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The Rise of the Mobile IoT Platform

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Technology has been moving away from a focus on system hardware to software. One emerging area is the emergence of mobile Internet of Things (ioT) platforms. These products provide not only basic infrastructure (network connectivity) but also application level integration. As a result, new IoT solutions are being developed that provide utilities with greater visibility, simpler maintenance, and more intuitive interfaces into managing their grid infrastructure.

Virtualization provides a software layer that abstracts information so changes to devices are made via mobile devices and software rather than hardware where field where technicians often touched the devices themselves.

Such a change benefits utilities in many ways. They gain more insight into the performance of their equipment. They lower their personnel costs because field technicians complete tasks by entering software commands remotely rather than manual adjustments on site.

These features are becoming possible because of advances in a few areas. New networking solutions are being developed that are more flexible than past systems. Historically, network equipment was built for one type of network connection, say wired Ethernet. With the new systems, utilities can easily configure a device to support any type of network topology:    Ethernet, wireless broadband, 5G, Bluetooth, VSAT, VPN, or IoT.

A Few Steps Beyond

The new systems also go beyond traditional telecommunications services. They are modern networking/application platforms and are packaged in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, one that takes advantage of IoT edge devices, like sensors.

Vendors, third parties, and customers have been creating new applications and making them available in a mobile application store like model.  These applications are designed to work on mobile devices and are simpler to download and maintain than traditional workforce systems. These solutions deliver all of the connectivity infrastructure and application interfaces needed to create cloud applications. Consequently, utilities do not need IT teams to develop and deploy these solutions; field technicians can do it themselves.  

Utilities gain insights into areas, like how equipment is functioning and how devices respond to the elements.  New packaged solutions, such as water management sensors, heat and gas metering devices, and structural health monitoring sensors are being written.

While these emerging products offer many potential benefits, they also create new challenges. Utilities have little to no experience with such products, so they must train their field staff, so they understand how to deploy and use the systems. The infrastructure is new, so a utility may have to take on some (or maybe even a large part) of the work to integrate it into their computing infrastructure. New business processes need to be established and implemented.

Recent technical advances are creating a new utility technology foundation. The emerging platforms are simpler to deployer, easier to maintain, and offer more functionality than legacy systems. However, utilities need to transition to this new environment, and change is seldom easy.

 

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture

Thank Paul for the Post!

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