Connected Britain: is vital for the future of the utilities industry

By Livia Rosu, Marketing Work Group Chair, HomeGrid Forum

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to create new opportunities, the Smart Grid sector is set to flourish with a forecasted market worth US $15 billion by 2024. As innovation continues to see new inventions and applications created within the industry, it is imperative that a robust and reliable infrastructure is in place to support the growing requirements of all these devices.

An area that HomeGrid Forum has been focusing on in recent months, the Alliance has seen a huge adoption of technology within the Smart Grid sector as organizations worldwide realize the potential that this technology can have on their future services. As such, I was asked to join the “Building the next generation of utilities infrastructure” panel alongside fellow utilities organizations at the virtual Connected Britain event.

The panel discussion focused on identifying the biggest challenges that the utility infrastructure will face in the next 5 years and what are the new technologies and innovations in the market that could offer opportunities. We agreed that the collaboration between energy service providers and telecom operators would play a major role at the intersection between consumer needs and the real time two-way communication that should be provided on the connectivity side. We also had a close look at the various network topologies, and I had a chance to explain the technology role for ensuring a robust backbone for the smart grid of the future.

Within the industry, the adoption of cloud-based platforms is growing – driven by changing consumer behaviour towards increased monitoring and optimization of water and electricity usage. This, along with heightened awareness from governments worldwide to modernize grid infrastructure and increase investment within the Smart Grid sector is making it crucial for utility companies to look at innovations that will enhance their services and address the expectations and targets set before them.

With the growth of Smart Meters and other intelligent innovations within the connected home, efficient fast connectivity is essential for the large amount of traffic that must be transmitted for the successful operation of grid-edge applications. In recent years, technology has become an essential part of the Smart Grid network.  Working through pre-existing wiring within the home such as coaxial cables, powerline or phoneline, this technology offers a strong connectivity backbone to support all the needs of IoT devices and the applications connected to them.

As demands within the energy sector grow, so too does the need for investment in technology. HomeGrid Forum has been supporting the continued deployment and evolution of this game-changing technology within the market through our world-renowned certification process to ensure multi-vendor interoperability and a high degree of quality for all products within the Smart Grid ecosystem.

The integration of into Smart Meter Gateways is advancing at a rapid pace in collaboration with our utility member, E.ON. The community is highly supportive of E.ON’s vision for a Smart Meter infrastructure and is joining forces with industry experts for creating a platform allowing Smart Meters in customer homes to be connected directly to the central offices of utility providers. The core facilitates the seamless transmission of secure, real-time data allowing for accurate energy usage monitoring and in-demand response programs to develop new streams of revenue.

As we continue with our latest work to adapt G.996x to support longer distances and noisier environments, to include larger numbers of nodes and 802.1X authentication frameworks, we can help utility providers unlock new opportunities for additional applications within the Smart Grid market. We have already witnessed great results from HomeGrid Forum members working on the successful incorporation of security mechanisms for access energy networks and connectivity into Smart Meters. As work continues and the technology matures we can expect to see a multitude of new services that will enhance our lives and improve the efficiency of the energy sector – thanks to the reliable and robust connectivity provided by