DistribuTECH International 2020 — energy & utilities at their finest

The utilities business is, arguably, not all that sexy. After all, you expect your lights to be on, whenever (and wherever) you feel like it… until there’s a power outage. You also expect water to come out of the faucet and down the toilet, when you turn the tap or flush... until there’s a pipe freeze or clog. And, you expect your stove flames to go up (if you use gas for cooking) or your home to be warm (if you use gas to heat the house), and hot water all year around to have that rejuvenating shower... until there’s a gas leak and… well, you can imagine the rest.

So, the clue is pretty simple:

  • utilities need to be on at all times,
  • you need to be alerted when something goes wrong or not quite right,
  • it needs to be self-healing or recover itself autonomously (would be nice),
  • you’d like immediate actions be taken, even remotely,
  • you’d like optimize usage to save the environment and $,
  • you’d like to have everything at your fingers — automated controls, connected, remotely controlled, simple configuration panel and so on.

That’s among the topics and displays of the utilities/energy industry’s premier trade event – DistribuTECH International, happening this week (28-30.01.2020) in San Antonio, Texas.

When all utilities become connected and smart, building to building, street to street, your city becomes smart. So, smart utility is the cornerstone of a smart city!

The topic of managing utilities is not new. Since at least the 1960s, systems are created and put in place to monitor and control a plant or equipment in industries such as telecommunications, water and waste management, energy, oil and gas refining and transportation. That’s SCADA – Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition system.

Devices Getting Smart(er)

What’s transformative is the connectivity, artificial intelligence applied to ever smart meters to enable decisions on the network edge – the devices. Here comes the smart utilities. In this age of “smartness” – not being totally facetious, smart utility management truly is transforming our lives.

The energy industry and US Department of Energy are advocating and introducing what’s called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), which is an architecture for automated, two-way communication between a smart utility meter with an IP address and a utility company. For obvious reasons, providers of meters, meter modules, network infrastructure, and network management software for the AMI system are out in full force at the event.

Want your meter to tell you which appliance is consuming what level of energy, so you can adjust accordingly? It can be done.

AI and device management for utility and energy companies

Using AI and proficient device management standards allows utility and energy companies, to manage devices at a large scale, leveraging over the cloud. There aren’t ostentatious displays of “trendy” technologies or protocols here, but it is all about innovations and technologies solving the connected scalability problem — handling constrained devices with small memory, low power and short range over constrained networks. Here, Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) SpecWorks’ Lightweight Machine to Machine (LwM2M) protocol comes in handy. It’s a device communication, device management and telemetry protocol specifically designed for constrained devices. Applications of it already deployed in real world use cases such as asset tracking in transportation, weather station, highway/parking management even retail vendor machines could be found in AVSystem’s Coiote IoT Device Management platform.

William L. Yan
President, Americas

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