Thursday, March 10, 2011

M2M and Mobile Devices are Changing the Economics of Energy


M2M and Smartphones
A good friend and fellow Boisean, Chris Volk, works for M2M Communications on a project called PEAR.  PEAR stands for Peak Energy Awards Program.  This is a very interesting program that combines M2M (machine to machine) devices with smartphones to provide a significant benefit for energy producers and their customers.

Here is how I understand it to work.  There are certain times of the season and day when energy usage peaks.  Energy utilities are required by law to support these peak times with enough energy.  The problem is that these peaks may only be for a few hours each day, or month or season.  As a result you have expensive infrastructure and assets not being used for much of the time.  This is an inefficient use of money.

Energy generators would rather find ways to reduce the peak usage times in order to reduce the need for  new power plants, transmission and distribution networks.  One way they are doing this is through project PEAR.  This project targets large agricultural irrigation systems and users.  It pays farmers to equip their irrigation pumps with M2M devices that allow them to be managed and controlled remotely and switched off at certain peak energy usage times.  They are switched off for one to four hours at a time.  The equipment is free to the farmer and they are paid a fee for participating.

One of the reasons the agricultural industry was targeted with this program is they have flexibility.  They can be flexible with their irrigation times.  A factory has less flexibility in that their employees start at 8:00 a.m. and leave at 5:00 p.m.  However, a farm has more flexibility to water at different non-peak usage times.

The farmer is given notice in advance, so they know when their pumps will be switched off and can choose to opt out if needed.  The pumps can be managed and controlled by smartphones, computers or via an internet connection to the energy providers systems.

To me, the smartphone component is what makes this story really interesting.  You have mobile devices (smartphones) being used as control panels for industrial and agricultural systems.  Oh My!  First our smartphones became TV remotes, now they can control the farm.  I love it!




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Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.