What the Internet of Things will bring to the Electrical sector

As we connect more and more things to the internet, we embark on a long and intrepid journey creating a new industry called “The Internet of Things (IOT)”.

We will connect our street and traffic lights, building management systems, weather sensors, utilities and road and motorway management systems together, creating a "Smart City".

Smart Cities will revolutionise our way of living. It will speed up decision making, create new business opportunities and totally change the relationship with how we interact with technology.

Imagine a world in which the products you supply and fit actually "call home" and feedback to manufacturers about their usage performance and their environment. Then that data is brought together in real-time, so the likes of safety recalls can happen proactively. Instead of waiting for something to burst into flames, being able to predict that it will happen (based on analysing the collective data from multiple devices) will be the norm.

In the built environment, Smart Street and outdoor lighting will tell its owners when its lamp is reaching end of life or report that its circuits are reporting abnormal readings, requesting them to be changed. Motorway lighting could change colour, warning motorists of an accident ahead. Lighting systems will help reduce costs for their owners as they connect to external systems (such as the Met office), gaining weather predictions so that real-time decisions can be made concerning the amount of KWHs a lighting bank is about to consume, and as a collective, these banks will be able to buy electricity directly off the grid, and in advance in an eBay style arrangement, helping to reduce costs.

The electrical sector has a large and interesting part to play in the Internet of Things. The smart citizen will expect you to know what they want before they do, requiring you to have it in stock and install it.

In our homes, installers will help consumers connect their devices together that ultimately saves the householder money (Smart Metering, Building Management and Renewable Systems), and improves the quality of life (Connected Healthcare) while household appliances will automatically order their own replacement parts directly from the warehouse, creating long term ongoing service relationships between the consumer and the installer.

In businesses, integrated and connected systems will mean that engineers sell end to end systems, so that everything that can be connected is, and can be controlled, watched and reported on, giving management real-time information about various systems while the value chain of distributors, installers and system maintainers work together to produce “joined up” solutions for the end client's requirements.

The electrical sector has enormous opportunities through the design, installation and maintenance of IOT devices along with offering various consultative services. The sector also has valuable input to provide, in a kind of continual “feedback loop” by contributing to standards to help not only interoperability, but the standardisation of systems so things work together better.

Just like how the Telecoms and IT sectors converged, it will be the same for the Electrical and IT industries. IT from now on will be a foundation, central to each electrical component, installation and maintenance programme.

Adapted from the work of Professor Matt Wilson