Innovation in Action
The iUrban software holds innovation and benefit for each actor in the energy chain:
- Innovation for Service Providers
- Innovation for Energy Brokers/Aggregators
- Innovation for Utilities
- Innovation for the telecom industry
- Innovation for City Operators
- Innovation for City authorities
- Innovation for Citizens
- Innovation for Automation & ICT Equipment Manufacturers
iUrban Business Models Basis
iURBAN provides improved architectural innovations to enable service providers to easily integrate with city energy systems. It develops knowledge-driven services and software that can help mitigate the intrinsic complexity of city and neighbourhood energy systems by enabling service providers to develop new offerings that can safely and securely utilise, produce and trade city energy. Users of these services (prosumers) must also be able to easily comprehend, manage and interact with energy management services, while protecting their right to privacy. Service providers must therefore provide new architecture to make efficient use of available data, and interoperable, scalable and analytical mechanisms enabling information and knowledge to be extracted in real time from all levels in the city. The ability of iURBAN solutions to extract critical energy information from numerous data streams using local or cloud-based computing power will advance software services beyond current possibilities and catalyze the development of future business models and environments. These services must be underpinned by an infrastructure offering relevant guarantees in terms of dependability, authentication, security and resilience.
iURBAN enables energy producers and retailers to improve real-time energy demand, energy offer availability and location; and helps them in their decision-making relative to pricing, resource allocation and planning, providing a new capability in improved asset utilization and profits as well as aggregated demand response. This information will be of special relevance in the context of the Smart Grid, where more variability in demand and supply is expected based on the increased use of renewable resources and electric vehicles.
The utility industry is undergoing a significant transformation, and most of the basic connectivity and communications requirements of the emerging smart utility industry can be satisfied using cloud-based solutions and mobile network technologies. Value will be created from more efficient use of utility assets, consumer engagement for dynamic demand management, and, affinity marketing. iURBAN will construct a list of innovation features that will be translated to needs for the utility of the future:
- Economics: Raw energy, site, construction and financing costs continue to rise and are problematic for capital-intensive, central generation projects. Utilities must extend the value of existing plant and enhance cost-effective operations of new and existing systems using automation, communications and control technologies.
- Climate Change: Control of Green House Gas Emissions (GHG) through the energy delivery value chain depends on remote data-monitoring and management capabilities.
- Policy and regulatory mandates: Governments in many countries are regulating and mandating the development and roll-out of Smart Grid technologies for increased reliability, security efficiency and reduction of GHGs. Utilities would definitely need ICT tools and iURBAN fits in such requirements.
- Integration of Renewable and Distributed Generation: in many countries, mandates for renewable generation in the form of wind and solar, as well as distributed generation and demand response, depend on two-way communications systems for effective utilization and safe management of utility transmission and distribution networks, and this is the core technology of iURBAN.
- Aging infrastructure: Current energy transmission and distribution systems are very old and employ technologies that are obsolete. The existing utility communications infrastructure is limited in coverage, capacity and functionality. Future requirements call for robust, flexible and effective two-way communications systems throughout the energy delivery service territory, offering iURBAN such a key advantage for the utilities.
- Aging workforce: The majority of the utility workforces in many countries are within a few years of retirement. Automation and intelligent systems will enhance the operational effectiveness of a smaller and less expert workforce. iURBAN offers the advantage to overcome this scenario.
The telecom industry is also preparing for the revolution in the energy sector, especially in the emerging business models and the way telcos can participate. In fact, most of the points aforementioned can be also applied for the telecom industry. There are already examples of this tendency. For instance, the utility ActewAGL is bundling up to seven services, four of them telecom-related, to save customers money. With iURBAN and the flexibility of the middleware platform, we may create personalized and flexible service offerings that extend beyond connectivity and that may serve to allow the telecom industry a way to penetrate in the energy market.
In iURBAN, energy facility managers may have to work cooperatively with traffic, safety and security managers. This would require a re-organization of roles and responsibilities, but also offer an opportunity for improved systems performance and safety, and a more environmentally and economically conscious operation. One of the most challenging roles for a local energy operator is to optimally manage multi-energy flows and the associated services, while interacting with the upstream energy networks and providers. In order to do so, a tremendous amount of data needs to be handled and powerful decision-making algorithms are needed, particularly for actions carried out in real time or close to real time. The advances made by iURBAN will enable City Operators to have at their disposal new tools for optimal management of the multiple services, eventually increasing the city-level environmental performance and enhancing the relevant business cases.
