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Beyond the smart grid: Exploring facilities monitoring as a service

Telecom network operators looking for revenue opportunities related to smart grid activity are seeing major revenue potential in facilities monitoring as a service.

Few of the people excited about the concept of the smart grid have a real idea of why they should be excited or how the concept could be beneficial to them. Even fewer are likely to understand how smart grid roles for consumers and businesses might intersect with telecom services and opportunities.

... network operators are looking at the facilities monitoring market -- and they're finding revenue potential in facilities monitoring as a service.

Tom Nolle
CIMI Corp.

But network operators are looking at the related facilities monitoring market -- and they're finding revenue potential in facilities monitoring as a service.

The basic idea of a smart grid is to create a feedback loop between points of consumption for a device or appliance and its production/distribution network. A smart grid could allow power companies to match their distributed capacity to the load, as well as control appliances or equipment to reduce the total load during periods when the distribution system is under stress. Access to this kind of feedback loop could reduce blackouts and brownouts, and increased efficiency could improve power company economics and control utility prices.

With smart grid-enabled facilities monitoring, consumers and businesses could expect price breaks on their bills in return for granting operators permission to intervene and cut appliances or devices off during periods of systemic stress.

This means that there would need to be a mechanism for device control in each home, business, industrial facility or anywhere else power is consumed. It also demands that all power-consuming facilities be monitored for usage.

Facilities monitoring as a service: From theory to practice

Monitoring is the function of creating network alerts from sensor conditions of any sort. That makes it a good application to offer both consumers and businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses.

The need for near-universal facilities monitoring and control is what generates opportunities for network operators. In theory, power companies could use their own facilities to monitor and control home utility use, but the favored approach is to use connections provided in a more traditional way, particularly by a broadband provider.

The process of monitoring power has much in common with existing monitoring services like home security systems, which many network operators have offered for years. Additional services could include monitoring temperature to detect heating failures, smoke detection or carbon monoxide levels.

Many facilities monitoring opportunities are also available outside the traditional business/home market. Any important, complex facility can experience failures, which justifies proactive facilities monitoring. For example, some communities are looking at monitoring intersections and traffic lights, and security camera surveillance is already in use in parking areas, homes and businesses, on streets, and in other public areas. Medical monitoring of homebound patients and the elderly represents another opportunity for network operators to expand into the monitoring business.

Continued: A network operator’s guide to selling facilities monitoring as a service

About the author:Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal addressing advanced telecommunications strategy issues. Check out his networking blog, Uncommon Wisdom.

This was last published in March 2011

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