Tdworld 11625 Feature Smart Grid Wolf

The Internet of Things is Changing the Way We Live — and the Grid

Dec. 12, 2017
Being the conservative utility engineer that I am, I decided to do a pilot project.

I have finally joined the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s not that I don’t have a lot of digital tech-toys around the house and office, but none of these devices are “official” IoT devices. I have a Raspberry Pi on my Smart TV that adds all kinds of way-out functionality, but it’s not IoT in the sense that a Nest thermostat is. I do use the Cloud to store my Word documents for easy access when I travel. It also gives a secure backup for my writings, so you might say I’m partially into IoT technology, but that is via my computer and not an IoT gadget connected to the home.

With this year’s pre-Thanksgiving sale frenzy however, it finally got to me. One of the local big box stores in town reduced the price of one of the bestselling video doorbell systems over 30%. They also threw in a free year of unlimited cloud storage for the recorded video and a wireless programmable door chime device. It turns out the door chime could be programmed to bark like an angry dog for people to hear when they rang the doorbell. How could I could I pass all that up?

This wasn’t an impulse buy, I had been thinking about trying some of home security tools available on the market for several months. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump into a complete home video monitoring scheme as a first step. The digital doorbell was a great starting point that offered something of a more limited nature and would give me a chance to see if there were any problems. Being the conservative utility engineer that I am, I decided to do a pilot project. This was a good time to start!

Smart Project Deployed

After purchase, it only took a short time to remove my old “dumb” doorbell and replace it with the shiny new tech-toy. Then I visited my friendly smartphone app store for the required doorbell app. I connected the smartphone to my digital video doorbell through my Wi-Fi, and I was in business. Video is streaming from the doorbell whenever the motion detector activates, or someone rings the doorbell. I can now see who or what is outside without opening my front door or for that fact, even being inside the house.

My pilot project is in service, collecting data, and so far, working successfully. This IoT technology is convenient and offers advantages over the old-school method of having to be home to answer the door, which is why integrating IoT technology with the smart grid technology has been so successful. Actually, utilities have been using IoT before it was known as IoT. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) dates back to the 1950s. In its simplest form, SCADA is made up of sensors and actuators controlling equipment using RTUs (remote terminal units) to communicate. In the early days it wasn’t very sophisticated by today’s standards, but digital technology has advanced and with it, SCADA has advanced too. There are other examples, but I’m sure you get the picture.

The utility industry has been on the cutting edge of connectivity and data gathering for many years, but now the world has pushed the envelope further. Interestingly, ZDNet estimates that IoT devices will outnumber the world’s population sometime in 2017, which has probably happened, but we will have to wait until next year for confirmation. That number is approximately 8.4 billion and they project over 20 billion IoT devices will be deployed by 2020. Gartner estimates that 63% of the IoT applications are attributed to consumer applications. They also predict that businesses will have connected 3.1 billion connected things by the end of 2017.

Billions of Endpoints

GE published a white paper last year titled “Predix: The Industrial Internet Platform.” contains some interesting facts about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), its data, the cloud infrastructure, and industrial grade security for this new technology. GE forecasted that the investment in IIoT technology will top $60 trillion in the next 15 years. The report can be downloaded at

That is a lot of IoT connectivity, but more amazing is the fact that IoT sensors and devices are expected to exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018. Billions of endpoints on utility infrastructure will be producing a huge amount of data that has to be mined and turned into useful information, which is opening the door on another digital technology – machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) as it is more commonly known. Linking IoT with AI is getting a lot of attention by the industry as manufacturers and utilities work on better ways to analyze and understand what is taking place on the T&D system. I have already seen a small version of that data from my doorbell. The first week I had a lot of motion activation until I got it adjusted better. I had cats, rabbits, cars all tripping it. There was even a spider walking across the camera – that was interesting, but it gave me a firsthand idea of shifting junk data from real information. Combining IoT with the grid is going to be interesting – for sure.

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