New challenges require the adoption of novel ICT tools for the city's governing and management of emerging services. iURBAN will develop such a tool for the global management of energy consumption, production, distribution, storage and trade in the context of a city. We have already highlighted that iURBAN middleware architecture facilitates the integration, scalability and interoperability with other energy-related functions, but easily can be extended to other applications and services needed in Smart Cities: reduce congestion in the transport System; improve emergency response and reduce crime; improve education delivery and streamline government services; improve access to patient-centric healthcare, etc. The iURBAN architecture will offer a key advantage, as the same platform may be used for different services and areas where data acquisition, data management and data analysis are needed. It will develop a number of functionalities that will help city authorities to achieve the main following benefits:
- Sustainability, reliability and costs in a Smart City. Sustainable energy supply is currently one of the most important and critical topics in Smart Cities, deeply discussed at the technical and political level. Consequently, energy from renewable sources like wind and solar are playing a crucial role. Besides sustainability, reliability and affordability of energy are two dimensions which are also in focus. In fact, optimum trade-offs need to be found between sustainability, reliability and costs. iURBAN offers the necessary functionality for treating this new challenge in Smart Cities. iURBAN can be seen by city authorities as a tool for monitoring, developing strategies and validating policy actions in a Smart City, allowing the most efficient use and production of energy at the city level, constructed from the basis of local clusters of energy prosumers that efficiently use, produce and trade energy.
- Prediction of energy loads and distributed electricity generation in a City area. Another challenge for city authorities is unpredictable loads, e.g. from electric vehicle charging. It is commonly understood that this requires significant use of ICT. Enhanced communication and forecasting capabilities will allow local energy system operators to take advantage of the flexibility of various types of energy profiles found in a city (i.e., residential prosumers, industrial consumers, energy storage units, etc.). Demand can be adjusted and shifted to provide more predictable, stable and environmentally friendly electricity to the low-voltage grid.
- Interoperability, standardization, scalability and generalization to other Smart City applications. Innovative applications in many other usage areas, like intelligent transport systems, logistics or smart city applications, will also require ICT functions, and many of these requirements are expected to be quite similar and thus should be provided in a generic way. This avoids the development of similar ICT functions in a different way for different usage areas, which would end up preventing an economy of scale to be reached. In order to avoid fragmentation and a lack of interoperability, iURBAN will develop a middleware web platform for efficient energy management and trading in a city, with the added value that its functionality can be extended to other areas of interest by city authorities. One of the major efforts in the development of iURBAN will be the optimal adaptation of the current middleware architecture that may allow the integration of different ICT engines, the scalability for different city sizes and requirements, and the orchestration of all the ICT building blocks of iURBAN, taking into account side areas of applications in the framework of a Smart City derived from its OPEN DATA philosophy.
- Business models. iURBAN integrates business models into the resulting ICT platform. City authorities may play a key role in enabling these business models by way of local regulation and may also participate through government procurement of smart products and services, as well as providing various communication channels and support for local entrepreneurs (i.e., Public-Private Partnerships). Therefore, the involvement of city authorities in the business models facilitated by the iURBAN platform can motivate the use of ICT for addressing a wide range of dynamic issues that are unique to a city.
- Social awareness and Policy strategies. iURBAN will integrate functionalities that collect social behavior, and will create social awareness. Through the use of iURBAN, city authorities may gather useful information on social tendencies (for instance, an increase in the use of electric cars), needs (for instance, a more sophisticated household monitoring system), threats (for instance, the lack of energy source alternatives in winter season), preferences and other relevant information that can serve as inputs for the planning of policy strategies at the service of the citizens.
iURBAN will provide the ICT infrastructure that allows energy users and producers to understand the impact of their choices and behaviours on their energy consumption and production, thereby encouraging more conscious use and production of energy. The proposed iURBAN platform will put the prosumer in the centre of the energy optimization. The proposed energy management service approach will allow users to visualize and manage their own energy consumption, production and cost, increase their awareness of environmental issues raised through ICT-enabled involvement of final users in energy system operation, and lead to enhancement of quality of life for both final users and communities. It is expected that this awareness and the motivation of participation in energy business models by prosumers can cause a change of behaviour, bringing substantial energy savings, higher than the typical 20% that on average is achieved when only ICT energy consumption infrastructure is installed in buildings.
Pike Research forecasts that smart grid infrastructure, including grid automation upgrades as well as smart metering, represents a huge market opportunity and will grow from $2.1B to $6.8B between 2012 and 2016 (GTM Research European smart grid market forecast 2012-2016). By integrating city energy infrastructures with advanced ICT cloud-based services, iURBAN will realise a cohesive ICT architecture that offers intelligent energy management, control and decision support systems. The backbone of iURBAN will be middleware providing complete interoperability between diverse energy devices and equipment developed by different ICT manufacturers. Because the iURBAN architecture will scale from small neighborhood systems to city levels, it will be highly relevant to manufacturers of equipment targeting small- or large-scale systems. The focus on interoperability will make iURBAN equally exploitable in any country and hence aid in the development of new markets for products. By lowering operational complexity, equipment manufacturers will be able to seamlessly integrate their products into city energy systems. Additionally they will be able to enhance their product offerings through value-added services which leverage QoS features exposed through middleware such as security, privacy and RTLS (Real Time Location Systems). Finally, equipment manufacturers or associated third parties will be able to develop advanced support services that can exploit relevant components exposed through iURBAN.