Smart grid communications: 2015 & beyond


The M2M and IoT revolutions mean a lot of upheaval – and opportunity – for the electric utility industry, as it works to modernise the grid and adapt smart grid applications for the challenges brought on by regulatory and operational changes, writes Richelle Elberg, principal research analyst contributing to Navigant Research’s Utility Transformations program.

Hurdles remain, particularly for cloud-based solutions, but longer-term IoT technology is expected to completely overhaul the century-old utility grid and utility business models. Navigant Research’s Richelle Elberg talks trends and the outlook for the smart grid technology market worldwide.

IoT versus M2M

Smart Grid Technology Revenue by Application, World Markets: 2015-2023
Smart Grid Technology Revenue by Application, World Markets: 2015-2023

Before the advent of the IoT, there was machine-to-machine (M2M) technology.

Today, the terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. When it comes to smart grid technology for the electric utility industry, both come into play.

M2M and IoT both refer to direct communications between devices, for monitoring and/or control functions.

But M2M applications are typically point-to-point (P2P) solutions that rely upon dedicated private or cellular communications networks to deliver data back to a company’s operations centre for a specific purpose.

Most advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions, for example, communicate meter data over a dedicated network to the operations centre, where it is fed into a meter data management system (MDM), and then into the customer information system (CIS) for billing purposes.

IoT broadens that defined set of M2M solutions by leveraging cloud technology and standardised, internet protocol-based communications networks. IoT applications make the data available to a range of existing and emerging applications.

Data analytics technology leverages these vast stores of data for point solutions, but also makes it available for integration into new applications. The emergence of large, well funded companies like C3 Energy – devoted specifically to cloud-based analytics solutions for electric utilities – highlights the size of the opportunity anticipated a…

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