By next year, 2020, the global IoT (Internet of Things) in utilities market is expected to reach $11.73 billion, according to research from MarketsandMarkets, and Global Market Insights estimates the IoT utilities market will generate $15 billion by 2024. The IoT can help the utility sector achieve goals related to digital transformation, including attaining cost efficiencies, improving overall safety, and enabling better grid reliability and, as a result, a better customer experience. Government policies and initiatives designed to encourage IoT services are also boosting global IoT adoption by the utilities sector.

Grid modernization initiatives provide a boon to the IoT in utilities market, while also providing valuable use cases that will help the market continue to grow. A few months ago, Landis+Gyr and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.), the largest electric utility in Japan that serves 45 million people, announced their project to deploy advanced meters and intelligent devices has surpassed 20 million units. Once completed next year, Landis+Gyr says the initiative will result in the TEPCO IoT network connecting almost 30 million devices, making it the largest deployment of its kind.

In the U.S., a recently announced grid-modernization project involves Verizon and PenLight (Peninsula Light Co.) in Washington State. Verizon is updating PenLight’s power distribution system via its Grid Wide Utility Services Intelligent Energy platform—a managed, cloud-based, IoT platform-as-a-service solution that helps utilities modernize their systems, create operational efficiencies, and improve customer service. The project will replace the end-of-life meters of more than 33,000 PenLight members with cellular-connected electric meters that can be managed by Verizon’s Grid Wide platform.

From the utility’s perspective, the platform will allow PenLight to remotely configure, monitor, and manage end points within their service areas. From the end users’ perspective, the solution will improve meter reporting and billing accuracy and enable faster response times during power outages. Platform and service providers like Verizon can help lighten utilities’ loads by providing scalable solutions that allow them to deliver the services customers want and need.

A modernization plan is also in the works from IPL (Indianapolis Power & Light Co.). The plan, called revAMP, proposes investing $1.2 billion over the course of seven years to upgrade and replace aging infrastructure, including equipment, hardware, and other assets. IPL says it aims to provide its customers with the equipment and technologies necessary to improve service reliability, efficiency, and performance; maximize safety; and improve customer service and communications. If approved, the project would begin in 2020 and conclude in 2027.

Infrastructure and grid modernization with the help of IoT technology is where the utilities sector is headed. However, hurdles like data security and privacy, lack of skilled technicians, and high initial costs to implement IoT technology still act as barriers in the market. Consumer demand for IoT-enabled services, as well as pressure from governments, however, will push utilities to find ways to overcome these hurdles.

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