The Internet of Things (IoT) has a great deal of potential to generate change in society. Devices and appliances, or ‘things’, which can detect change via sensors and then communicate this information over the Internet are seen as real technology game changers.
As time goes on the electronics and sensors needed to make this happen will be becoming cheaper and cheaper and many experts believe that by 2025 IoT will have fundamentally altered the way we live and do business.
The IoT is a difficult concept, especially if you are trying to work out the advantage of a toaster being connected to the internet.
The advantage normally lies in a greater degree of visibility. Devices such as smart phones, boilers and weather vanes which are connected to the Internet will be able to communicate with manufacturers, operators and other connected devices. They will ‘talk’ about the weather, movements and a whole host of other inputs to communicate a clear picture of the world automatically.
The added visibility will give either you or the manufacturer the ability to make smarter decisions and better products.
Smart gas meters across the internet
Smart meters are already widely available and, though it is a relatively young IoT technology, it has a great capacity to moderate energy demand and reduce costs.
A smart gas or electricity meter will communicate consumption data directly to the energy supplier and to you.
This can generate two cost saving benefits. Firstly, because the meter can communicate directly with the supplier, it means you will always get an accurate reading on your energy bill and will avoid overpaying or receiving the dreaded estimated bills.
Secondly, because the information is communicated directly to you through a real-time online reporting system, it means that you can monitor your consumption more closely. This can empower you to alter your usage patterns, identify areas of waste and reduce demand.
The smart metering roll out can be supplemented with dynamic ‘time of use’ which will reflect variable costs of generation. In this way, businesses which can purchase energy flexibly, for example by running high energy processes at night time, stand to save if they use smart meters effectively.
This will also help deliver a more stable energy system by moderating demand so as to ensure a more constant flow of energy, rather than jumpy production.
The future of the Internet of Things – a smarter supply side
The Internet of Things will also increase the potential for intelligent supply-side management.
Smart grids operated on the Internet of Things will allow distribution to be managed in real time rather than relying on historical patterns of use or the gut feelings of network operators.
They are starting to be used on electricity networks, monitoring the spread of energy as it travels from plant to end-user, and hold a number of benefits to society. Chief among the benefits is that they generate efficiencies.
Electricity is difficult to store so, unless there is immediate demand, it will be wasted. Smart grids will seek to perfectly balance the supply and demand of the electricity network, ensuring that waste is kept to a minimum and consequently reducing the price paid by households and businesses.
Smart grid projects do exist but are relatively small scale so far. Projects like the Glasgow Future City and Pecan Street in Texas show how utilities can be delivered efficiently on a small scale; national smart grid systems might still be some way off.