highly reliable and relatively inexpensive — but not always the most efficient. This is where the Internet of Things can have a big impact – influencing the way energy is generated, distributed, consumed, and stored. More than ever before, there will be a ton of opportunity for existing companies and new start-ups to disrupt this very established industry.
There are a variety of new ways that energy is being created at scale. Connected solar panels and wind turbines are now significant sources of energy today.
The connectivity aspect provides a real-time snapshot of the current energy being generated and can offset the need for traditional centralized energy generation. IoT connectivity also allows companies, or homeowners, a view into the health of their solar panels or wind turbines that are often installed on rooftops or in remote locations, which can maximize the uptime and output of these devices.
The second area of major disruption is in energy distribution and usage. As more devices get connected, it creates new opportunities to better manage supply with demand and change consumer behavior.
There are broad capabilities in the market today — like utility-driven demand response programs which leverage connected devices, including smart thermostats, to turn off high energy–consuming home devices during peak demand. They have proven effective in protecting against brownouts and blackouts across the United States.
In addition, there are new connected devices in the market that are focused on creating a better customer experience and changing customer behavior over time. One example of this is the Sowee connected home station, which is designed to help consumers manage residential energy consumption while optimizing comfort and remote control everyday devices. Rather than just focusing on the temperature set point as the only variable, this station also allows the consumer to set a budget for the month with the temperature adjusting based on that budget.
Finally, energy storage is also emerging as an opportunity. Sparkplug Power, for example, has developed a smart grid energy storage solution for businesses and municipal utilities. Having connectivity provides Sparkplug real-time insight into energy stored and consumed and provides the company granular control over how energy is used as well as insight into the status and health of their products.
The IoT has opened doors for several industries, but smart energy is where we can start seeing a positive global impact immediately. Having the ability to ensure energy is being consumed efficiently and responsibly ensures that none of us are left out in the dark.
This post was supported by Xively; image from Getty images