Ducks in order
While the technical complexities of the IoT are not insurmountable, one of the greatest challenges has been in pulling together the human elements needed to make it happen. According to City24/7’s Touchet, it was the effort required to coordinate multiple parties that saw it take five years to get from initial concept to its current state of deployment.
“The most challenging piece has not been the technology, nor the actual installation, it really was that we were early,” Touchet says. “The actual nuts and bolts for the most part of what we are doing aren’t that hard.”
This meant making the case for deployment with a range of different government departments. “It is one of those things that people may not have understood a couple of years ago,” Touchet says. “But it is really easy to explain to everybody now.
“It's connected information, so there is a metric attached to it and we can show what got someone’s attention and what they did with it, whether it led to a transaction or downloading of pieces of information. So it is all trackable and therefore great data for the city to turn into better knowledge.”
Touchet says the City24/7 network will expand through other agencies and grow much larger than the initial 250 locations. “There are a host of locations where we are going to be putting the machines – New York’s a big city,” he says.
For Sense T, deployment has meant winning the trust of numerous government, community and commercial partners, and settling concerns relating to privacy and data sharing agreements.
Harvey says for its water management project along Tasmania’s Ringarooma and South Esk catchments, Sense T brought together interests including the regulator, the irrigation providers, the farmers, and local communities.
Data was pulled into a common repository and combined with information and science around environmental flows to create a dashboard, allowing the community to manage its water resources in real time.
“You can’t design these things in abstract,” Harvey says. “You really need to engage with end users. So it needs to be user driven, not technology driven.
“But ultimately it is a knowledge infrastructure and could be used for anything. Every time we talk to people they come up with a million new ideas. And that is why we are trying to architect this for open innovation.”
Powering up a connected utility future
It is hard to escape from the Internet of Things. The world of connected devices has reached far beyond laptops and smartphones and now takes in connected watches, activity trackers and even home scales.
But many of its manifestations are far less visible. In fact, if you are a customer of SP AusNet, there is already a good chance you are caught within its web.
SP AusNet is one of a number of power distributors that have deployed smart grid and smart meter technology into Australian homes. For SP AusNet, that has meant deploying more than 690,000 smart meters across Victoria.
While the physical act of implementation has been challenging, so too has been the task of gathering back the data from meters that provide readings every 30 minutes, rather than every few months under the preceding manual inspection regime.
SP AusNet’s director of market services, Simon Hastings, says that meant deploying a private WiMAX network to reach the densely packed first 85 per cent, with Ericsson then called in to provide and manage 3G connectivity to the remainder.
According to Hastings, communications has been a key factor in deriving value from the project.
“Before we just had dumb meters out there,” he says. “Now we have essentially a load of computers out there sitting on people’s houses, so our ability to monitor the network and how it is working, and to have a full view of that and raise issues, is really key.
“It allows us to detect outages down to the house level, whereas before it would be down to the area level. And we can get very specific about where we can detect outages on the network and restore power faster.”
Customers also have real-time access to information about their usage through the myHomeEnergy portal. In addition, the deployment has helped SP AusNet pinpoint cases of energy theft, which previously accounted for 0.5 per cent of all energy usage on the Victorian grid.
“Now we are actively finding those theft points and removing them,” Hastings says.
Also critical is SP AusNet’s ability to ingest the vast swathes of data it is now collecting, which are fed back into an enterprise data warehouse. “We’ve had to build a whole new system for this, not just the communications network,” Hastings says.
“The enterprise data warehouse enables us to look at all the data across our network and make changes in what we do to spend money on the network.
“The network benefits are much higher than the business case that the government put together. And as people find new ways to use the information and the data they are getting and turn it into information, there is so much more they find they can do.”
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