One of the original IoT projects, even before the phrase ”internet of things” was coined, was the smart grid. Smart grids are an electricity supply network that use digital communications technology to monitor and react to changes in usage. Electric power companies have been using these systems for a long time and now that IoT is everywhere else, it is time for the smart grid to evolve.

Utility companies have to prepare for a changing world with renewable energy sources and other smart products that can be used to generate and save electricity. Smart meters are a very popular IoT device that are used across the world to help regulate electricity use. These smart meters are only the start. According to Jeffrey S. Katz IEEE Senior Member, ”Smart lighting, estimated to be 46 million units in 2015, is projected to grow to 2.54 billion units by 2020, thus outpacing the smart meter. Just think of the number of municipal street lighting systems that are becoming not only smarter, but becoming Wi-Fi hot spots and other citizen service points. The total number of connected devices managed by utilities may be 1.53 billion in 2020, which is more than triple that in 2013.”

If traditional utility companies want to create IoT infrastructure advances, they have to stay ahead of competitors that only work on IoT products. This poses a challenge because they have to focus on the security risks that come with making products or services that are always connected to the internet  – something they are not used to dealing with. Katz explains, “Security is a starting point, not a non-functional requirement tossed back to IT. Security in IoT also includes privacy and trust, not just concern about hackers.” IoT devices and projects are the future for utility companies but not without real investigations into the ever-changing world of IoT.

Written by IEEE on April 6, 2017

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