March 01, 2016

Internet of things: Hype or a real game changer?

Interview with Bill Lichtensteiger, Director of Communications Technology at Landis+Gyr.

Across the world, a new field of innovation is opening up, spurred by alliances between utility and technology companies, working with Internet of Things solutions that promise to profoundly change business practices, processes and delivery of services. Landis+Gyr is seeking ways to use IoT technologies to bring added benefits to the core business of utility companies and society as a whole.

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Is Internet of Things a game changer?

Bill Lichtensteiger: The Internet of Things today is still more of a vision than a reality, since there is no clear and commonly agreed definition of what it actually is. In fact, I believe it is becoming over-hyped. This is evidenced by the many research studies forecasting the many billions of devices that will be connected together in this new market of the Internet of Things. My view is that we are at the beginning of a new future, to be delivered by a large number of standards organizations and industry alliances, developing IoT technology for the benefit of industry, consumers and society.

In terms of scale, estimates of the number of installed connected devices vary from a low of under five billion to around 50 billion by 2020, according to various research companies. Whatever the eventual figure, the speed of projected adoption over the next five years is truly incredible.

What do you see as the significant trends in IoT development of products, services and usage?

Bill Lichtensteiger: IoT can be used in a variety of applications including smart grids, smart gadgets, smart homes, smart farming, smart cities, smart transport and smart healthcare. IoT applications can be broadly distinguished in terms of end-user segment, namely industrial or consumer. Prospects for both segments are looking good.

Although it is difficult to predict what the next big IoT success will be, I expect there will likely be several trends. Common application languages will emerge which enable things from different domains to intercommunicate, thereby allowing innovative solutions and services to develop. Another general trend is the intelligence that will be applied to the large amounts of data being collected from things. This intelligence will be increasingly added down at the communication infrastructure level and not just at the head end, as is customary today, which would help improve performance and efficiency.

How does Landis+Gyr support the policy and regulatory organizations in creating frameworks necessary for IoT implementation?

Bill Lichtensteiger: Landis+Gyr is progressing its vision of IoT by working with other experts and researchers in the key relevant standards organizations and industry alliances in order to help define the architectural frameworks and application languages for use with IoT. For example, we are part of the IEEE P2413 workgroup and also members of the Alliance for IoT Innovation (AIOTI), which was established by the European Commission with the aim of creating a dynamic European IoT ecosystem.

For more insights, download the latest issue of pathway 06 - the Internet of Things

What does Landis+Gyr do to ensure that IoT technologies provide a real step-change for utility companies?

Bill Lichtensteiger: Landis+Gyr is preparing its energy management solutions and communications infrastructure for IoT. Many energy companies have already embraced the IoT concept and started using the same communication networks for different applications such as smart metering, smart grid and street lighting, or connecting a Landis+Gyr smart meter on an AMI network to a SCADA-based distribution management system. In some cases, gas utilities can leverage electricity AMI networks for gas meter reading. We also mine data from smart grid applications to help utilities manage their various operations such as outage management or distributed energy resource management more efficiently.

What is the impact of IoT technologies on utilities?

Bill Lichtensteiger: While it is perhaps too early to determine the financial benefits of IoT adoption, we are likely to see increased openness, greater cost efficiency and flexibility in the way utility customers do things and the entry of new companies providing new services. Hopefully, utilities will welcome their newfound abilities to manage data more flexibly and work with other companies in new ways to drive service innovation. The availability of IoT technologies will enable utilities to provide a richer, wider and more enhanced energy management experience for consumers. Market forces, increased public interest, government regulations and product availability will encourage IoT adoption by utilities as a customer retention marketing tool. In addition, IoT technology will help cut costs, improve efficiencies and reduce grid constraints. By using IoT in smart grids, utilities will be able to mitigate fluctuations in renewable energy generation caused by changing weather conditions. IoT is not a product, but more a driver and a framework for new product and solution development. It opens the gateway to a new exciting innovation playground.

For Landis+Gyr, these are exciting times for innovation and the application of dedicated new IoT-enabled products and services especially designed for the global power sector. While for the utilities themselves, a whole new world of opportunities is opening up!

About Bill Lichtensteiger
Bill Lichtensteiger is the Director of Communications Technology at Landis+Gyr where he is responsible for the global coordination of communication technologies within the Landis+Gyr Group. Bill Lichtensteiger has over 30 years of experience in engineering and business development, managing product management as well as research and development teams, developing hi-tech business and delivering advanced communication technology products and solutions to customers.

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