Why the Status Quo of IoT Networks Must Change

Posted by Tom Ehart, Director of Marketing Communications on Apr 29, 2019 9:32:19 AM

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Distributed energy resources (DERs) and new energy services offer huge potential for both sides of the meter. Already, applications and services are transforming the functionality of large commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities as innovative energy service providers (ESPs) develop and deploy solutions that enable greater automation, flexibility, and efficiency.

The future of the new energy world is undeniably bright. But, for all of the justified excitement built around solutions, there is a major hurdle dimming their potential: the status quo of IoT networks.

Until the underlying approach to networks changes, new energy solutions and DERs will face critical challenges that undermine their impacts, and the promise of new energy solutions will fail to be fully realized.

In order to move forward, companies on both sides of the meter need to understand the current status quo and the myriad of reasons why it must change.

The Traditional Approach to IoT Networks

The truth that underlies the entire status quo of IoT networks is this: networks are not a primary concern for energy service providers. The focus has always been on solutions – services and applications that perform clear functions with tangible benefits – more so than on the networks that empower them.

This is understandable, but it’s resulted in major challenges. ESPs have traditionally looked at “project implementation,” which inherently involves the design, deployment, and maintenance of networks, as a necessary evil. In other words, networks are only considered after a customer has been won – nearly as an afterthought, using approaches that are sub-optimal and invoke greater expense.

Here’s what happens.

Networks are only considered in relation to a single solution.

Because networks are considered secondarily as project implementation requires, they are only considered in relation to a single solution. This poses a number of difficulties.

First, networks aren’t designed to agnostically connect to different types of equipment and systems; they’re simply designed to connect to the equipment and systems that compose a single solution. This leads to incompatibility and makes updates more challenging. As a second consequence, networks rarely allow multiple applications and services to function simultaneously.

These two issues produce a dilemma for facilities incorporating solutions: if they choose to incorporate multiple solutions, they must also accommodate multiple networks. This compounds maintenance challenges and security risks. Ultimately, it makes facilities wary of investing too heavily in solutions, since, if they do so, they’ll be left dealing with an incompatible array of disparate networks.

The complexities of network implementation, and maintenance aren’t fully considered.

Accordingly, traditional network implementation is expensive. It’s typically carried out by a systems integrator or an internal team; neither approach is adequately suited to handle the complexities of the task. Integrators tend to be expensive and better suited for custom work than for installation at scale, while internal teams (even if pre-existing) represent a significant expenditure of time and budget.

In either scenario, the cost of hardware retrofits and network gateways can quickly add up, especially at scale and as updates are made.

The difficulty of ongoing network maintenance can be the final deal-breaker. Like any complex system, networks require ongoing maintenance to function optimally. This means that, when networks are deployed at scale, maintenance requirements can grow quickly, and these are a burden that both sides of the meter are hesitant to bear.

Failing to do so can compromise network functionality and security – although most networks installed today are designed without much consideration of security in the first place, an issue that will surely elicit increasing concern over time.

A New Approach to Energy Networks is Needed

While traditional approaches to network implementation face critical flaws, optimizing network design, installation, and effectiveness is possible. At Blue Pillar, we’ve identified the requirements of an ideal network and have designed a solution that overcomes the challenges to traditional approaches.

The result is the Aurora IoT Platform.

Using the Blue Pillar Operating System (BPoS), this platform can:

Automate the process of building networks.

Aurora incorporates software solutions automate the network design process, providing exact instructions for on-the-ground installers to follow during implementation and drastically reducing time spent on install.

Be fully agnostic to all systems, equipment, and protocols behind the meter.

Aurora is agnostic to these behind-the-meter components, making scaling a solution to multiple sites much easier.

Be capable of secure data collection and control orchestration.

Aurora securely collects and stores data, yet also enables full control orchestration.

Allow for open 3rd party integration of any application or service.

Aurora, in addition to being system-agnostic, also allows for open 3rd party integration of new applications or services. This improves the viability of solutions and grants ESPs the ability to add services or functionality in the future, either alone or in partnership with other application vendors.

Using Aurora, networks are implemented 70% more quickly at 35% less cost.

Structurally, this platform enables the replacement of multiple networks (each designed for one solution) to be replaced with a single, compatible network capable of supporting multiple solutions.

A New Network Model for the New Energy World

Advances in Energy IoT technology and hardware are beginning to make the networking of both legacy and next-gen Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) a viable and quick alternative to traditional integration. The Blue Pilar Aurora network facilitates this shift by providing a network solution that’s more scalable, more secure, and more efficient.

This is crucial, because the status quo has to change. Aurora is a move away from the traditional approach that’s hindered new energy solutions, and a move toward realizing the full potential of the new energy world.

Topics: Energy IoT, Distributed Energy Resources