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Five things you need to know about the Internet of Things

The fourth industrial revolution, with widespread rollout of the so-called Internet of Things, has been well publicised and long anticipated. There can be little doubt that, with UK utilities and their supply chain partners under increasing pressure to deliver more for less, smart devices that generate actionable insight are a must-have.

As utilities strive to meet leakage targets; to deploy smart meters with maximum effectiveness; and to move to smart infrastructure networks, connected devices are key.

At Utility Week Live 2022, held in Birmingham’s NEC on 17-18 May, Utility Week Like in association with Particle brought together a high level roundtable discussion to ask, what are the five things you need to know about the Internet of Things? Here’s what they told us:

It’s about getting data where you don’t have it, and enhancing data where you do: So says SES Water’s innovation manager Jeremy Heath, who is one of the water industry’s leading voices on the implementation of IoT technology. He talked about how water companies are further ahead with ‘above ground investment’ than ‘below ground investment’ – and here, with the deployment of sensors on pipe and sewer networks, the potential for IoT is huge.

It can help tackle the industry’s BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals): Heath gave the example of how SES Water has used IoT sensors to increase its awareness of leaks, cutting the alert time for a potential leak from several days to several hours – a huge achievement in the context of the industry’s pressing leakage targets.

Getting the culture right is critical: IoT may be technology driven, but it’s still implemented by human operatives, and they have to be invested in its success. There’s a risk that, otherwise, they will default to old behaviours and switch off the automation if they don’t trust its outputs, or believe it to be failing. The technology can feel threatening to employees if they haven’t been properly prepared.

Don’t over invest: For any company, there are multiple potential deployments of IoT technology. The trick, according to Atkins’ director of asset management systems Neil Walker, is choosing the right ones. This comes down to knowing in advance what data you want, why you want it, and what you’re going to do with it.

It provides opportunities as well as costs: IoT requires investment – all the more difficult against the current economic backdrop. But it’s not all one way, as the technology provides opportunities for new revenue streams, as well as new costs. In the words of Particle chief executive Zach Supalla: “Your IoT solution should deliver continuous, recurring value for your business and your customers. Primarily for your business that value will be achieved through cost savings and risk reduction. For your customer, you can now tailor your offerings and improve customer experience based on your customers’ actual usage patterns and behaviours, allowing you to build new revenue streams on top of your product.”

Save the date! Utility Week Live 2023 will take place on 16 and 17 May 2023 at the NEC in Birmingham.

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