One of the most critical concerns of our day is the energy transition. The need for a speedy transition is not only a moral obligation to tackle climate change, but also an economic imperative. It will be difficult to meet scientific climate change targets without an acceleration of the energy transition.
Connecting the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to energy systems continues to play an evolving role in supporting the global energy transition. Though some people consider that IIoT applications for the energy sector will be limited, others like ourselves see IIoT as an undervalued enabler to support bringing about changes in the way we use, manage, produce and store energy and manage asset operation and longevity. We believe that IIoT will continue to play an important role in helping to transform the energy industry.
Industry 4.0 is Having an Impact on the Energy Transition
The Energy sector is changing at a faster pace than ever before considering the nature of this asset intensive vertical. Energy sector companies have realised that in order to meet ESG targets and public expectations whilst remaining competitive, they need to adopt new technologies as well as a different way of thinking and working. The ability to innovate and adapt quickly will be crucial for survival in this fast-paced market where the public and regulators are demanding more from Energy suppliers and those associated organisations.
As a result, companies need to continually make significant investments in technology, including IIoT, and evolve team and personnel skills to transform their organisations.
Industry 4.0 is a step change in technology, process and organisation. It is not just about automation, but also connectivity and collaboration – all strengths of IIoT solutions. In this context, Industry 4.0 is helping accelerate the energy transition by enabling new digital technologies and a culture of collaboration to thrive.
Within the Energy sector in particular, IIoT and other technological innovations are changing the way companies operate by delivering increased efficiency through better utilisation of resources (people, assets), greater agility in responding to market changes, improved safety and compliance with regulations all while reducing costs through the adoption of IIoT digital solutions that facilitate real-time data sharing across organisational boundaries, real-time data from once ‘dumb’ assets that is used to make better and more timely decisions.
The Ubiquity of Data, Connectivity and Devices
As a common reference affirms, 'data' is the new oil for the 21st century.
The deployment of IIoT devices is accelerating data growth at an exponential rate, and it continues to significantly add to the amount of data collected through the inter-connectivity between people and machine (P2M) and between machine-to-machine (M2M).
The energy sector is one of the initial industries to be disrupted by IIoT. IIoT devices offer a great opportunity for Energy stakeholders, regardless of vertical, to improve their operations and increase their revenues by providing more value-added services to customers whilst still improving their own efficiency.
Through automated data collection and analysis, IIoT will also give energy stakeholders more control over their assets, enabling them to improve assessments of asset operation based on concurrent data. This can support in significantly reducing operating costs while decreasing emissions and improving the reliability of energy supply.
The IIoT also continues to evolve new ecosystems that will be more connected, efficient and intelligent. This assists energy sector stakeholders manage their networks better and improve operational performance by providing them with valuable insights into their energy consumption and delivery patterns.
However, the IIoT also brings with it many security and privacy issues if not planned and managed appropriately. The rapid growth of M2M communication has created new cyber-security challenges for all adopters. All industry segments therefore must continue to take steps to protect itself from these threats so that their operations do not suffer any losses due to network attacks.
Strengthening Collaborative Ecosystems to Improve IT, OT, IIoT. We must be Cybersecurity Conscious.
The Energy Transition is a complex challenge that requires the coordination of multiple stakeholders. From a digital standpoint, IT, OT, IIoT and Cybersecurity are all interrelated and form essential chain links to the acceleration of the transition.
IT (Information Technology), OT (Operational Technology) and IIoT are all important elements in any energy system. These systems manage information in order to run machines or processes more efficiently, increasingly using data analytics, predictive modelling and artificial intelligence applications in their day-to-day operations.
The growing trend toward digitisation and automation across the energy transition is creating opportunities for energy stakeholders to improve efficiency, reduce costs and better serve their customers. However, it also increases the risk of cyberattacks on these systems that could disrupt operations, cause safety issues, lead to environmental consequences or even threaten lives.
In the current moment of increased digitalisation of assets across all sectors, the implementation of digital twin technology, the use of cloud solutions for data analytics and digital storage, IT, OT and IIoT systems face various internal and external Cyber security threats. Recall recent examples that significantly impacted power grids, telecommunication networks and pipeline infrastructure amongst other examples.
Because privacy and security concerns are among the most significant obstacles of installing IIoT devices, IIoT in particular can be indirectly exploited, opening up doors to larger network hacking issues. Any Cybersecurity issue not mitigated or removed from IIoT deployments could stall elements of energy transition activities. (For further information on IIoT and Cybersecurity, please refer to our earlier post here)
Cybersecurity is therefore critical to digital energy security and ensuring the safe operation of machines or processes as well as protecting their integrity from attack by hackers or other malicious actors who may attempt to disrupt them through cyberattacks such as ransomware or DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks requires important consideration.
Many organisations are already familiar with the importance of Cybersecurity issues and have developed resources to support mitigations of vulnerability in their energy transition strategies such as ‘security by design’ during the evolution to a more connected, autonomous and digitised world. However, many more are still struggling to understand what Cybersecurity means for them, how it impacts their business processes and how they can prepare for the future.
Leveraging AI and Advanced Analytics with IIoT
The energy transition requires new ways of thinking, planning and acting.
The convergence of digital technologies such as IIoT, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and automation can significantly assist managing energy demand and supply more effectively, optimise energy usage, manage risks and meet energy security challenges.
The benefits of combining IIoT with AI and other advanced analytic solutions are based on two (2) key pillars:
Leveraging IIoT data to provide deeper insights into how resources, assets and equipment are used; and
Readily integrating real-time data from multiple sources to uncover hidden patterns that allow for optimised decision-making actions across all aspects of an operation.
When performed well, combining IIoT with AI and other advanced analytic solutions has been proven to better manage energy networks and equipment, predict and prevent technical issues, optimise performance, reduce costs while increasing reliability, efficiency and safety – all essential elements that contribute to successful energy transition strategies.
IIoT clearly has a significant role to play in our green transition.
The energy transition will be a long journey. All industry stakeholders and energy players are clearly recognising the necessity of shifting to smarter, more flexible, decarbonised power networks.
IIoT clearly has a significant role to play in our green transition. The impact of this technology on this transition continues to be profound and we expect to see even greater transformational benefits of IIoT in the coming years as IIoT strategies continue to expand exponentially into other sectors like mobility, agriculture, buildings, transport, manufacturing or health care.
It is important that stakeholders work together to leverage IIoT, AI and advanced analytics in a monolithic and interoperable mindset to eliminate data and connectivity siloes. This is crucially important if we are to meet our energy demands and support an accelerated and resilient Energy Transition.
Let us know your thoughts?
How do you see IIoT supporting the Energy Transition? What are other advantages where IIoT can be implemented to accelerate and/or improve other strategies?
This article was written on behalf of Miniotec by Tony Nitchov. (connect on LinkedIn).