How Utility Ecosystem Collaboration Solves Problems


Koustuv Ghoshal, Vice President and Head of Utilities, Energy and Industrials Verticals, Ericsson North America

A McKinsey article on the connected world highlighted something that caught our attention: “The potential associated with connectivity is significant and promising,” the article said. “Realizing this value does not require additional technological breakthroughs – most of them can be achieved using technology that has been around for a while. Yet end users in most business domains are not adopting new technologies and use cases at the scale and speed one would expect.

What does this mean for public services? This means a major shift from traditional, isolated ways of thinking to a culture of collaborative problem solving and innovation. The utility industry is changing. It goes from copper to wireless. Fuels inherited from renewable resources. Physical to digital controls. Consumers to Prosumers who produce and consume energy.

The smart grid will rely on many innovations at all levels: sensors, IoT, drones, XR, edge computing, AI, cellular connectivity, etc. innovations within public services?

Collaborate where you’ve never collaborated before

Coordinating the value chain will be essential to the success of public services. Today, no contributor is able to drive a digital transformation centered on use cases. Actors who rarely collaborated together in the past find that they need to cooperate in order to implement use case solutions. And this collaboration is what will help define the necessary protocols, technical standards and business models that will accelerate the dynamics of digital transformation of public services.

Only by opening up to cross-industry partnerships, realigning incentives, and sharing risk will current utility business models successfully transition to the smart grid. This collaborative connected utility infrastructure will include a host of new types of services and players: connectivity infrastructure, spectrum providers, IoT device manufacturers, operating systems, cloud platforms, application services, manufacturers devices, regulators (FCC), chipset manufacturers and more to come. be realized.

Collaboration stimulates thinking—differently

Even the best and brightest in an industry can get stuck in conventional thinking, especially when faced with complex issues. The real value of collaboration will emerge from an ecosystem of cross-industry innovators who exponentially build on each other’s capabilities. This type of collaboration will push the boundaries of traditional thinking. By introducing new organizations and new industry segments – potentially in adjacent business areas – utilities gain new insights and skills, increasing the rate of innovation and efficiency. Additionally, this type of collaboration makes better use of limited resources and can help build resilience against future disruptions.

A catalyst for utility ecosystem collaboration

Utilities around the world are responding to the need for smarter ways to control the flow of energy. To thrive, utilities must harness the power and possibility of connectivity to build more reliable, secure and flexible digital infrastructures. Ericsson recognized that as connectivity specialists, we could play a role in bringing together utilities and various ecosystem partners to solve real-world challenges.

We created the Global Ericsson Utilities Innovation Center to give our customers and partners a place to do just that. It’s a designed playground and sandbox where utilities, device makers, wireless network experts, and other partners can develop and try out new use cases using a virtual environment. actual operation and quantify improvements in security, resiliency and efficiency.

“The best use case is the use case that we didn’t even consider today.”

Discover the Global Utillites Innovation Center

Discover the Global Utillites Innovation Center

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This global center is an end-to-end laboratory dedicated to ecosystem collaboration between electric, gas and water utilities, with sites in Plano, TX and Richardson, TX. At Richardson, we perform device testing and validation for 4G and 5G devices and applications. There, we ensure that devices are certified to operate on the network and meet performance, cybersecurity, and compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. Once the devices are certified at Richardson, they are installed in the Plano lab to demonstrate specific use cases.

In Plano, co-creators enter a sandbox to enable innovation. Using a real-life utility network, the lab demonstrates how cellular networks can support an ecosystem of industry-specific use cases and devices. Device and sensor vendors get a better understanding of product performance on LTE/5G when they bring their devices to this global hub. The Plano lab has a private LTE/5G network deployed, with radios on Band 8 and Band 48 (CBRS).

Utilities and device manufacturers benefit from an end-to-end view of all components of the smart grid environment: spectrum, device, radio network, core network, application and network management. They also have our communication experts on hand to collaborate and co-create with. Users can experiment with different use cases and verify the viability of LTE/5G working with each part of the power grid.

Use cases explored, solutions co-created

Ecosystem collaboration within the center has enabled players to refine and deploy industry-important use case solutions. Examples include:

Tilting pole alerts – A major cause of the California wildfires was downed power lines. We worked with a partner on sensors connected to a private network. Attached to utility poles, the sensors automatically detect leaning poles before they fall and pinpoint fallen lines. By verifying the interoperability of the device and the private LTE network, we were able to offer utilities new features that reduce risk and maintenance costs.

CCTV with AI: A video camera connected to a cellular network with built-in AI software can identify faults in switchgear and detect arcs. The solution captures and processes video in real time, flagging abnormal activity and automating alarm responses. To our surprise, we found that the manufacturer had built AI Edge computing into their devices, so the devices didn’t need the bandwidth we expected. This freed up network capacity that could be used for other purposes, a perfect example of the synergies that occur with interprofessional collaboration.

Ensuring interoperability—Many device manufacturers design for the non-US market. Getting European-style devices to work with the American network proved to be a challenge. We discovered that some device manufacturers were unfamiliar with utility-specific networking features and redundancy and reliability standards. Through our lab tests, we revealed that further developments were needed on the device side. We have been able to work with these OEMs to ensure interoperability and compliance with requirements, opening up new markets and new solutions.

Shorten the journey from concept to reliable solution

This type of collaborative environment provides utilities and ecosystem players with a real-world workspace that helps them identify and resolve incompatibilities, security and reliability issues long before they go to market. By working with a real cellular network in a working ecosystem, industry partners can see how their devices actually perform on our network, understand how everything orchestrates, and launch new use cases with confidence. With a pre-validated, pre-integrated solution created in the lab, utilities and ecosystem partners can accelerate the journey from proof of concept (POC) to reliable and stable deployment.

In a rapidly changing environment, utilities face many challenges in terms of efficiency, cybersecurity, corporate social responsibility, legacy equipment, data analytics, and an aging workforce. It’s clear that becoming more connected is vitally important to enabling them to improve how they monitor, control and optimize every aspect of their organization. By exploring and utilizing the potential of cellular technology, Ericsson helps utilities accelerate solutions to these challenges and co-create the power plants and smart grids of tomorrow.

Co-creation across the ecosystem makes 2+2=5

As the network becomes more complex, utilities must embrace digital solutions that allow them to:

  • Increase security, reliability and resiliency.
  • Consolidate islands of disparate communication networks.
  • Digitize and automate processes.

Through collaboration centers, such as the Global Utilities Innovation Center, Ericsson is leading the way in the specialized world of connectivity for utilities. Our collaborative ecosystem includes a wide range of industry partners, allowing us to bring together diverse minds and resources to solve unique industry problems.

When players collaborate across the ecosystem, when device manufacturers better understand the network roadmap, when utilities see the potential of connected devices, and when the network enables advanced functionality and security, innovation can and does happen.

Learn more about the Global Ericsson Utilities Innovation Center and how Ericsson can help you better collaborate and innovate.

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