Getting Ready for IoT

The Speedtest Global Index ranked the Philippines 103rd out of 139 surveyed countries in terms of mobile internet speed. Our average internet mobile download speed is 15.06 megabits per seconds (Mbps), which is significantly lower than the global average of 26.12 Mbps Our average is even slower than war-torn Syria which has 19.48 Mbps and Zimbabwe’s 15.2 Mbps

For fixed-line internet, our country was again one of the slowest placing 101 out of 179 countries in the study. While the global average is 57.91, ours was much slower at 19.51. That’s not even half of the speed of the global average.

Just last September, 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero filed a bill in Congress seeking to establish and create a comprehensive broadband control and management framework.

HB 185 or the National Broadband Development Act aims to create more efficient Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and broadband services in the country. The bill seeks to create an integrated policy environment that would lead to a broad market-led development of the ICT enabled services. The bill aims to expand and establish ICT infrastructure to enable the continuity of ICT-broadband based services that can help support the government’s economic objectives.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Rep. Romero says he hopes ” to ensure universal access to quality services, promote the development and widespread use of emerging new ICT technologies, and to ensure the availability and accessibility of services in all areas.”

Of course, it’s embarrassing that the Philippines has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. We need a stable and reliable internet connection not only because we need to stream in high definition or so that we can enjoy internet-based games.

No, we need a faster and reliable internet connection for economic development. We need this reliable internet so our consumers can have better energy choices and control their consumption. The power sector, after all, is in the cusp if not already in a massive transformation phase with the emergence of renewable energy and storage technologies. Plus, of course, there’s the Internet of Things or IoT.

IoT, in its simplest explanation, is about the connectivity of one device with an on and off switch to the internet or a massive network of connected things. This means that “anything that can be connected, will be connected.”

And as the internet is widely becoming more available, there are more devices produced with Wifi capabilities and built-in sensors. Smartphone penetration is also high as more phone makers are making them affordable. In the energy sector, IoT is revolutionizing every aspect of the power industry including generation, transmission, and distribution.

Just how is IoT changing the energy industry?

For starters, sensors allow for the remote maintenance of the generation, transmission and distribution equipment. There’s the digital twin technology that creates an advanced digital model of an existing piece of equipment. When connected to the physical equipment the digital twin technology can collect data about the equipment’s performance remotely. This also means that such technology will allow virtual troubleshooting and support even in remote areas. Imagine, being able to monitor the performance of our energy equipment in remote and hard to reach areas by simply clicking on mobile phones.

IoT also allows for a more distributed grid. With the growth of home solar panels, both homeowners and businesses are now generating their own power. And generating your own power is not limited to solar technology as there are also some building their small wind turbines.

The smart grid powered by IoT is indeed enabling the distributed energy transformation. And with distributed energy, grid operators can handle the demand changes on their grids. Smart grids let grid operators detect and react to the supply and demand of power remotely. This is all thanks to the fact that they can obtain information in real-time without having to rely on their on-site equipment.

Speaking of grid management, IoT also helps in better grid management as sensors placed in distribution lines and substation generates real-time power consumption data, which helps grid managers make decisions about a variety of things like network configuration, voltage control, and load switching.

IoT

IoT gives empowers consumers. Photo c/o http://www.electricalindia.com

Indeed, there are many benefits that IoT brings in the world of power. But one of the best things about this technology is that it gives more options. Hence, more power at the hands of the consumers.

Running low on budget and need to cut down on household expenses? IoT can help you. This is because of smart devices and smart meters that help customers make informed choices on their power usage.  Imagine having smart devices that can measure the power consumption of each device and appliances that can be installed in homes. Consumers can then use such information to figure out which are power-hungry appliances and optimize their use to save on power costs. 

Clearly, internet connection is changing the way we do things including in the energy sector. As such, our government should find ways to make reliable internet affordable and accessible. Sustainable and affordable power in the Philippines is achievable if we do invest in our ICTs as well.

And its not just about improving internet connectivity in the country. As we move towards a more distributed and more connected electricity system, our Department of ICT and local energy players should start investing time, effort and resources in Critical Information (CIP) standards. CIP is what helps keeps safe smart grids from attacks. It sets out the minimum security requirements for power assets that are critical to a country’s bulk electric system. Naturally, the growth of internet-connected sensors and control systems come with some vulnerabilities.

In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is on the lookout for vendors that will help in developing solutions to secure the IoT. Our regulations and plans in the future must also figure in cyber protection.

The Department of ICT (DICT) should also go beyond just common towers. It should tap the country’s power transmission and distribution towers and poles for a common fiber optic policy. Today, each telco enters into a Pole Sharing Agreement with power utilities. So we can see not only one fiber optic in our poles, but three or even more. Not only does this make our telco or cable tv services expensive, it also messes up the wires and poles of the utility.

Our government should be rolling out their sleeves and getting ready for work as the world moves towards greater use of ICTs and broadband services. Let’s go beyond simply looking at internet speeds and accessibility and figure out how cutting edge technologies are transforming various sectors including the power sector. We are now moving away from the traditional models of power distribution, generation, and transmission and we need stable internet, increased information security and appropriate regulations so that we can enjoy the benefits of IoT.

References:

https://www.philstar.com/business/2019/09/08/1949856/bill-seeks-faster-internet-connection-philippines

https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/emily-folk/how-iot-is-transforming-the-energy-industry-20190418

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/security-and-distributed-resources-an-attacker-will-eventually-get-in-s/565966/

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