Consumers expect to have access to water, gas, electricity, whenever they need it. This was the case 20 years ago, and it still is. This makes the utilities sector seem like a stable market. It isn’t. Changes are ahead: new entrants are coming into the market, the energy transition from fossil to renewable sources, the advent of ‘prosumers’ who are producing their own energy is changing the entire power grid. Utilities companies are forced to renew their internal systems and innovate the way they work. Yet they need not worry: IoT and other emerging technologies are assisting in the transition.
What are the use cases of IoT in the utilities sector?
- Predictive maintenance: sensors detect wear of material in the supply chain of the utilities sector, for instance in power towers.
- Protection of assets: the utilities sector is prone to theft of material, for instance copper from power lines.
- Waste reduction: as water is becoming a precious asset, for water utility companies it is key to detect leakage early on, whether at the premises of a customer, or in their own infrastructure.
IoT prevents copper theft in utilities
Simac set up a partnership with the Italian company ProEsys. ProEsys specializes in radio frequency equipment and helped the Italian energy distributor to prevent copper theft. Theft of copper lines from high-voltage power lines is frequent in rural and hard-to-monitor areas. The inertial sensory equipment of ProEsys constantly monitors the presence of anomalous vibrations, triggering a spectral analysis when a warning threshold level is crossed. This analysis senses the difference between normal movements of the tower (for instance, through wind) and intentional tampering with mechanical tools on the structure. Any anomaly triggers an alarm sent in real time over the IoT network, together with the exact position of the sensor.
These sensors can equally detect unusual wear in the structures, for instance due to the ageing of the tower and damage done by rough weather conditions. These same systems can also be applied to any other infrastructure, for instance bridges or railways.
The supply chain of utility companies is a complex system with many mechanical parts that deserve the right level of protection. The Internet of Things can deliver just that.