Outsourcing and smart grid

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INSIDE Meet Amelia, your 24/7/365 automated IT helpdesk adviser FEBRUARY 2015

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OUTSOURCING 2-11 Microsoft UK’s managing director Michel Van der Bel on life in the cloud

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Business Technology · February 2015

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Outsourcing

Opening shots Shane Richmond

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N 1736, James Barclay joined his brother-inlaw’s small family bank in London’s Lombard Street. More than 150 years later the bank took his name when several small banks merged to form Barclays and Co in 1896. Today, of course, Barclays is a banking giant, with revenues of £28billion and almost 5,000 branches in 50 countries. But banking is changing. Like the telecoms and media industries before it, banking is on the brink of being transformed by the technology industry. New start-ups, backed by massive investment and unhampered by legacy technology, bureaucracy or high running costs, are attacking the banking business at every level. It is an idea explored in Bye Bye Banks?, a book I’ve been writing with James Haycock, who runs London digital agency Adaptive Lab. Underpinning the trends we identify is the ability to outsource what used to be massively complicated and expensive IT functions. Cloud computing enabled software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and even infrastructureas-a-service, slashing the cost of entry into new business areas and drastically reducing the cost of running a company. Ben Horowitz, of California venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, says that in 2000, when he was CEO of cloud computing firm Loudcloud, a basic internet application cost $150,000 a month to run. Today, running that same service in Amazon’s

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THE ESSENTIALS

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The new protocol: Stick to what you know and outsource the rest cloud service costs about $1,500 a month. Running a similar service in-house would cost far more when factoring in depreciation, maintenance, repairs, staffing and other overheads. And so we see new companies such as OnTrees and Mint, which offer user-friendly personal finance management, TransferWise, which makes it cheap and easy to send money abroad, Venmo, a peer-to-peer payment company that is massive with under-30s and Max, “an intelligent cash management solution” that automatically moves customers’ money between accounts to get the best deals at a particular time. These and others are creating compelling businesses that can piggy-back on the existing banking networks and trust core functions to third parties. Others have gone further: Netflix, for example, entrusts its streaming infrastructure to Amazon, a major rival. Banks are a good example of a kind of business that likes control – understandable given the Twitter: @ security and privacy requirements when dealing shanerichmond

with other people’s money, but it also makes them slow and resistent to change. In contrast, their new rivals are making a virtue out of not having the resources to, say, build and run a massive server system. Outsourcing these things is practical, gets them to market quickly and helps them to stay nimble. These software companies are turning services previously thought of as physical – coins and notes, plastic cards and bank branches – into software businesses. Likewise Lyft, which owns no cars, has turned the taxi firm into a software business, and Airbnb, which owns no hotel rooms, has turned travel accommodation into a software business. Any established business, even one without a history like Barclays’, is under threat from this new wave of companies. Competing with them will mean, to a large extent, thinking like them. That means being ruthless about the functions you don’t need to run yourself and instead finding someone who can do it better, cheaper and faster.


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UK outsourcing firms seeing solid growth THE UK outsourcing market will grow at a CAGR of 4.2 per cent until 2018, according to IT consultancy firm Ovum. This year’s UK outsourcing market will grow at 3.4 per cent, to be worth £25billion. Ovum says that the maturity of the UK market lies behind its modest growth. The fragmented German market is expected to grow at 6 per cent a year by comparison.

Another factor, said Thomas Reuner, principal analyst IT services at Ovum, is the upcoming general election in May. Activity has been suspended on outsourcing large government IT projects. At the same time, the government has capped IT outsourcing projects at £100million per project in order to encourage more providers and increase diversity. Ovum says that the automation

market – using robotic programs to speed up data checking, bookkeeping and maintain IT infrastructure – is still too small to measure, despite being the buzzword in outsourcing. Reuner says robotic process automation (RPA) is worth “probably a couple of millions. It is less than peanuts in comparison to the outsourcing market or even the IT services market”.

Clouding the issue: The IT outsourcing revolution By Tim Adler

THE DECLINE of traditional IT outsourcing in Western Europe is set to continue thanks to the rise in cloud computing, says analyst IDC. The market for IT outsourcing in Western Europe is predicted to fall from $44billion in 2014 to $39billion in 2019. The IT outsourcing market has already shrunk by 9 per cent over the two years, according to 451 Research. La rge orga n isat ions traditionally outsourced all their IT to outsourcers such as Accenture and CapGemini. These outsourcers transformed out-of-date legacy IT systems, running them on behalf of clients. C loud comput i ng , where companies rent computer storage from A ma zon , M ic rosof t, Google and others instead of running their own servers, has changed the relationship bet ween big companies and traditional outsourcers. The old IT outsourcing models are available to buyers, without having to go through big IT contracts. Instead,

