The horizontal nature of the Internet of Things

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Last year, there were more than 10 billion units connected to the Web – a number that is predicted to increase by a magnitude of five by 2020. These connections affect the way data is moved and will undoubtedly affect the way energy is moved, as well as the future of the smart grid.

FierceSmartGrid caught up with Oleg Logvinov to discuss the reality of the Internet of Things related to the smart grid.

Logvinov is an IEEE member who has been driving the development of IEEE Standards Association's (IEEE-SA) Internet of Things (IoT) workshops, including hosting over 200 attendees at the recent IoT workshop in Silicon Valley, Ca. He currently serves on the IEEE-SA Corporate Advisory Group and the IEEE-SA Standards Board. Logvinov helped found the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and today serves as its CTO and as a board member.

FierceSmartGrid: For the record, would you share your view of what the Internet of Things (IoT) means?

Oleg Logvinov: It's like blindfolded men and the elephant. The IoT is multi-faceted and it means different things to different people -- especially those directly involved with it. Anyone looking at it from a professional point of view is focused on how it applies to a specific, vertical industry. It could enable home energy management systems, or it could play a major role in e-healthcare.

I think of smart grid as a core subset of IoT -- a smart power grid will encompass many smart things in the Internet of Things, from smart homes and buildings to smart cities, from renewable energy integration to the electrification of transportation.

I tend to think of it as a collection of products, technologies and services -- not necessarily new technologies, but existing technologies -- with new applications, new integrations, and potentially new business models built on the existing Internet, which functions as a sort of "highway" that connects devices and applications in many vertical domains.  

FierceSmartGrid:  Is this a nascent concept or is it a tangible reality at this point?

OL: It depends on the vertical we're talking about. In many cases, it's real -- but it also offers enormous opportunity for growth and development.

Take the smartphone, for example. It tracks our location and offers us location-based services. It notes your musical and browsing preferences. And it connects with various services that offer practical value. That's real.

In the near future, it could communicate via Bluetooth with a health monitor on your wrist and access a service monitoring your pulse or other physiological functions. And the technology to deliver that exists today. The delay is due to business, regulatory, and standardization challenges that have to be solved. Very soon that concept will evolve to offer us absolutely astonishing applications. Those are nascent at this point.   

FierceSmartGrid:  Can you relate the IoT to smart grid?

OL: I think of smart grid as a core subset of IoT -- a smart power grid will encompass many smart things in the Internet of Things, from smart homes and buildings to smart cities, from renewable energy integration to the electrification of transportation. All the elements of smart grid, from generation -- centralized or distributed -- to transmission to distribution, where the real action is, will be nodes on the IoT. Smart infrastructure, automated buildings and manufacturing, personal networks -- all of these advancements will function more optimally with smart grid in place.     

FierceSmartGrid:  Would you name one unknown factor that's important in all this?

OL: We don't yet know the true value of personal data. There's no doubt that that the value of this information is rising. What will be its value when we access a third-party service for the value-add?

The value of data in various scenarios will affect other links in the chain. For instance, one discussion right now among stakeholders is whether, and how, to allow third parties to use your energy-use data to provide further value. Data retention also is an issue. If you think about a simple security camera in a store, its cost/benefit ratio changes if you have to store more than a couple weeks' worth of data. However, mining that data much later might yield great value. I would take the recent activities of Facebook in the deep-learning space as an indication of the trend.

As for data privacy, I see in the near future the consumer gaining control of their settings for the level of the exposure of his or her data to third parties. Perhaps the consumer will be enabled to share harmless abstraction of the data while keeping critical data completely private. We know that certain data enables value creation for both the consumer and the third party, but how that shakes out remains unknown. Although it is becoming clear that as the value offered increases, concerns about data privacy also tend to increase.

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