3 ways IoT will change smart meters for utilities

By | 2 minute read | December 1, 2016

The concept of a smart grid, and the smart meters that are used to measure it, predated the Internet of Things.  If we think about IoT as simply the networking of physical devices to allow them to exchange data, then energy & utilities companies building smart grids could be considered leaders of the early IoT movement.

But I’d argue that the IoT hasn’t fully delivered value in the utilities industry yet.  Most smart grid and meter projects have focused on the meter-to-cash process (M2C).  To summarize, this process is the utility industry’s version of a standard order-to-cash process, and includes reading and collecting meter data, analyzing meter data, and then billing and collecting from customers based on this information.

Many utility companies have already optimized these processes as prior to growing interest and investments in IoT.  So how do we see IoT impacting utilities companies and their smart meter initiatives moving forward?  Here are three possible ways:

Smart meters will reduce consumption

Most smart meter initiatives have centered around capturing operational savings first, and are now moving into providing customers with data and transparency on energy consumption.  This by itself should reduce consumption, but we predict that combining smart meters with IoT innovations in the home will magnify energy efficiency.  For example, smart thermostats are becoming ubiquitous but there is no consistent IoT platform for connecting these devices with smart meters.

Can you imagine if your Nest thermostat could make heating decisions based on fluctuating energy costs?  Cognitive systems such as Watson, when combined with open IoT platforms to capture data, could revolutionize how consumers consume energy.  An added benefit – this could help stabilize grids for peak use and provide more reliable service.

Smart meters will enable renewable energy and micro-grids

Customer demand for renewable energy is strong, as evidenced by rapid growth and innovation in solar rooftop technology and adoption.  However, most experts believe that grid-scale solar or wind energy projects are more efficient than renewal projects undertaken by consumers.

Smart meters, feeding into smart grids, will allow utilities companies to better manage bi-directional power flows into and out of their grids, and give customers the insights needed to understand their own energy infrastructure investments.  But more importantly, smart grids will enable larger-scale renewable projects led by utilities companies.

But managing this data is difficult, especially when utilities try to provide customers with individual grid management.  This is where cognitive solutions can help enable smart grids. Cognitive solutions can help make better decisions by understanding grid conditions in real-time via the IoT, and then can give each client the mass customization they’re looking for to drive renewal adoption, however the client wishes.

Edge analytics will make meters truly smart

Earlier this year IBM and Cisco announced a partnership on edge analytics and while this has clear applications for utilities companies managing complex and geographically distributed infrastructure, edge analytics might also help increase the intelligence of smart meters.

Most homes have wifi connectivity but this isn’t accessible to utilities companies. By using edge analytics to embed cognitive capabilities into meters, their power and usefulness could increase tremendously. This clearly requires infrastructure investments by utilities around connectivity, but this could be more cost-effective than upgrading physical infrastructure and would also provide substantial operational savings (ex: field service management savings) in addition to a unique and personalized customer experience.

Take a look at other ways the IoT is impacting energy.