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software such as Office 365 is delivered through the cloud on a pay-as-you-use basis. Amazon dominates the $16billion cloud market with a 30 per cent market share, according to Synergy Research Group. Microsoft is the second biggest player with a 10 per cent market share. However Microsoft is the fastest-growing with 96 per cent year-on-year growth, followed by Google (81 per cent). Microsoft benefits from its already-installed legacy operating systems, while Google sees itself as a disruptor. F r om a publ ic c loud provider’s point of view, this is an expensive business to be in. Data centres are costly to build. And it’s less immediately profitable than Microsoft’s old model of selling individual software licences to companies. Dell has already pulled out of the data centre arms race. Foreign outsourcers based in the Philippines and India have also m a de i n r o a d s into the traditional outsourcing model, and are offering services of comparable quality for less. Jamie Snowdon, outsourcing research director

at IDC, says: “Traditional IT outsourcing providers such as Accenture, Atos and CapGemini have been caught between these dual pincers because overseas competitors can do it cheaper and more efficiently.” It used to be that corporations handed over all their IT needs to outsourcers. Today, organisations can pick and choose – either hosting data on the cloud or, increasingly, running their own servers in tandem with public cloud services such as Amazon Web Ser v ices (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. “Cloud computing is a bit like Fight Club. You can’t talk about ‘cloud computing’ per se, you need to be specific,” says Laurant Lachal, senior analyst infrastructure solutions at Ovum. “The different types of cloud keep proliferating. You have virtual, hybrid, public, private and hosted-product cloud.” There is still a role for outsourcers though, acting as a broker between public cloud providers, ensuring that companies get the best of what the cloud offers at the best price, and corporate clients. This “hybrid cloud” is the fastestgrowing part of IT outsourcing,

The analyst adds: “We’re in the early days of RPA. There’s a huge potential but I see it as part of blended delivery, as outsourcers cope with legacy systems. I expect a blended delivery model.” Eventually, though, RPA will transform knowledge work, said Reuner, in a seismic shift like the collapse of the UK mining industry in the early 80s.

Amazon has dominated the market for cloudbased IT services in recent years; Inset: Google senior vice president Urs Hölzle, announcing the company’s cloud service in 2012

with IBM leading the market. Analyst TechNavio predicts that nearly half of large organisations will use hybrid cloud by 2017. Lachal says: “Managed private cloud is the big thing. It’s easier to hand over this type of service, but this will have a short window as companies get more comfortable with doing their own cloud management.” Katy Ring, research director for IT services 451 Research, says: “Cloud is a challenge for traditional IT services because of data sovereignty issues. Many organisations are developing their own in-house cloud systems when they have to keep data in the building. Most organisations are developing their own private clouds or enterprise clouds.” One area that will grow is outsourcing application management – handing over running and improving readily available software such as SAP or Salesforce to outsourcers. It will be down to the outsourcer to tailor off-the-cloud software to specific needs. “The traditional suppliers will be offering service integration, combining the best of what’s on offer with often a company’s own proprietary software,” says Snowden.

Ring adds: “Cloud computing isn’t killing IT outsourcing but it is undermining it. You can manage a cloud system and those contracts, but the scale of managing those contracts is smaller. There’s less of a strategic

reason to outsource anymore.” It is still early days for cloud computing though, as its $16billion market is only a fraction of the almost $4trillion that companies spend on tech each year.

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How outsourcing can cut your IT costs by 30 per cent C

apita IT Enterprise Services, one of the outsourcer’s biggest divisions, would be a FTSE250 company in its own right. Clients include many local councils, defence, insurance, health, retail, education, energy and utility and other commercial businesses. Executive director Peter Hands tells Business Technology why outsourcing IT makes more sense than ever… Business Technology: Capita is one of the largest IT services providers in the UK. How many people know this? Peter Hands: A lot of people wouldn’t perhaps recognise Capita as being as big as it is in IT, because often we’re sitting behind another part of Capita delivering the IT to support BPO transformation projects. But in recent years we have secured many IT transformation contracts independently, growing our identity in the IT industry. This year, IT Enterprise Services will bring in about £1billion in revenue.

BT: How is cloud impacting the outsourcing world? PH: People like the flexibility and agility of cloud, but they are nervous because they don’t know where their data is being held or how secure it is. For example, regulated businesses, such as banks or public sector organisations, have to think carefully about data security and data sovereignty. For many data sovereignty is key which means it may be unacceptable to have your data offshore. The role of IT outsourcers is now increasingly about helping clients make the right investment in

Quality Street: How Capita is helping the residents of Southampton

Southampton City Council has made big savings by outsourcing much of its IT to Capita IT Enterprise Services private/public or hybrid cloud services – and making it all work. This part is often underestimated. We’ve invested significantly in a suite of cloud services that gives the same flexibility, functionality and utility that you get from the public cloud, but guarantees data security and UK data sovereignty. That means you can be confident that your data only resides in the UK. This is driving the adoption of cloud services. BT: But isn’t it cheaper for me to buy my own servers? PH: In most cases not. For example, we all get our council tax bill in March; the two months leading up to that is a very busy time for local authority finance departments. So the demand on IT is extremely high. But, for ten months of the year, it’s very low.

