Open Architecture IoT Solutions Will Bring Major Benefits to the Energy Industry

In Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) application domains such as energy generation (including transmission and distribution), the co-ordination of operational systems (power plants, electrical power grids etc.) has traditionally been via back office centralized management infrastructure. Energy utility technologies and their data are often siloed, based on proprietary hardware from different vendors, and use many different communication protocols and telecommunication technologies to make the device data available to the centralized information systems.

Open Architecture IoT solutions offer the potential for the energy industry to move from single function and proprietary centralized managed systems to new multi-function distributed control systems. They can enable co-ordination between grid-edge technologies and with the centralized systems, improving grid efficiency, reducing integration costs, enabling vendors to improve their products and ultimately, customers to pay less for the electricity that they consume.

Traditional Grid Management Architecture
Traditional Grid Management Architecture

The next generation of energy grids will need to adopt new approaches for the integration of distributed grid-edge devices and equipment from many different manufacturers to realize operational benefits. Existing systems that were designed to support a small number of large generation facilities will be faced with the need to integrate an increasing number of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as wind, solar and electricity storage into existing power generation and distribution networks.

In the current business climate, the power industry has recognized the need for change. Already in Europe the profits of the large power utilities who have invested heavily in fossil fuel plants are starting to fall. In fact, over the last five years, the top 20 utilities in Europe have lost half of their value (source: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/this-is-what-the-utility-death-spiral-looks-like). Many of their large customers are leaving the grid as they adopt renewable energy resources and become self sufficient. This has the effect of pushing up energy costs for the customers who stay and encourages more companies to become self sufficient. These major shifts are forcing the utilities to re-assess their business models, driving them to greatly increase investment in wind power, solar and distribution projects to connect renewables into their existing grids in an attempt to arrest the decline in their profits.

Open Architecture IoT Grid Management
Open Architecture IoT Grid Management

In the US the legal and commercial drivers for the adoption of renewables have not been as great up to this point. However, the US utilities have also recognized that things need to change.  In 2013 US utility giant Duke Energy formed the “Coalition of the Willing” (COW), a consortium of grid technology vendors focused on the promotion and adoption of an Open Architecture approach to standardizing the way grid-edge technologies are integrated together.

The consortium is made up of communications and grid control systems, electronics and software vendors. The initial COW member companies were limited to Duke Energy, Accenture Alstrom Grid, Ambient Corporation, Echelon, S&C Electric and Verizon.  After successfully demonstrating in real-time how different grid devices could talk to each other without the need to contact a remote centralized management system and reducing the feedback control process from minutes to less than 10 seconds, the energy industry started to really take notice. The responsiveness that Duke and its partners demonstrated can enable a system to react dynamically to changes such as a sudden drop in the wind powering a farm of turbines. The distributed management system can automatically and in real-time (within seconds) switch in battery backup storage to ensure that a smooth voltage supply is maintained. This is something that is much harder to achieve if the process of communicating with a centralized system takes minutes.

As a result, the consortium has quickly grown to over 25 companies, with new members including ABB, Cisco, Itron, PrismTech, Schweitzer and others.

All COW members must implement interoperable communication protocols that conform to open standards. These protocols must also conform to the Common Information Model (CIM) utility standard.  The protocols are used as the basis of a common communication backbone called the “Field Message Bus” which is used to connect edge-devices via standardized nodes deployed by Duke Energy. The core communication protocol that must be supported is the Object Management Group’s Data Distribution Service for Real-time Systems (DDS) standard. DDS implementations including PrismTech’s Vortex are being used by the consortium to provide a high performance, fault tolerant, secure, real-time interoperable data connectivity layer between edge-grids and centralized management systems. DDS can be used to unify co-ordination for the edge-grid devices while at the same time making important real-time data available to the centralized systems, as well as feeding centralized control decisions back down to the edge-grids

The ability to process data at the edge and share control decisions in real-time across device networks that were previously isolated from each other, is where the real value of the IIoT for the energy industry will be gained.  DDS as part on an Open Architecture for edge-grids is a key enabler of this capability.

Read the full article at www.iotsworldcongress.com

PrismTech earns special recognition as first industry (non-founding) member of the Industrial Internet Consortium

The IIC highlights PrismTech during its quarterly meeting, which also coincides with the consortium’s one-year anniversary

 

Boston, MA, USA – March 26, 2015 – PrismTech™, a global leader in software platforms for distributed systems, was honored this week as the first industry (non-founding) member of the Industrial Internet Consortium.  The IIC highlighted PrismTech’s early involvement in the consortium during its quarterly meeting, which also coincided with the IIC’s one-year anniversary.

Through the efforts of founding members AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel, the IIC launched as an open membership group focused on breaking down the barriers of technology silos to support better access to big data with improved integration of the physical and digital worlds.  With the addition of early adopters such as PrismTech, the IIC is attracting the leading organizations and technologies necessary to accelerate the growth of the Industrial Internet.

