In the utility sector, monitoring the whole grid has already started to be one of the critical problems to solve because of the changing nature of the grid.
IoT(Internet of Things) or more specifically Industrial IoT monitors or controls critical equipment and devices requiring a robust system and security. This requirement highlights some technical problems in the IoT domain that needs to be solved before expanding these solutions to the whole network. Hence, any solution for utilities in the IoT domain should keep service reliable but not block any innovation that makes the system more efficient.
First point that we need to explore is usage of new communication protocols and creating new standards for Utility IoT domain that makes the solutions vendor independent. In the existing SCADA systems, utilities are using industrial protocols, such as IEC 60870-5-104, IEC 61850 or DNP3, that makes whole system vendor independent and consistent. But it is not easy and effective to use these protocols for low cost RTUs, gateways and sensors. Number of monitoring points, computational power required, and communication system complexity forces us to use simple IoT protocols in the LV network too. Protocols such as MQTT, REST or COAP are the main candidates for these kinds of systems, but some standards should be defined to make them vendor independent and reliable. In the existing IoT platforms, message structures shared between device and central system are fully custom and most of them are designed only for simple sensor data.
Security of IoT systems is also different than conventional SCADA systems, and the communication requirement between those conventional systems and new technologies forces us to create a system that’s both fully secure as well as flexible enough to connect thousands of devices without restricting any remote access to endpoints. And because of the continuously increasing number of devices connected to the system, the whole design should be horizontally scalable that is completely different from conventional SCADA solutions.
Another challenge in this kind of systems is the evolving structure of the high availability and failover requirements. Horizontal scalability requirement makes it a must to run these systems as a cluster and manage all devices from several zones in a normal operation mode too.
Moreover, usage of artificial intelligence and edge computing in the LV nodes requires additional data other than simple configurations from central systems. These can be some settings, real time signals like price or short-term forecasts like weather. Hence, edge devices should get these data from IoT platform or be connected to some other public networks, that creates some security problems.
We might start discussions on technical requirements for a LV system that includes Industrial IoT, Artificial Intelligence and communications with conventional systems. Discussion should include:
- Vendor independent system when using new generation IoT protocols and new requirements on the standards
- Design of horizontally scalable and reliable systems that fits into existing IT infrastructure of utilities
- Security requirements when thousands of devices, with edge computing capability, are connected to this system
- Flow of supplementary information to use in edge computing