Out of the Ark: Delivering services and lowering risk

WALKING DOWN a Capita corridor in the Ark data centre in Farnborough, Hampshire, you are struck by how scrupulously clean and quiet it is, more like a hospital than a noisy airconditioned server room. Partly this is because of how Ark

uses green technology, recycling the air outside to maintain a constant temperature of 22-25 degrees. Filters pull air in from outside, scrubbing it until the server corridors are operatingtheatre clean. “The data centre is all about maintaining the environmental conditions at the desired state using the least amount of energy,” says Steve Hall, executive sales and marketing director, Ark Data Centres. “The matching technology control system is at the heart of the solution.” Capita IT Enterprise Services established a partnership with Ark to provide hosting facilities for its secure

flexible cloud. The collaboration has enabled Capita to deliver economic data centre services to customers and internally. Ark has invested more than £180million in its Farnborough and Corsham data centres, and plans further significant growth in 2015. “Capita can leverage that investment for its clients,” says Hall. “Working with us to deliver data centre management gives Capita a competitive edge in a marketplace where sometimes differences are marginal, as we can deliver our services to Capita better, faster and cheaper while lowering business risk.”

CAPITA IT Enterprise Services delivers the IT services behind Capita’s BPO transformation contract with Southampton City Council, and has done so since 2007. As part of this Strategic Partnership the IT element has resulted in the council making significant savings on IT costs, improving availability of services and adopting new ways of working. Together these have all brought many improvements to council staff as well as local residents. Many of the council’s most in-demand services have been digitised and made available online through its new website. Among other things, residents can now report potholes, check bin collection dates and pay council tax online, saving the council money, and making access to services available to residents 24/7. Adopting mobile technology has meant that around 500 staff can now work remotely, benefitting areas such as Housing Repairs where staff can now spend more time with those who need it most. Outsourcing its IT to Capita has meant Southampton City Council can adopt and adapt to new technologies easily but remain focused on what it does best – delivering high quality services to their residents.

Image: Tony Le Bourne

BT: What do you say to clients who are thinking about outsourcing their IT? PH: The pace of technology change is not getting any slower. What has changed is that you need to be more agile and have less capital tied up in IT. Outsourcing IT is like outsourcing anything else: if it’s not your core business, then you’re probably not as good at it as somebody whose core business it is. IT is becoming ever more critical to running businesses today. In many cases, whether public or private sector, they often don’t have the scale or technical buying power to get “best in class” IT all the time. By outsourcing you achieve both, securing best value from vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco plus the service quality you need for a predictable budget. The net result is “new” time to focus on strategic IT initiatives that will take your enterprise forward.

Using Capita Private Cloud, you can scale up, or down, to meet these demands and avoid buying server capacity that you don’t need. Outsourcing also provides access to up-to-date technology that meets regulatory requirements. That can be difficult to achieve when running your own IT in house. BT: Public cloud services are cheaper, but are they better? PH: There’s no doubt that the public cloud price point is very compelling, but they are often globally hosted and less flexible for particular business requirements. BT: How much money can a company save on its IT budget through outsourcing? PH: We would expect customers to be saving at least 30 per cent on a multi-year outsourced IT engagement. It really depends on how they adopt utility computing but cost savings and service transformation are what makes outsourcing compelling. ITES@capita.co.uk www.capita-ites.co.uk


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The inner geek

Outsourcing

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Why nonpayment card compliance is risky business INDUSTRY VIEW

Moz & Bradders

Want some AI in your IT?

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Is your IT department too bogged down in repetitive tasks to realise its true potential? Tim Adler says hello to Amelia, the latest innovation in robotic process automation…