“We are honored to be recognized by the IIC as its first non-founder industry member,” said Keith Steele, CEO, PrismTech.  “Our intelligent data-sharing platform, Vortex, is proving to be a key enabling technology for Industrial Internet systems.  Our active participation in the IIC provides an outstanding opportunity to work closely with the other leaders in the industry to help shape the future of the Industrial Internet and enable these systems to deliver the significant economic benefits we know are possible.”

Through its industry leading Vortex™ platform suite, PrismTech offers the most comprehensive intelligent data-sharing platform solution for Internet of Things (IoT) systems.  The Vortex platform family includes Vortex Café for mobile phones and tablets, Vortex Cloud for cloud services, Vortex OpenSplice™ for corporate systems and Vortex Lite for embedded sensors.

In addition to this IIC recognition, the company was recently honored by IoT Nexus as a “Top Power Player in the Internet of Things.”  The company also has been named a Sand Hill Group “Needle Mover” in building the future of the Internet of Things and a Postscapes “Must-Follow IoT Company.”  Gartner recognized the company as a “Cool Vendor” and Steve Jennis, SVP Corporate Development for the company, has been recognized as one of the most influential Internet of Things executives by market researcher Appinions.

Connected Boulevard — It’s What Makes Nice, France a Smart City

Known as the capital of the French Riviera, the city of Nice, France, is many things. It’s beautiful, it’s cosmopolitan and it’s vibrant. But it’s also something else — it’s possibly the smartest city in the world.

Among spectacular panoramic views, the rich culture, and all the shopping and nightlife opportunities is an underlying connectivity. It’s actually an intelligent data-sharing infrastructure that is enhancing the city’s management capabilities and is making daily life more efficient, enjoyable and easier for the more than 300,000 residents that call Nice home and the more than 10 million tourists who visit each year. It’s what makes this city smart… really smart.Chart for Angelo's Blog Post

Nice has been gaining much attention lately thanks to a series of innovative projects aimed at preserving the surrounding environment and enhancing quality of life through creative use of technology. Connected Boulevard is a great example of this.

The city launched the Connected Boulevard — an open and extensible smart city platform — as a way to continue to attract visitors while maintaining a high quality of life for its citizens. Connected Boulevard is used to manage and optimize all aspects of city management, including parking and traffic, street lighting, waste disposal and environmental quality.

A number of companies played a key role in the launch of Connected Boulevard, including Industrial Internet Consortium members Cisco, which is providing its Wi-Fi network, and PrismTech, which is providing its intelligent data-sharing platform, Vortex (based on the Object Management Group’s Data Distribution Service standard) at the core of the Connected Boulevard environment for making relevant data ubiquitously available.

Architecture Maximizes Extensibility and Minimizes Maintenance Costs

Think Global, an alliance of innovative start-ups and large companies, designed the Connected Boulevard architecture with an eye toward maximizing extensibility and minimizing maintenance costs. In a smart city environment, the main costs typically come from system maintenance, rather than initial development and launch efforts. A big part of these maintenance costs come from the replacement of sensor batteries. To help reduce these operating costs and maximize battery life, the Connected Boulevard project team made an interesting and forward thinking move — one which was in direct contrast with some of the latest thinking by those in the smart device and edge computing community.

Connected Boulevard relies on “dumb” sensors. These sensors typically are simply measuring physical properties such as temperature and humidity, magnetic field intensity, and luminosity. Once collected, these measurements are sent to signal processing algorithms within a cloud, where the data is then “understood” and acted upon. In the Connected Boulevard, magnetic field variation is used to detect parked cars, temperature and humidity levels are used to determine when to activate sprinklers, luminosity and motion detection are used to control street lighting.

The sensors in the Connected Boulevard rely on low power protocols to communicate with aggregators that are installed throughout the road network. Powered by the power line, the aggregators use Vortex to convoy the data into an Amazon EC2 cloud. The data is than analyzed by a series of analytics functions based on the Esper CEP platform. Finally, relevant information, statistics and insight gained through the data analysis are made available wherever it is needed within this connected ecosystem.

The applications within Connected Boulevard use caching features to maintain in-memory, a window of data over which real-time analytics are performed. The results of these analytics can be shared with applications throughout the overall system, where decisions are then made, such as what actions should take place. For example, the Nice City Pass application checks for free parking places and can also be used to reserve them. If a car is occupying a parking space that the driver has not paid for, a notification is sent to the police to ensure that the violating driver is fined.

Significant Benefits

After the initial installation of Connected Boulevard a few years ago, traffic congestion was reduced by 30 percent, parking incomes increased by 35 percent and air pollution has been reduced by 25 percent. It’s also anticipated that savings on street lighting will be at least 20 percent, but possibly as high as 80 percent. These are real, tangible results… and are clear examples of a smart city at work.