All of us dream of a Utopian metropolis where life is permanently comfortable, efficient, and prosperous. The great news is that we are approaching that vision much sooner than we think, with the leaps and bounds in computer technologies and the benefits afforded by the Internet of Things or IoT.
IoT is the phenomenon of the massive interconnectedness of various sources of data, information, and transactions, which today includes computers, smartphones, and other smart electronic gadgets and equipment. This network forms the backbone of smart cities that are able to create a more responsive environment for its inhabitants.
Industrial wireless broadband connectivity, on the other hand, is the key to wider adoption of IoT technologies. High-speed Internet connectivity—increasingly democratized and made available to enterprises as well as individual users—is what makes the concerted and seamless operation of the various aspects of a smart city possible.
Evolving the Power Grid
One such aspect of daily living that is crucial to smart cities is power and energy. Thus, this sector has been similarly evolving with the application of IoT technologies in power and energy infrastructure and operations. Building on traditional electricity supply grids that rely heavily on manpower, IoT enables automation and more responsive planning and action.
But why do we need to adopt smart grids for our cities? Primarily, it holds so much promise in creating a more sustainable future. A smart grid can better integrate various sources of energy, especially renewables such as solar, wind, and water, and thus allows power suppliers to better provide services and ensure uninterrupted electricity supply.
Consumers and end-users are also able to consume electricity more wisely, due to tools and solutions that provide them real-time information on their usage and energy consumption habits. On the side of power companies, such real-time data is also vital in proactively balancing energy supply to prevent stress on the grid. Ultimately, all these measures contribute to results such as reduction in carbon emissions by up to 211 million metric tons by 2020.
The IoT of Smart Grids
Just how does the IoT in power management change the way we live in a practical manner? Imagine a city that is powered by a smart grid, which relies heavily on real-time data being generated from various sources—from electricity meters in homes and offices, to weather stations that anticipate impending disturbances that may cause disruption to power.
All this information is processed in near-real time as well, which allows decision makers to make more responsive and accurate choices that can have a significant impact on our power supply. Automation also enables these decisions to be affected by the relevant machines, gadgets, and computers on the ground, without the necessary intervention of human labor. This makes work more efficient and less prone to human error.
Automation extends to individual homes, where electricity use can be controlled conveniently and intelligently through the use of smartphone applications. You can be far away on vacation and switch off a lamp you had inadvertently left behind, or adjust the temperature settings of your refrigerator and other appliances. Such is the future of IoT in smart cities that already happening slowly in many parts of the world.
Obviously, the key to successfully building smart grids of the future is a foundation consisting of a reliable and excellent wireless broadband Internet infrastructure. Thus, governments and societies need to plan urbanization with increasing attention toward digital infrastructure. The cost of digitizing power grids is no small feat, and by all indications, smart grids are the way to power smart cities of the future. Thus, smart grids need to be planned, studied, and implemented very carefully for the benefit of future generations.