Smart Living… the Energy Factor!

Smart Living… the Energy Factor!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

The highest consumption rate in today’s world is of fossil fuel. The twentieth century saw a rapid 20x increase in the use of fossil. The consumption of these fossil fuels continues at a high rate which means once we have used up all of them, we need to rely on alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro power to meet our daily needs. This sounds quite scary, but yes, this is the truth. As per a research report compiled by IEA (International Energy Agency) average energy use in the last three decades grew at 10% per person per year globally.

Statistics show developing nations consume more energy compared to the developed ones while the world overall grew by 39%.

ECR

 (Data from International Energy Agency)

Industrial users (agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and construction) consume about 37%, Personal and commercial transportation consumes 20%, Residential consumption at 11%, commercial consumption stands at 5%, The other 27% of the world’s energy is lost in energy transmission and generation…

The concept of getting more awareness in developing nation is though a bigger challenge but will catapult them to become a nation better planned when developed and refrain from being in an irreversible position where you cannot change things.

There has been a veritable explosion in the number of electronics, appliances, and other miscellaneous devices plugged into, or permanently connected to the outlets in our homes that are consuming electricity every moment. The NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) conducted a study and found that 23% of power consumption in the average household (roughly about a quarter of your electricity bill), is paid for no good reason but for the idle load electricity which is consumed by various appliances like Computers, Digital equipment’s, electrical outlets and others… in sleep mode. The rush towards the new age innovation and connected devices to an extent where a home refrigerator can now play music and pop up a twitter feed on its display is consuming energy more than what it is actually meant for, Alas… the engineering, some devices actually can be designed such that the energy consumption is minimum and that’s is what we believe Smart equipment are all about…!

India, a country with a population of 1.27 billion and GDP of nearly 6 Trillion has 60% of its power generated by Coal, the electricity demand growth stands at 10% to 12% per annum. Power deficits range between 4.3% to 5.4% and a percentage electrification of 67.2% across the country.   India has an installed capacity of ~350000 MW out of which 12.75% is renewable energy generation capacity. India operated with two power exchanges IEX and PXIL. India has also grand plans on going smart in the power sector in all three areas Generation, Transmission and Distribution.

A study indicates that some power vendors are still working in the old inefficient ways and these power plants typically only turn about 30% of the energy input into usable electricity. We are losing up to 70% of the energy in the fuel at the start of the process and the end user like us in our homes and offices are leaving open the energy sucking vampires in standby mode and charges connected one end to the power plugs dangling unconnected to any device at the other, we should take conscious attempt to drain energy vampires by unplugging electronics and appliances we seldom use.

How can we leverage Technology?

Home automation technology is becoming as synonymous with sustainability as it is with convenience. Incorporating smart home technology into a new or existing structure makes it easier to reduce energy consumption. Easy monitoring of their power, heat and hot water usage helps households and workplaces get to grips with their energy consumption habits. Experience shows that it is possible to save around 20% of energy consumption simply by changing user behavior.  With the advent of Internet of Things and convergence towards Smart City initiative user comfort along with energy efficiency focuses on correct operation of building automation devices and systems. The communicating and connected devices can help us integrate energy-saving smart lighting controls, power controllers that turn appliances off automatically and programmable climate control systems.