MELIA, your IT helpdesk adviser, pops up on screen. She is blandly pretty and dressed in a crisp white shirt and black jacket. Oddly pliant and unthreatening, she reminds you of your forgotten password and checks your software is up to date. emotional state and adjusts her responses The entire exchange takes less than five accordingly. She can tell if you are happy minutes. or sad, angry or satisfied. Welcome to the future of IT “If you can have an engine like this outsourcing. Except, Amelia is an on- that responds to human emotion, that screen android, and there are thousands improves customer satisfaction,” explains of Amelias simultaneously answering Patel. IT helpdesk questions all over your Amelia represents the peak of robotic company. process automation (RPA), the buzzword Currently five companies are testing in IT outsourcing right now. RPA is the her, including two oil and gas firms and automation of boring, repetitive tasks a financial services provider. Her creator, – box ticking, ledger-keeping and the New York-headquartered IPsoft, hopes like – work that nobody enjoys doing to have her rolled out to about 100 and can, its supporters argue, free up companies by the end of this year. staff to be more creative. The implications are enormous. Insurance companies, motoring firms Eighty per cent of an IT helpdesk’s time and telcos are already using more is spent solving the same handful of primitive versions of RPA. IPsoft itself problems. IPsoft argues that Amelia runs a more bread-and-butter frees up highly skilled IT staff to spend system called IPcenter that their time more productively. There’s constantly monitors and also a cost benefit: it is estimated that repairs IT networks. androids like Amelia could save up to T h e k e y h a s 80 per cent of costs. been automation. Richard Warley, UK chief executive Warley prefers to of IPsoft, says: “The reality is that people ca ll t his t rend have more work on their plate than they “ a u t o n o m i c ” have time for. We want to free up people technology, as it to do stuff that’s more beneficial to your regulates your IT business. Good people are hard to find on its own accord, in the IT space, and we want them to do i n much something more interesting.” the same way It is the stuff of science fiction. Parit y o u r body Patel, senior solutions architect at IPsoft, remembers to keep admits we have become so used to the you breathing and idea of an intelligent computer we can your heart beating. “Our interact with, we underestimate the core IPcenter offering complexity of what he and his team have keeps working and fixes achieved. Thirty developers have spent stuff without human four years getting Amelia to this stage, intervention,” he says. although founder Chetan Dube has been IPcenter solves thinking about Amelia since he founded 60 per cent of the company in 1998. Patel says: “It’s incredibly complicated. Everything looks simple on-screen but it has taken thousands of man hours IPsoft’s Amelia is the latest in a to reach this point.” Spookily, new wave of automated technology, while speaking, Amelia designed to take over repetitive also evaluates the caller’s tasks in IT, banking and insurance

IT problems without human intervention. Customers including Accenture, Cisco and BT use it, and it can reduce IT department headcounts by up to 70 per cent. The economics stack up. On average the cost of a single RPA licence is about one third that of a British IT technician, but handles double or even treble the workload. This is because RPA never sleeps, just grinds away, while the fulltime employee really only works six hours in a normal working day. For now, RPA is being used on internal IT service helpdesks or back-office processes – anything involving repetitive transactions. Areas such as billing, insurance claims and fraud detection – helping to ident if y unusua l spending patterns to unearth criminal activ it y – are already being handled by RPA. One RPA tool h a s a l ready s a v e d a UK bank from £600,000 worth of cheque fraud. “ T here w ill always be a debate a s to w he t he r organisations want to replace people, but for other internal services such as HR and IT, a robot answering your questions will become

ubiquitous,” says Simon Jackson of outsourcing adviser Source. The difference between Amelia and other systems, though, is that although she may not know the answer to your problem first time round, she will listen in on your conversation with a human representative and learn from the exchange. The next time anyone calls her up with the same problem, Amelia will know what to do. Paul Morrison, head of outsourcing innovation practice at Aecus, is wary of making too many Tomorrow’s World predictions about the technology, however: the reality of most RPA is mundane and really about ticking boxes and cross-checking data. “RPA at the moment isn’t intelligent. It merely checks boxes, which is why some dismiss the hype as ‘macros on steroids’,” says Morrison. “People have been talking about this kind of ‘lights-out’ outsourcing for 30 years. It’s not a new dream – reality gets in the way. The truth is that RPA can be messy and difficult. Amelia, however, uses cognitive thinking akin to the way the human mind works.” IPsoft certainly has big plans for A melia. T he k ind of mid-level knowledge work that Amelia hopes to take the drudgery out of represents 25 per cent of the economy, according to the company. The real question is whether Amelia-style androids will destroy the overseas outsourcing market entirely. Rather than farm IT support and customer queries overseas, British companies can bring support back in-house. “You may still want to outsource running the RPA software, but you don’t need to have a contact centre with thousands of people in it,” says Morrison. “Amelia will disrupt the labour arbitrage model, bringing IT onshore and under your control,” says Warley. “We’re entering a very disruptive phase and more forwardthinking chief information officers can r e ap s ub s t a nt i a l benefits from jumping on this wave sooner rather than later.”

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance is vital – we are a world of consumers paying with plastic. According to IMRG, UK consumers spent £104bn online in 2014, with card-holder-notpresent fraud accounting for three-quarters of card fraud cases and fraud losses in the UK from 2012-2014 (uk.creditcards.com). Some initial findings published from Verizon’s latest PCI report this month suggests that many companies fall out of PCI DSS compliance after a year of it being achieved or earlier. PCI DSS compliance requirements run into the hundreds and cover systems, people and processes. In the past, gaining and keeping compliance has been seen as a burden and arguably not treated with the importance it has deserved. It can be time-consuming and incurs costs. However, the cost of non-compliance can be much higher in fines and reputational damage. Cloud-based outsourcing solutions and technologies that mask payment card details from contact centre agents and prevent sensitive card data from entering the contact centre environment is creating a powerful weapon for organisations that rely on phone payments. Cognia is the leading provider of cloud PCI DSS compliant voice payment processing solutions, and is helping contact centres to de-scope 90 per cent of PCI requirements while helping improve security and prevent data breaches. The next time a merchant asks for your card details over the phone, ask yourself what’s happening to your card data. The mere fact they’ve asked means they are not PCI compliant, creating risk for them and importantly you. Curtis Nash is CEO, Cognia 0845 565 1156


