Power to the People, Places, and Things

When we first started talking about how the IoT and electrical supply industry would intersect, it was with a general awareness that on some level the very way we supply power would likely have to evolve. A recent article published in the September 2016 issue of electroindustry, which is in turn based on a new NEMA report, Powering Microgrids for the 21st-Century Electrical System, brings to light how the distribution grid is evolving from a passive system to an active one.

With the increased adoption and deployment of the Industrial Internet of Things, more devices communicating and interacting with each other, other systems, applications, and the power grids themselves, there is a need for more flexible, distributed archictectures and a greater degree of open interoperable platforms.
While it was obvious to us from the outset that LED fixtures would be a key vehicle for delivering on much of the IoT promise, it is exciting to see that switchgear is now also starting to join the “smart and connected” realm of products.

For a quick overview of how our current power grid works and explanation of how we can make it work better in the future, watch:

Most of us take for granted the fact that we have access to electricity all day, every day, but that convenience comes at a higher cost than many realize. We all know that our use of fossil fuels is damaging our environment, but you might not have been aware that as much as 60% of the energy generated by power plants is lost in transmission. With the number of connected devices increasing rapidly, we simply cannot afford to continue using traditional power delivery means.

Fortunately, there are a ton of businesses and groups who are actively working to improve the system. The US Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI) is tasked with integrating conventional and renewable sources into today’s grid, and the Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC) has published recommendations on National Distributed Energy Storage in the Electric Grid (download HERE). Smart grids, which leverage digital technology to detect usage and enable load balancing are being used in many instances to maximize throughput and reduce consumption (see a few good examples), and are providing a significantly higher degree of stability and reliability. And now, Microgrids have moved from small scale, isolated implementations to mainstream deployments that can be integrated into current infrastructure.

The stakeholders are behemoths. Government, Internet Providers, Wireless Carriers, Energy Providers, Networking and Digital Communications Companies, Sensor Manufacturers, Electrical Components Manufacturers, Data Warehousers/Big Data Analytics Providers, Application Developers, and more all want to win, or at least establish their rank on the supply chain that will empower our future.

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