  •  The energy vampires can be eliminated by use of Smart Strip – a device that automatically detects when you have turned an item off and completely cuts power to a device so it stops drawing electricity and provides surge protection saving 23% of our power bills.
  •  19% of global electricity generation is taken for lighting. Sensors which are capable to detect motion can be great help. LEDs today are using 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Research shows LED efficiency is expected to double from the current 125-135 lumens per watt to 230 lumens per watt in the next few years.
  •  Thermal conditions at homes or offices helped with programmable thermostats allow us to set the temperature automatically. Motion sensors in the rooms to start and stop the heating and cooling systems and decrease the amount energy consumption to an extent of 7%
  •  The emergence in solar power technology and India focusing on use of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2020 is a golden opportunity to leverage this technology at homes, we already are using solar water heaters and can extend this technology at homes for our lighting and other needs too.
  •  There is an emergence of Ultra Efficient heat pump systems, for example a fuel-fired, multi-function residential heat pump that can reduce primary energy consumption by 30% while a low-cost gas heat pump is designed to reduce heating costs by 30% to 45% compared to conventional gas furnaces and boilers.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric are developing a new type of clothes dryer that uses a heat pump cycle to generate hot air needed for drying.
  •  The real smart technology focusing on energy consumption is the invention of Smart refrigerator, a revolutionary new type of refrigerator that uses magnets to create cold, instead of vapor compression technology with water-based cooling fluid which is 70% more energy efficient.
  •  While we are very much using our common sense today to open the windows and use the sunlight instead of drawing heavy curtains to them and light up the home, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pella Windows are working on new highly insulated windows that use sensors and microprocessors to automatically adjust shading based on the amount of available sunlight and the time of day to ensure proper lighting and comfort, saving consumers energy and money.
  • Another mechanism that is driven thru the emerging technology is a system could use the GPS function of a smartphone to automatically put a home in away mode when a person leaves a property. Some companies collect and analyse energy usage data, whether it’s two-way power meters or smart thermostats, to tailor heating and cooling settings to specific buildings, on the other hand Cloud-based services can lower energy bills further. Utilities, for example, can reduce power usage during peak times through smart thermostats.

Technology indeed provides us means and ways to become smart in leveraging the same and the key is sustenance at least cost and being smart at saving our reserves for the future generations adding to it a saving on our power bills to not less than 50%, we’ll also push towards a more sustainable, convenient living situation.

It’s all about making smart energy choices in a smart city opting to live in a smart home filled with smart equipment’s and be a smart human making smart choices

 

IoT Security is everybody’s business!! – Part 1

By Sairam Bollapragada

With the Digital wave, the structure of the IT organizations, especially those racing to embrace new technologies and IoT is poised for a paradigm shift. Every brilliant side of technological revolution comes with a darker patch as well. With so much of data slated to being generated via connected devices, the Cyber Security can no longer be the forte of IT folks ONLY.

While technology brings in convenience, it also comes at a cost (read flip side).

In the recent past in India, we have started seeing mobile wallets increasingly being used for payments and other financial transactions to another device or account. The connected wallets also create opportunities for hackers to break in and creatively lay their hands on the information pertaining to transactions, account details, the payee details, their numbers, the payment patterns, sources of funds, and many such confidential data which one would not like to divulge.

Cyber security, will don a new hat with the advent of new technology and devices working in tandem. Trying to stop break-ins will need a lot more intelligence and smart techniques to be devised. The provisioning of security to these mushrooming applications and connected devises will need to be really understood well so that people know they are secure while transacting with gates to personal data. The approach itself requires comprehensive techniques.

The mobile channels will provision more incentives with increase in volumes of both devices and transactions. The global reach of the mobiles have opened standard techniques for the hackers across the global hacking communities. Ubiquity and connectivity are vulnerable and enables folks to get to mobile devices. The incentives are more for mobiles which use financial transactions, undoubtedly. It may not be hard for hackers to know which user uses which number to carry out financial transactions.

The richer the features of the mobile, the more it becomes a target for the hackers.  The concern about the privacy invasion by advertisers is rising steeply with these smarter devices. In 2010-11 Wall Street conducted a test for 101 Android/iOS applications and found that more than half sent device information, 47 shared location data, and 5% users –  personal information to advertisers without the consent of the users.

More than 1000 malware target mobile devices globally. An instance of worm attack can infect mobiles rapidly to the tune of millions of handsets.  As mobiles are getting more advanced so are the worms accomplishing more sophistication – raising their quality of attack as well.  As technology carriers are improving the device capability, the blue-tooth and Wi-Fi is also becoming airborne contaminators. Some viruses dial international numbers while the subscriber is sleeping.