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The man with his EXCLUSIVE

Microsoft UK’s managing director tells Tim Adler why the future is bright for British business

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HE CLOUD is literally beneath your feet as you walk into the imposing glass atrium of Microsoft’s London head office. There are signs advertising the company’s growing cloud computing business on the floor of its headquarters. The old Microsoft model involved companies having to buy multiple licences for its ubiquitous Office software suite, tools such as Outlook, Word and Excel. These days the software giant is keen for businesses to migrate to its Office 365 online suite. Rather than an installation CD, these days everything is on the cloud. And instead of companies running their own servers, Microsoft wants organisations to store data through its offshore Azure storage service. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new chief executive, has already laid out this direction of travel: the future lies within the cloud. And Michel Van der Bel, Microsoft UK managing director, is enthusiastic about the opportunity cloud represents for UK plc. “Bill Gates once said that technology is overhyped in the short term while its impact is underestimated in the long term,” Van der Bel tells me. “Cloud represents a massive shift and a massive opportunity. “Cloud is where the world is heading towards. In the past, everything was on site. You had to invest in computing power and storage capacity yourself, which meant a lot of capital expenditure before you could even use the IT. Now you can rent your IT as opposed to it being capex. In a way, we’ve become a utility.” Microsoft’s cloud customers already include British Airways, Aston Martin and Tesco, but Van der Bel, who, with his white hair and pink complexion, reminds me of a highly intelligent white rabbit, is just as excited about cloud for small business. Cloud levels the playing field for small British companies – the smallest firm now has access to the same computing power as its biggest competitors. “With the internet, SMEs are moving from being local to international players. The cloud levels the playing field for everybody. A company with a handful of employees now has the same IT capability as one with hundreds of employees.” The UK currently has 5.2 million SMEs, Van der Bel tells me – only 20 per cent of which use the cloud. So there is still 80 per cent of the market to convert. And convert they will, he believes. “There’s no alternative apart from migrating to the cloud, because if you’re not doing it, your competitor will be,” he says. Van der Bel would like to see 90 per cent of British businesses migrate to the cloud

Portrait of Michel Van der Bel in Microsoft’s London head office by Andras Rac

The big interview Michel Van der Bel


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head in the cloud A company with a handful of employees now has the same IT capability as one with hundreds of them within the next two years. And it’s not just the business market that Microsoft wants to convert: domestic PC users also represent a huge untapped market. This is because work and play are blending, Van der Bel says, swinging round his tablet to show me an infographic about how work is changing: rather than a solid eight-hour block of office life, segments of a much longer working day splice with other activities. Van der Bel sums up this change as moving from “blocks” to “moments” of activity. “The cloud is potentially a much bigger market out there,” he tells me. “The addressable market has become so much bigger. The working day and the personal are not separate any more, they are converging.” Cloud revenues – fuelled by the growth of Office 365 – jumped by 114 per cent in the last quarter. Annualised sales from cloud services have hit $5.5billion, cementing Microsoft’s position as the largest business cloud provider. But it still only represents 5 per cent of Microsoft’s total revenues. Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Services, says that although new emerging businesses such as Azure and Office 365 are growing well, they are too small to offset the impact of weakness in the PC market.

Another view Tim Adler THE TERMINATOR imagined a future where mankind battles chrome robots intent on global domination. In the real world, it’s a battle that has already started – except that your first skirmish may well be with your IT department. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the roboticisation of boring IT work. Banks already use it for spotting unusual spending

One problem that Microsoft faces is the cost of keeping up with the Joneses (or Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, in this case). You need deep pockets to be in the cloud business. Building data centres is expensive, which is why Microsoft, Google Cloud and AWS pretty much carve up the market between them. Even Dell, for example, has dropped out of the sector, saying it cannot afford to keep up. Microsoft has spent heavily to become market leader in Europe. Its investment in its Amsterdam and Dublin data centres runs into millions of dollars. Van der Bel shrugs. “That’s the new reality of the new IT world that we live in,” he says. But Office 365 subscription revenues are less profitable than Microsoft’s traditional software-licensing model. So, how much of the cloud business represents new revenue rather than cannibalising older, and more profitable, licence fees? Cloud storage is also a highly competitive market with tight profit margins. Fees keep dropping: Azure’s price per gigabyte of RAM storage fell from $46 to $34 between October 2013 and December 2014; Google charges $32 and Amazon Web Services charges $25, according to an RBC Capital report. Dependability is crucial, but Azure suffered more downtime than its

patterns; accounting firms employ RPA for simple ledger keeping. The next stage will be human-seeming androids on your computer screen, answering IT helpdesk questions or fielding human resources queries. Evangelists see RPA as freeing humans from the drudgery of tedious, rules-based work, emancipating them to be creative. Just as ploughmen retrained once the tractor became common, so workers will be free to do more interesting work. Attending a seminar about RPA in London last month, workers were glibly referred to as FTEs (fulltime employees), whose jobs would be “displaced”. No thought to the social cost, just cost savings. And we’re not just talking about

