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IoT and energy:
how the IoT
powers sustainable
energy solutions

Author: Rose de Fremery

The Internet of Things (IoT) is profoundly transforming the energy and utilities industry. As that transformation accelerates, IoT is positioned to play a central role in the modernization of the energy sector and the development of sustainable energy solutions.

Companies are already using IoT sensors and integrated energy platforms to improve preventive maintenance, quickly detect changes in supply and demand across the new smart grid, optimize grid management, and better inform customers about their energy usage. Fully taking advantage of these new technologies can help you improve efficiency and customer service while transitioning to more sustainable energy.

Customers are taking the power back

Today's customers aren't used to waiting for service. They can shop online and have their products delivered the same day. Consumers are growing accustomed to fast, engaging and digitally rich experiences from all of the brands they interact with, so it's no surprise that they're starting to expect the same standard of service from their energy and utilities providers.

It's not just about speed and convenience—customer empowerment matters, too. Customers aren't content with simply keeping the lights on and taking hot showers. They aim to be informed energy consumers, and they want their energy consumption to reflect their values.

Customers want a current view of their energy and water consumption so they can control their usage and spending and do their part to reduce environmental impact. They're actively comparing their utilities experiences across digital channels, and they're not afraid to share their negative experiences on social media. If they aren't happy, they can easily switch providers online.

These changing demands mean it's more crucial than ever for energy and utilities companies to adopt customer-centric strategies. IoT technology is a critical enabler for delivering enhanced customer experiences as well as the sustainable energy solutions customers increasingly seek.

Enhancing the customer experience through sustainable energy solutions

Organizations have a great opportunity to respond to customer demands by leveraging IoT sensors. These can be used to gather a wealth of data about supply and demand, grid capacity and customer usage habits, all of which can be used to dramatically enhance the customer experience.

Smart meters enable energy providers to identify many service problems online. This means that service disruptions can often be resolved without the customer picking up the phone or having to book a service technician. Additionally, smart meters provide access to near-real-time consumption data. Customers can plan to reduce their energy usage during peak times and receive discounts or dividends for doing so. Offering usage-based rates can help you to attract and retain value-conscious customers and gain an edge in this competitive industry.

These benefits don't just apply to energy. Water companies are also quickly making progress. Smart water meters can help them generate more accurate bills while also empowering customers to monitor and reduce their own daily water consumption levels. Smart devices and sensors can proactively detect potential leaks and pipeline issues, generate alerts when necessary, and even divert excess supply in the event that one area of the network is being inundated with water.

Water companies can also use IoT sensor data to monitor work sites, using information to help improve the physical safety of field workers. In the event of a contamination issue, they can monitor data to see when contaminated water may be about to enter businesses or homes, sending out proactive notifications to customers and local health officials to keep everyone safe. All of these enhancements make service safer and more efficient for customers, employees, the environment and the community.

Climate change is a growing issue, and scientists predict it could lead to droughts and water shortages. IoT technology could come to play an increasingly important role in sustainable water management. Playing your part can help improve your brand image and help your utility business thrive.

Getting the most value from IoT and sustainable energy solutions

To find real success with IoT, there are two crucial factors to consider.

Network connectivity

Firstly, you'll need reliable and far-reaching network connectivity. That means working with partners that have the experience and connections you can depend on, while also leveraging the latest technology. If your company is relying on thousands of IoT sensors—especially if those sensors are buried in the ground or otherwise hard to access—battery life is also an important consideration.

Current low-power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies, like NB-IoT and LTE-M, enable you to connect thousands of disparate sensors while helping sustain battery life—and do so cost-effectively. 5G also has a strong role to play as well, of course, especially when it comes to specific applications like enabling edge computing for better predictive maintenance.

Security

Secondly, you need to implement robust security controls to protect your IoT systems. Energy and utilities services maintain critical infrastructure that citizens rely on in their everyday lives. A severe cyber attack or outage could have serious consequences.

There's also the vast amount of customer data your IoT systems will gather. Customers trust you to keep this information safe, and a data breach could damage your reputation. IoT security shouldn't be perceived as a barrier to adoption, however. With the help of a trusted partner and the latest security controls in place, you can design and build a resilient IoT system.

The energy and utilities industry is in a very exciting phase. IoT technology is set to revolutionize the entire sector—leading to increased efficiency, improved customer experiences and innovative sustainable energy solutions.

See how Verizon's Internet of Things solutions can help you enhance customer loyalty, keep tabs on high-value assets and boost efficiency.