The mobile computing increases the data loss as well. With the connected devices expected to transmit data across applications and other devices, the hackers would try means and ways to create opportunities in the chaos. Mobile banking has also brought in rogue applications which are smartly working their way to gather financial information from devices through even legitimate applications topped with these malware at app stores.

Over all this, it is said that more than 37% of the service providers do not have any threat intelligence programs.

Impacting Scenarios

As hackers take control of the connected devices, the very capability for which the IoT was brought in (efficiency, productivity, ease, etc) will be compromised.  It is scary to even think what if the folks are unable to stop machines, controlled by connected devices for convenience- large ones at that. IT security itself will not stand ground here.  The extended knowledge across applied industrial controls and production processes would become mandatory to put the checks and balances in place. (What if one is not able to stop a blast furnace in steel plants?…)

Water Management:  Anything which is scarce and essential comes under the cloud of threat and catches attention for disruptive opportunities. Water management through connected devices is becoming a lucrative offering from many vendors ensuring appropriate water quality, controlled water supply, water treatment, metering and other features. Water consumption, like electricity is also vulnerable where automatic vaults and control mechanisms for pressure and flow are devised to be controlled through technology. A loss of control would create wastage of water across and lead to a water crisis.

Patients Health Records (PHR)

The PHRs of patients are too personal a data to be privy to. These personal health records reveal several confidential parameters of personal health profile of an individual with historic ailments, health issues in the recent past, blood group info, and many more data which can lead to people either playing with or destroying the data for obvious reasons or holding the same for ransom. Very dangerous but true, not because we need to be scared, but the awareness of such a threat is missing till the first casualty occurs.

The Nuclear plants, used for positive reasons, like generating power can be a huge source of risk – if they were to lose hold over the control process of nuclear reactors.  If IoT based controllers were deployed in these plants for the purpose of analytics and other accompanying research advantages, there should be exhaustive sets of checks and audits built in – plus multiple approvals at multiple governance decision points to ensure disasters would be at least minimized.

Likewise, hacking connected or smart cars can lead to road disasters.  This includes the hacking of smart traffic management – feature of smart cities. Insurance transactions can be blocked and claims disabled or diverted, where insurance segments are moving from statistics to individual fact-based policies.

Cloud is another source of vulnerability. The plethora of data being stored on cloud will require tighter secured solutions, and hence the cloud data security will only become more crucial.

It is said that M2M communications will themselves generate about $900 billion in revenues by 2020.

Dependency on the connected devices for various aspects of the futuristic work-style like improved real-time decision making, better design of solutions, reliability on the so-generated data analytics (what about data quality?), driving future product conceptualization, fleet management,  and many others could be a challenge if the systems malfunction due to malware or cyber-attacks.

The above are potential scenarios where the flip side of technology, if misused, can create disasters and can cause unimaginable disruption. However, it is not too late to create a strategic security blueprint and get the awareness levels in the public embracing these newer emerging solutions in future.

We will discuss the potential next steps on what we should do, what the state agencies should do and what the general users should know in the sequel to this blog shortly. Till then happy reading….

The caging of SMAC/IoT

By Sairam Bollapragada

It was an interesting conversation with one of the industry experienced business colleagues the other day before when this topic of standard service offerings in Digital/SMAC/IoT space was brought up.

It was more to do with the perspective as a business leader where an equal responsibility for this LoB in the organization was emphasized on. The need to create a slew of service offerings to potential clients was getting discussed and the compulsion of pushing hard to get that done on a priority so that business could kick-off quickly.

He also went on to tell me that they looking at hiring an experienced practice/delivery manager (sorry what was that?) who would have delivered a few projects in these areas. On  how he expected this role to be technology + sales + delivery + Architect + Solutioning – all rolled into one.  This was a tipping point when I put forth my views and would like to share the same with all.