Microsoft’s UK HQ at Cardinal Place, London

main rivals in Europe last year, with nearly six hours of downtime, according to cloud service analysts CloudHarmony. Azure suffered a massive outage in November 2014 that sent many websites crashing. “Yes, we had some issues with Azure last year,” Van der Bel admits. “But our policy was to admit everything quickly and transparently. If you’re Amazon Web Services or Google, you will have outages too – it’s inevitable. The question is, how do you respond to them?” Microsoft’s engineers posted a blog post immediately explaining what had happened. “That was super crucial. We haven’t lost any trust because of what happened,” he says. While he’s speaking, I notice the black rubber band on his wrist. I ask him what it is. Van der Bel lights up given the chance to play teacher. With his degree in electronics, he really does come across like an avuncular science master. It’s a Microsoft Fitbit Flex lifestyle monitor, he explains – not yet available in Britain – which measures your heart rate, fitness goals and sleep pattern. Once thousands of people are wearing them, their anonymous data will be invaluable for doctors, Van der Bel says. “This could be a huge opportunity for anybody in the health sector,” he beams.

call centres here. Work in the City? Forget it – computers can do numbercrunching much faster and more accurately than you can. A poll of 1,900 technology experts by the Pew Research Centre has suggested that artificially intelligent robots would supplant lawyers, doctors, accountants and other white-collar workers within a decade. Robots are after my job, too – Forbes.com already uses computer-generated content, and it has been claimed that by 2025, 90 per cent of news will be generated by computers. Professor Stuart Russell of the University of California, Berkeley, told the World Economic Forum in Davos last month that artificial intelligence would overtake that of human beings within his lifetime. In

Computers can do numbercrunching much faster than you can

an interview in December, Stephen Hawking went further. He said that the development of full AI “could spell the end of the human race”. It would “take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” But Google chairman Eric Schmidt dismisses this future. The idea that “somehow no one is going to have a job in the world… and that everyone else is going to be rioting is completely false,” he also told Davos. I’m not so sure. Once whitecollar workers realise their jobs too have gone, there is bound to be unrest. Call centre workers in the Philippines rioting in, say, 2025? You read it here first.


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Outsourcing 2014: More sophisticated contracts and onshore delivery M

ore than £6.6billion of outsourcing contracts were agreed across the UK public and private sectors in 2014, according to the latest arvato UK Outsourcing Index, which tracks the volume and nature of deal activity in the UK market based on data from industry analyst NelsonHall. What may come as a surprise to some is that, despite outsourcing having become all but synonymous with offshoring, more than 90 per cent of those deals involved services being delivered onshore in the UK, with two thirds being entirely delivered from these shores. The 2014 figures also demonstrate further maturity in the marketplace and the fact that UK outsourcers are increasingly handling more complex work. This is in addition to the fact that the UK is already a world leader in outsourcing: “The outsourcing industry employs 10.5 per cent of the UK workforce and generates around 8.5 per cent of total gross value added (GVA), according to Oxford Economics,” explains Jim Gallagher, general manager, supply chain solutions, arvato UK & Ireland.

sectors, with the e-government initiative ensuring that 67 per cent of public sector customer services contracts announced in 2014 were multi-channel in nature.”

Standardisation Similarly, in HR outsourcing the 2014 figures reveal a steep increase in the inclusion of talent management as part of multi-process HR outsourcing contracts. In recent years these contracts had typically featured just payroll and employee administration services. However, 2014 saw Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) included in 50 per cent of wider HR outsourcing contracts, up from zero in 2013. The roll-out of centralised benefits portals, which improve efficiency by providing standardised web-based systems for a range of HR administration functions, and often feature self-service elements, made up 45 per cent of HR contracts last year, compared with 25 per cent in 2013.

Moving up the value chain The dominance of onshore contracts in 2014 is being driven by a number of factors – not least that some traditional offshore locations are experiencing significant inflation in salaries and living standards, which is challenging their competitiveness. According to arvato and NelsonHall, the growing sophistication of services offered in the UK is also having an impact. Analysis of outsourcing contracts in 2013 and 2014 demonstrates the ways in which outsourcing is becoming more sophisticated, both in terms of service delivery and contracting.

Channel shift In the field of customer management, this sophistication is evidenced by the increased adoption of multi-channel services. “Until relatively recently, contact centre outsourcing in the UK was typified by voice and email services, with social media support handled separately,” explains Debra Maxwell, managing director of arvato’s public sector and contact centre business in the UK. “As organisations are increasingly focused on providing a seamless customer experience, in 2014 it became the norm for these functions to be integrated alongside other digital communication services such as web chat. This was a feature of 62 per cent of contracts, a significant increase from 40 per cent in 2013. “This was true across both the private and public

Local government

“The 2014 index figures demonstrate further maturity in the marketplace and the fact that UK outsourcers are increasingly handling more complex work.”

