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The Internet of Things and User-Generated Internet Energy

Paul Budde

One of the key factors in the transformation of the telecommunications industry was the fact that, thanks to the internet, end-users were suddenly able to become active participants in generating content for both private and public use.

Companies such as Google, Amazon, eBay, Skype and Apple, followed by a number of national and international social media companies, all became involved in these new developments, and they became the great game-changers of the industry.

Telecoms companies were caught off guard when they belatedly realised that these companies had become their major competitors — with their 'Over The Top' (OTT) applications they became directly involved in telecommunications services (voice, video, messaging, interactive content, chat, etc.), while the telcos, initially unaware of the threat on the horizon, remained much more involved in fighting a rear-guard battle to protect their old monopolistic structures.

In the meantime, with web2.0 applications being heavily used by the abovementioned internet media companies, a range of activities are now being undertaken by people using devices linked to sophisticated software that is linked to analytics. While there are problems with these developments, particularly in relation to privacy, nevertheless they are unstoppable. By far the best solution would be for these companies to move into this area only with the permission of their users to use the data.

More equipment is now being added to the new environment, which is increasingly becoming more connective. Entertainment is an early mover, with game computers, internet TV and audio amplifiers now including wireless comms connections. Smartphones are another part of this internet of things (IoT) development, also known as M2M. Many applications are utilising geographic data to provide certain information to the users, depending on where they are.

Wii equipment linked to healthcare information is another booming market.

On the back of these developments we see that users are increasingly adding communications elements also in other areas such as for example to solar panels and other energy equipment. The users are beginning to take things into their own hands, at a grassroots level, and as such opening up opportunities that allow them together with new 'Internet Energy' companies to develop their own mini-version of a smart grid.

What we start seeing happening is that websites are becoming available, such as www.pvoutput.org, into which people with PV systems can feed in their energy data outputs. This is all aimed at presenting a more complete picture, which can be used in the management of the user's PV system — through the internet energy companies geographic and meterological data is also imputed into the system, thus proving further tools for more efficient and effective energy management. It also allows users to compare the efficiency of their installation with others in the same area who also feed their information into the website.

In-house energy usage can also be linked to the database to show how to most efficiently use energy, based on the energy generation pattern of the PV system. That information will come in handy when, in the future, changes to the subsidised feed-in tariffs take place. Such an event could also lead to a review of the way the locally generated energy is used. It is possible that more efficient use of off-grid-distributed energy systems can be achieved, whereby the local energy generation is directly used for local consumption (including, for instance, sharing with neighbours), rather than feeding the surplus back into the grid.

These emerging user-based web systems could also be used by energy companies to obtain a better understanding of what is happening with renewable energy generation (and possibly energy use) in their area. This is not dissimilar to the way that many organisations now use social media sites to get a better understanding of user behaviour patterns. While it is still very early days it is not too difficult to envisage the potential of these developments, and how it will most likely explode over the coming years.

Also not dissimilar to the developments in the telecoms industry this 'reverse smart grid' development — initiated by the users — could develop faster than the one initiated by the industry — in many instances these industry-led developments have not evolved much past internal discussions and planning.

When the internet started to emerge there were plenty of prophets of doom among the ranks of politicians, vested interests and the media. For example, in 2006 Australian Minister for Communications Richard Alston declared that Australia did not need broadband as it was only good for pornography and gambling; and Telstra and AT&T (and several other incumbent telecoms companies) proclaimed that the internet would result in a total meltdown of the national telecoms network, and that the government would need to regulate others using the internet.

Similar to then, today also there are plenty of deniers who are claiming that addressing the issues of climate change will ruin the country and will cost jobs. These naysayers are actually not only delaying the arrival of new industries and new jobs — they are also potentially ruining the existing industry by lulling it into a state of ineptitude. Similar to the telecoms developments, here also it will be new (energy internet) companies that will lead the market, while the existing industry, if they chose to procrastinate, will find itself on the back foot.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located hereVisit Page
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