SMAC/IoT today is still at a partially nascent stage as just because we have seen a few implementations does not vouch for the maturity of the area. The area will be considered mature or standardized  from software engineering standpoint when we have standardized ‘templated’ ways to :

  1. conduct due-diligence on the ask,
  2. estimation techniques to arrive at the engineering efforts – (which can be quite fragmented due to various components constituting the solution),
  3. arrive at delivery components,
  4. team constitution needed in permutations/combinations to deliver the solution,
  5. testing techniques to be adapted and many more

Assuming one size fits all cannot be more disastrous than in this case.

If we were to take smart city as an example, the entire concept is made up of so many disparate components that still need integration at some point in time to either complete a business process or from governance standpoint. Let us take two components of the smart city – say Smart Care and Retail services. They are from the Healthcare and Retail vertical lines. While Healthcare in itself comes with a huge array of offerings from various healthcare vendors, Retail would also vary in the offerings to the clients (both onsite and online) with various economies of scales and profitability driving their best deals.

In both the above cases, the SMAC/Digital space can help with data analytics, fraud analytics, mobile shopping experience, shoppers behavior analytics, faster or rather real-time claims settlement mechanisms, policy products preferred patterns, targeted customer shopping experience, and the list goes on.

The common areas could be around citizen demographics, the database, the preferences in a particular area, the subscription patterns, customer attrition analytics, etc.

What can be standardized is the interfaces between devices, the data storage mechanisms, PaaS offerings for a service, etc. The other satellite components would need to be glued to create a complete offering. Each offering would then need to be stitched in a specific manner as per the business needs of the customer.  While some of the technology stack can be baselined, what cannot be totally baselined, is the offering types and flavours as each client wants to be different.

The notion clients carry is how can I embrace the next wave of technology and still be ‘Different’. Nobody wants to be a copy-cat unless playing a large catch up game. In the era where we will see more hyper-personalization of products and  offerings, the need to be different is in itself a need which will demand that your plain vanilla offering (if you were to build one) must come stacked with top-up variations which will create several extrapolated offerings in it.

In the world where the competition is growing ferocious by the moment, everybody is in the mood to create the best and fastest and be the first-to-customer, else be ready to get wiped out.

Hence the realization that the rules of the game have changed drastically!!  Digital technologies must drive us to create the experiences driven by what people want – not what we want them to have anymore. They want to create different experiences with the technology and they want to create the best experience which will create a psychological branding!!

Every offering has to be customer-centric and different. While this is so, the critical part of how much and how long also assumes lot of significance..

Engineering efforts for creating these solutions cannot be straight forward affair and we would need to create a conscious mechanism of capturing the requirements meticulously while also suggesting innovative ideas reflecting our thought leadership. The emerging technologies will challenge us with each new tool to develop or enhance a solution. This is like an ever changing foundation which will challenge us to be on our toes and baselining estimates does not seem to be any easier in the near vicinity till we standardize some of the solution components.

Added to all this will be huge demand on security around all these billions of connected devices, openly connected APIs, etc.

In addition, the methodologies for developing these solutions will add additional efforts, leave alone governance. Today it may be limited to a great extend to the IoT Labs and academics, but for a client who is insights-driven, it will need to move beyond that in a matching pace.

At the same time, proactively exploiting these trends can open new horizons in terms of business models, careers, products, services and lifestyle preferences – that are difficult to visualize leave conceptualize by even the most digitally-savvy industry experts.

Hence the efforts to cage the SMAC/IoT engagements into standard offerings, cost, estimation models, at present looks to be an area which needs lot of work if an organization were to offer solutions – else they will only be offering a product each time they try to sell a solution.

So how does one create unique solutions and how does one build collaterals enough to engage new clients? How does one build the basis to capture further requirements? How do clients understand what to buy from whom? How do we size the efforts? How do we compartmentalize various components and create a break down structure to make solutions more a mix and stitch phenomenon? How can we categorize components to make usability in lieu? Many questions that need constant thinking and perseverance to create and build new solutions….