The 2014 figures also show that the public sector is driving the development of more sophisticated commercial arrangements in the UK market. In 2014, the number of local government contracts stipulating flexible terms – such as allowing partners to change the number of users covered by outsourced services without incurring greater costs – rose from 10 per cent to a quarter of all deals. Supplier investment to fund transformation projects was also stipulated in 11 per cent of local government contracts, rising from 9 per cent in 2013. “Local government has long been the vanguard of UK outsourcing, and our full-year index shows that local authorities remain

convinced of its strategic benefits and are committing to higher value, second-generation contracts,” says Maxwell. In 2014, 60 per cent of all local government contracts signed were extensions, renewals or the replacement of incumbent suppliers, rising from 37 per cent in 2013. The average deal value in local government also increased by 15 per cent year-on-year. “This depicts a mature, developing market,” continues Maxwell, “demonstrating that, against a backdrop of continuing austerity, clients see their partnerships continuing to deliver value.”

Financial services In the private sector, the most active industry was financial services, responsible for £1.1billion of new agreements, the majority of which were for back office Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) services. Bryan Mouat, CEO of arvato Financial Solutions in the UK & Ireland, says: “As the index findings show, there remains a strong BPO market in the financial services sector. In particular, customers are increasingly opting for platform-based services which combine key applications with people-based services. This made up 40 per cent of industryspecific BPO contracts last year, compared with a quarter of deals in 2013.” Indeed, back office outsourcing in particular appears to be gaining more universal appeal across industries. Research from leading professional services network Grant Thornton recently identified that two in five firms globally have outsourced a function or plan to, with back office services such as accounting, IT and HR the most likely to be outsourced. www.arvato.co.uk/outsourcing-index


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Writing exclusively for Business Technology, EU digital commissioner Gunther Oettinger says that cloud computing is the way forward for small business and Europe’s governments

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LOUD COMPUTING will create an additional 1.6 million jobs in Europe by 2020, according to a European Commission-funded study due to be published in the coming month. The economic benefits of cloud are considered to be strong: according to the same study, cloud can contribute a total of €450billion to the EU GDP between 2015 and 2020. The digital economy is intrinsically linked to rapid technological development. European competitiveness and the growth of our economy depend on our ability to innovate and drive digital developments. Technology offers new business models to the benefit of the society as a whole. Cloud computing is one of the key means to support growth and to create new jobs in the coming years. The innovation and cost savings that it brings are essential for Europe’s economy. That is why, back in 2012, the European Commission took action to boost cloud usage in Europe, through a dedicated cloud computing strategy. The key feature of cloud computing that defines its economic impact is that the hardware and software is not owned by the user. As there is no upfront infrastructure expenditure, cloud is less expensive than buying the same technology as a capital purchase.

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Cloud will create 1.6 million more jobs in Europe by 2020 Cloud also offers operational efficiencies and enables business growth and flexibility, as companies get adaptable services that scale quickly to peaks and troughs in demand at low marginal cost. This, in turn, delivers economic benefits through increased revenues, cost reductions and productivity gains. Costs are generally lower as services are standardised, and their provision is spread across a very large number of users. The cost savings can then be allocated to other areas of business activity, including organic growth, or expanding into new markets. This means that, besides making business more competitive, cloud also increases companies’ productivity and turnover. Cloud also gives SMEs access to the same computing power and applications of large corporations. This creates countless opportunities to improve supply chain and sales. SMEs can increase productivity by 30 per cent if they adopt cloud.

Gunther Oettinger is EU commissioner for digital economy and society

The same applies to the public sector. Cloud is an important element of modernising services. The public sector has a key role to play in shaping the cloud computing market. Public cloud services mean less bureaucracy and cheaper administration. They also facilitate the interoperability of public services throughout the European Union. In turn, this process leads to significant advantages for the whole economy and internal market, by increasing employment and by creating new business that can drive future growth. We need to reflect on what is necessary to make Europe a centre of cloud computing excellence. We also need to make sure that cloud computing sustains an efficient public administration. In the coming months, the European Commission will be contributing to the development of a secure and vibrant European cloud market, as part of our work on the Digital Single Market for Europe.

Ready to leap: Removing the last barriers to enterprise cloud adoption

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ike lots of forward-thinking companies you’re probably excited about what enterprise cloud can offer: flexibility, scalability, new productivity applications, automation, self-service, remote access to apps and data, massive low-cost storage, the ability to move IT costs from Capex to Opex and the capacity to transform internal IT functions into fee-earning departments. But even if you’ve already run some proofof-concept programmes, or adopted cloud solutions for specific business functions, maybe something is holding you back from taking that final leap. You still feel the need to check your parachute just one more time. Putting aside security issues – which vendors are assiduously addressing – the major drags on enterprise cloud adoption are worries about legacy infrastructure, the cost of redeploying existing apps, and the perceived lack of compatibility between different vendoroperated cloud platforms. To address these challenges there is a good chance you will need some form of hybrid solution (public/private, hosted/on-site), or require several

vendors to work together seamlessly. With proprietary platforms this can be challenging and costly. What’s more, there may be no easy way to extract your workloads once you’ve signed up with a vendor, so that they can be used on another vendor’s platform should you ever wish to switch. This is why an increasing number of large vendors and end-users have moved to adopt open-source cloud platforms like OpenStack, which is supported and developed by more than 200 companies including giants like HP, AT&T, Dell and

