The internet of things, towards a more efficient and productive society

Electrical efficiency, energy efficiency, Internet of Things, IoT

80 billion connected things by 2020 to offer countless opportunities

While connectedness was once limited to electronics, the internet of things (IoT) now connects objects of our daily lives. According to Idate, there are already more objects able to collect, analyse and share data than people on earth: the internet of things now consists of 15 billion connected objects, and is set to expand five-fold (80 billion) by 2020. Almost everything has become measurable and controllable: room occupancy, temperature, air quality, light…

In buildings, this translates into countless opportunities. Heat losses and water or gas leakages can be monitored 24/7. You can remotely check whether your home’s windows are closed and the heat is off, or conversely turn it up so that the house is warm when you return. When no one is at home, lights automatically go out. When you get up at night, a light path helps you avoid obstacles. All of this is made possible through home automation. In late 2012, there were 3.5 million smart homes in the United States; combined with their European counterparts, they should total 36 million in 2017. Each object’s information is made available on the smart grid, which allows for efficient energy allocation (some of the unused energy can also be fed back into the grid).

Technological breakthrough to usher in new, more productive and energy efficient society

Society is becoming more productive: connected things help quantify and analyse large amounts of data, thus optimizing the way appliances function, in the home or at the workplace. They represent a potential in terms of creativity and productivity when it comes to production, maintenance and management. Interconnectedness saves time, efforts and money: security, temperature and comfort can be controlled in all “connected habitats”, from homes to factories and cars. Factories can produce goods in a flexible and agile manner, minimizing raw material wastage and related waste products.

The internet of things also makes society less energy intensive. According to estimates from the International Energy Agency, electricity-powered industrial machinery accounts for 43 to 46% of the world’s overall electricity consumption. By installing high-efficiency engines and automated adjustable-speed drives, Bosch achieved energy savings of 30 to 80% per unit. The most widespread example of connected object is the smart metre, but many others will follow: Nest’s smart thermostat analyses consumption patterns in the home and sends information, alerts and advice to its dwellers’ smart phones. Schneider Electric came up with its own system called Wiser, while Legrand and Deltadore now offer their more polyvalent Dombox (music, TV, telephone) and Castorama launched the Blyssbox; they all try to develop more interconnected and therefore more versatile systems.

Focus on interoperability and user experience

The internet of things appears to have limitless potentials and will significantly enhance energy efficiency.  There are very few smart homes today, but more and more will be built. However, the issue of interoperability must be dealt with, which some industrials have started doing. At the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, Samsung revealed it planned to manufacture connected objects that meet open standards, i.e. be compatible with other systems, thus upholding the underlying principle of the IoT: the capacity of machines to communicate with each other. By focusing on user experience and openness to foster energy efficiency, energy companies will realize the full potential of tomorrow’s connected world.

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