The Internet of Things (IoT) presents an effective way to protect South Africa's electricity usage and take the country forward is the message that Stephen Apps, senior manager of Smart Grid SME at Accenture South Africa, will bring to this year's African Utility Week in May 2015.
Mr Apps, who will speak at the four-day exhibition and conference in Cape Town, said IoT will help address electricity supply challenges by creating "tighter control, management and visibility of the transmission and distribution networks.
"The environment is complex and varied, with disparate solutions. A shift to a more open machine-to-machine approach (standards) reduces many of the existing restraints. All field devices become a node in the overall network and can be accessed and control as situations dictate."
Apps also stressed the local content of Accenture's smart grid solutions. He said: "All the work that I present, has been conceived, developed and manufactured in South Africa, demonstrating that this country had the skills, capabilities and resources to determine direction and create the solutions for an innovative future."
Smart grid project - Johannesburg
Commenting on IoT in the field in South Africa, Apps commented: "The Internet of things is still in its early days as far as the electricity grid goes. Messaging and data integration shall be a hurdle, with much of the chosen protocols requiring a review.
"However, in 2008 in conjunction with Eskom, a 20,000 device trial was rolled out in Johannesburg to test these theories. This research was very successful and clearly demonstrated the increased performance and response that could be achieved taking this approach."
The project included real time load limiting, a 2.5 minute view at national control of all residences, almost 100% reliable communications, extensive customer information and tools, and was found to be extremely secure.
Smart grid security
On the subject of grid security, Apps said the security threats exposed by the IOT are significant commenting that "if this is not considered and addressed at initial specification, then the risks outweigh the benefits".
"Having worked much of my career on UK restricted and secret networks, I have a good understanding of the challenges and threats.
"Nistir7628 and Fips200 are excellent documents to guide in the securing of the solutions, but these measures need to be included at the beginning rather than an overlay applied to the solution on completion.
Apps concludes: "Many threats are physically and personnel related. As tight as the technology is and the measures put in place, the solutions can only ever be as safe as the employee created environment."
Stephen Apps, Senior Manager – Smart Grid SME, Accenture South Africa, will present on 'The Internet of Things & Smart Grids' as part of the T&D and Smart Grids track at the African Utility Week conference, taking place on 12-14 May, 2015.