by Anthony Maiello, President Southwest Region (USA) – Tier4 Advisors

Ok, I’m guilty … I agree … I am passionate about the “Smart Grid” and Energy; let’s face it, I spent a good part of my career trying to figure all that out. But I believe the passion comes from trying to connect old school industrial “heavy metal” to modern software intelligence, insights, AI, and analytics. Back in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, this was truly the beginning of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The Smart Grid system was relying on real-time data processing coming from sensors such as smarter meters, valves, and switches to communicate through newly introduced networks and servers across multiple locations and geographic regions. Today, much of this type of data processing seems to be suited for the cloud, right? Or is it?

If you think about the cloud today, it’s very good and works great when data is pushed up to a server and then pulled down by clients or others systems for non-mission critical systems – sort of the way we get videos, pictures, and music. But when you think about mission-critical systems that require real-time capabilities, the cloud technology (and IoT) today probably needs to evolve a bit as it’s not well suited for real-time applications … at least not yet. Circling back to Smart Grid, if data isn’t fresh from the source (i.e., smart meter), or possibly even residing on the source, it simply cannot be reliable and will certainly result in inadequate system results. The Smart Grid tries to accomplish this when trying to measure something like electricity efficiency across thousands of meters and homes. Let’s face it; we also have an abundance of legacy technology to deal with in the Industrial gear areas. Adding complexity to the modern world of edge devices and cloud – and this gear isn’t going away anytime soon as it works well for most industries. The problem isn’t easy to solve with today’s cloud technology. The cloud as it largely exists today still relies on centralized architecture to deliver capabilities such as complex analytics, big data mining, and more.

The good news is we see progress as the evolution of edge and cloud computing technologies support real-time needs. For example, GE Transportation has leveraged advanced software and analytics to improve efficiency. We are even seeing the evolution of manufacturing using insights from their operations and business flows delivering increasing efficiencies. And … my passion – Energy … we will continue to see how industrial giants will push the evolution of cloud and edge systems to deliver real-time value and truly transform energy delivery with “just-in-time” decisions on energy usage, demand, and insights. It’s fascinating to imagine a world, in the very near future (and its happening as I write), where it’s normal to experience an industrial IoT working in real time. Taking advantage of data-driven intelligence and brand new ways to use business intelligence from smart devices all delivering efficiency and capabilities we could only imagine … and one day soon will be 100% normal. True, we see some of this today, but as the cloud and IoT technology evolves and improves for real-time data, we will see more and more, and this will truly improve all of our lives.

I look forward to working with companies dedicated in the continued evolution of the cloud and IoT as we continue to drive the IIoT and IoT frameworks. In the first week of 2018, I will be announcing a networking event I’m scheduling for the end of January, in Dallas Texas. I hope to get together with some of you in the area where we can talk about the trends in cloud, IoT, and other areas. Please look out for this invitation, and it’s completely FREE. Happy New Year to all and look forward to seeing all of you in January.

Tier4 Blog Edition 21: January 3, 2017