Smart grid-driven technologies are the latest trends in energy and utility sectors, says Gartner

smart grid upgrades

Greentech Lead Asia: Smart grid is influencing the way several new technologies such as big data and cloud computing contribute to energy and utility sectors, finds a new report from Gartner.

The report, which identifies top ten technology trends affecting the global energy and utility markets in 2013, also finds the industry faces significant challenges from ongoing environmental sensitivity, changing policymaker attitudes and consumer expectations.

The top 10 technologies impacting the energy and utility sector are Social Media and Web 2.0, Big Data, Mobile and Location-Aware Technology, Cloud Computing and SaaS, Sensor Technology, In-Memory Computing, IT and OT Convergence, Advanced Metering Infrastructure, Communication Technology, and Predictive Analytics.

Many of these technologies are one way or the other influenced by the growth in smart grid infrastructure.

For example, the research has found that smart grid development will increase data quantity by several orders of magnitude, driven by a host of edge devices, as well as new IT and OT applications such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), synchrophasors, smart appliances, microgrids, advanced distribution management, remote asset monitoring, event avoidance and self-healing networks.

In addition to significantly impacting data volume, smart grid initiatives will produce a different variety of data, such as temporal, spatial, transactional, streaming, structured and unstructured, which will help drive the big data industry forward, the report said.

Cloud computing is another sector impacted by smart grid developments. Although the utility industry trails other sectors in cloud adoption due to security and reliability concerns, solutions are beginning to emerge in areas such as smart meter, big data analytics, demand response coordination and GIS.

Early implementers of utility cloud and SaaS include organizations interested in providing common application and data services to multiple utility entities, such as cooperative associations and transmission system operators, smaller municipal and cooperatives without extensive infrastructure or budgets, and investor-owned utilities (IoUs) conducting short-term smart grid pilots interested in quick time-to-market, with minimal impact on production systems.

Increasing use of in-memory computing (IMC) application infrastructure technologies as enablers inside multiple types of software and hardware products will result in rapid IMC adoption by mainstream, risk-averse IT organizations.

The ability of IMC to support high-scale, high-throughput and low-latency use cases will make it possible for IT organizations to implement innovative scenarios, such as those addressing processing of the smart-grid-generated metering and real-time sensor data, the report said.

Virtually all new technology projects in utilities will require a combination of IT and OT investment and planning, such as AMI or advanced distribution management systems (ADMSs). More than any industry, the utility sector faces the challenge of the separation between IT and OT management, coupled with the importance of hybrid projects that link IT and OT systems. The industry will benefit by aligning their OT support, standards and procedures with those used for IT, shortening the time to develop governance over OT. This will ensure that when integration of IT and OT is inevitably done there is already some alignment in standards.

AMI constitutes a cornerstone of the smart grid by potentially providing a communication backbone for low-latency data aimed at improving distribution asset utilization failure detection, and facilitating consumer inclusion in energy markets.

Different market structures, regulatory drivers and benefit expectations create different ownership models for components of the AMI technology stack, which favor different technology solutions across the globe.

The distributed nature of utility assets, combined with the need for more efficient asset management and labor use, makes mobility and supporting communication technologies high investment priority areas for utilities. The smart grid drive toward better observability of the distribution network requires machine-to-machine (M2M) monitoring systems that are similar in function to low bandwidth SCADA, but use different communication technologies and approaches (such as personal-area networks (PANs), HANs, FANs, substation, control center and enterprise LANs, and shared wide-area networks (WAN).