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Cybersecurity a priority for utilities to ensure interoperability and connectivity for IoT projects – Wi-SUN Alliance research

February 2024 by Wi-SUN Alliance

Advanced weather prediction tools, renewable energy integration, and grid modernisation are some of the key initiatives currently being undertaken by utilities to ensure network resilience in the face of power outages caused by extreme weather events and climate-related disasters. This is according to new research published today by Wi-SUN Alliance, a global association of leading companies that specifies open standards-based, interoperable technology solutions for smart utilities, smart cities and other IoT and IIoT wireless communication applications.

The research among senior professionals in the utilities and power sectors highlights the role of new tools and technologies to help improve resilience and outage recovery times as weather events and environmental disasters become commonplace. It also shows that cybersecurity investment is a priority for utilities looking to enhance interoperability and connectivity for large-scale IoT applications in smart utility and smart city projects.

Asked to list their top strategic initiatives for the next five years, 41% of respondents cited security enhancement as their number one choice, reflecting concerns highlighted in Wi-SUN’s Journey to IoT Maturity report published in 2022, where security and data privacy were critical considerations for utilities and organisations adopting IoT solutions. Customer-centric services (40%), renewable energy integration (37%), building infrastructure resilience (32%), and IoT integration and data analytics (23%) are also as integral to respondents’ five-year plans.

Jeff Scheb, Director of Solutions and Systems Architecture at Landis+Gyr, a Wi-SUN Promoter member, says: “Enhancing cybersecurity across utility networks continues to be a key priority for future investment. That security focus extends from the customer grid-edge to the Field Area Network, to the substation, and ultimately to the data centre. An authentic layered approach to security is a must. While Wi-SUN FAN is often thought about in terms of interoperability, it also has robust security mechanisms built in, based on widely adopted industry standards. Adoption should be seen as one layer in the overall security posture of a wide-scale IoT network.”

Key survey findings:
Advanced weather prediction (41%) tops the list of initiatives that will ensure better network resilience for utilities, followed by renewable energy integration (41%), grid modernisation and microgrids (39%), and disaster response and recovery plans (34%).
Respondents are adopting new approaches to improve outage recovery times through advanced networking, including predictive maintenance analytics (40%), smart grid technologies (39%), and enhanced communications (34%), as well as use of drones and robotics to inspect assets (31%).
Utilities recognise opportunities to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as part their network infrastructure, with energy consumption forecasting (37%), automated fault detection (33%), and grid optimisation (31%) as viable use cases.

Phil Beecher, President and CEO of Wi-SUN Alliance, adds: “Extreme weather events are fast evolving from a rare occurrence to something that should be built into the risk profile of any utility company. The emergence of smart grids, microgrids and other technologies, like predictive maintenance and fault finding, offers a way of controlling costs while increasing resilience and stability to help mitigate the impact of outages. But technologies like this are only as good as the underlying communications network to provide reliable and secure delivery of the data needed to deliver a truly smart grid.”

* Censuswide conducted online research of 250+ senior level professionals within the US utility and power industry (working in IT, Operations and Production) in February 2024.

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