If smart grids across the world are headed towards an IoT frontier, what come’s next? According to a recent report, Ericsson estimated there will be 1.5 billion IoT devices adopted by the utility and energy industries as early as 2020. The rise of the smart grid seeks to tackle energy producers’ needs to direct power and resources as efficiently as possible. It’s not enough to know where all the utility lines are located, the modern digital age requires monitoring and sensors placed across all assets in the field, so that providers can relay actionable intelligence across the enterprise as quickly as possible. In the event of a power outage, for example, sensors can inform the field technicians where along the line the fault has happened, thus saving time on troubleshooting and enabling faster restoration of power to the customer base affected.
An example would be Florida Power & Lighting (FPL), who is in the process of installing 20,000 smart grid devices across their state. Already these devices are saving an estimated 100,000 visits from technicians, since these smart grid devices can automatically fix small outages automatically.
Computer Business Review reports that, “The world’s traditional electrical network – simple and linear, with centralized energy production and passive consumption – is undergoing a transformation to a much more complex, interconnected, and interactive model: the Smart Grid. However, for this network to become intelligent, users will require connectivity, simplicity, and security. They will also need access to a reliable and safe energy source that guarantees optimal operation of their installations, infrastructures, and equipment.”
Perhaps more advanced smart grid solutions comes with a price, as many early IoT adopters are finding out. Storing, transferring and relying mission-critical commands across an IP address does expose potential cybersecurity risks as information and remote controls move from Sensor-2-Server. Experts are saying it’s not if a cyber attack will happen, but when the smart grid will be hit. Despite the need to adopt new technologies within the evolving digital landscape, utilities must establish a holistic security plan to not only address physical security measures, but also the data transmission paradigm from each individual end point on the network and back to the corporate IT office. Security through obscurity is not a solution. There are many common attack vectors for industrial devices that become even more relevant when considering that smart grid infrastructures are becoming fully networked, geographically dispersed projects.