Joseph Melone, knowledge exchange associate, the Power Network Demonstration Centre Network Excellence, Strategy & management, Technology, Opinion

In the last ten years, there has been a technical revolution, due to the rise of smartphones and widely inter-connected devices, broadly defined as the Internet-Of-Things (IoT) – creating incredible potential for business growth and solving difficult technical challenges.

How does this affect the energy sector? By making possible new platforms (including hardware, software, services) which automate tasks and make assets visible on crucial national infrastructure.

Making power distribution infrastructure visible opens many opportunities for integration of assets for centralised control, the inclusion of electric vehicles as network storage and loads, increases the potential for flexible operation such as distributed generation, asset inspection and condition- monitoring augmented by machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) are aware of these potential benefits and are currently working with a wide range of partners to not only drive the costs down but to integrate these assets and data in secure and accessible ways to deploy IoT solutions as business as usual.

PNDC has an ongoing research programme collaborating with DNOs and various companies operating in the IoT sector. Our compact test distribution network, industry-standard SCADA control and full spectrum of assets that could be monitored or controlled in the future, allows PNDC to be a central facilitator in testing communications methods, network-enabled sensors, data collection, analytics and integration.

PNDC’s industry-focused research has already resulted in key breakthroughs, including the development of an open- source software and hardware platform to investigate edge- processing of LV distribution network sensor information.

In the future we will work with industry partners to benchmark existing commercial offerings for how they would integrate with existing DNO strategies.

By combining collaborative research with an ideal test-bed and key expertise, we are perfectly suited to exploring the vast potential of Industrial IoT.

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