IBM. It’s even compatible with proprietary offerings such as AWS and VMWare. My company, Ormuco – a leading global enterprise cloud, managed services and telecoms provider – has recently partnered with HP to bring the OpenStack ecosystem to our clients. Using HP’s OpenStack technology as the foundation for all our products and services allows our clients to choose the right mix of cloud solutions (private, public, hybrid or managed) for their business needs, without ever being locked in to one vendor. Furthermore, as OpenStack is an

ongoing collaboration between hundreds of companies, and is supported by a range of ISVs, app developers, systems integrators and channel partners, we can deliver services globally and ensure our solutions always incorporate the latest functionality and security features. As we start 2015 the enterprise cloud market is now mature and at a turning point, the so-called “knee of the graph”. Spending will rise from some $70billion now to $250billion by 2017, or around 10 per cent of all enterprise IT spending. HP’s OpenStack-based platform is already the sole leader, according to Forrester Wave™. With HP OpenStack technology backing up our expertise in operating global data centres and delivering unified communications solutions, we can now take care of all our clients’ processing, storage, networking and telecoms needs more flexibly, more quickly and at lower cost than ever before. Whether your business is local, regional or global, large or small, the versatility of OpenStack removes the remaining barriers to enterprise-wide cloud adoption. It’s time to strap on that parachute and take a leap into the future. Orlando Bayter (left) is CEO of Ormuco +44 20 7153 1431 www.ormuco.com


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Viewpoint: What makes some of the biggest brands in Britain outsource their IT to the cloud? PAUL CLARKE

DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, OCADO

Ocado is the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer, reaching more than 70 per cent of British households, shipping more than 150,000 orders a week. It currently uses Google’s Cloud Platform for data integration and processing. Its recently announced Ocado Smart Platform will run on a combination of Google’s Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services. The company announced it went into profit earlier this month. OCADO IS a disruptor. For us, the cloud has been about achieving the ability to experiment and deploy faster, to prepare for international expansion and potentially reduce costs, too. People wrongly think that cost savings are the key driver but increased agility is much more important. Developing in the cloud enables nearly 600 engineers in the UK and Krakow, Poland to be much more productive, thus speeding up innovation. We’re in a massive re-platforming exercise, rewriting all our systems to run in the cloud, which will enable us to expand internationally without building more data centres. Our technology estate is very broad and deep, including e-commerce, supply chain logistics, real-time warehouse automation, routing systems and more. Google gets the fact we’re a disruptor in our industry, just as they are too.

The business of connectivity: How automation defines the future of outsourcing O

utsourcing, in the old definition of the term, is on its knees. Stricken by the reputational impact of poor-performing outsourced contracts, increasingly companies are bringing their IT outsourcing back in-house. How do you keep on top of accelerating change in the most cost-effective manner and enable business innovation in the way that their boards expect? A CIO has lots of demands and choices to make, while under constant board pressure to get more for less – and quickly. It’s that kind of balance and flexibility that Cisco offers – and the secret is automation. Automating processes such as handling IT requests can save companies up to 80 per cent of traditional network management

costs. They are also more predictable, more accurate (statistically zero errors) and much faster (60 per cent reduction in time to resolve). Some 60 per cent of service requests, whether as simple as fixing a technical fault or provisioning a new service, are now resolvable without human contact. One global bank, serving millions of customers across 68 countries, recently switched its networks operations management to Cisco. We completed the transformation in 63 days compared with the industry standard of 240, nearly halving costs via our unique approach mixing automation and convergence. The smooth running of the network, IT helpdesks and capacity planning are all now automated,

There have been some extraordinary shifts in the past few years thanks to mobile app publishing and the cloud, enabling entrepreneurs to create multi-million-pound businesses from their bedrooms. Businesses such as Snapchat have been able to scale on Google’s Cloud Platform without having to invest in their own infrastructure. That’s led to an explosion of new business that wouldn’t have happened without the cloud. The level of agility start-ups have demonstrated around this has been extraordinary. They deploy new ideas in the cloud within hours rather than weeks or months – and that agility is bound to feed up into SMEs.

STEVE MCPHERSON

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, FRAMESTORE

Framestore, the visual effects company whose credits include Jupiter Ascending and Guardians Of The Galaxy, and which won an Oscar for Gravity, adopted Google Cloud last summer. It has offices in London, Montreal, New York and Los Angeles. Gravity was such a computing-power hungry project that we borrowed excess capacity from our competitors. That broke the mould, because it showed we didn’t need to buy the hardware. We’ve never built a machine room that doesn’t eventually run out of space, cooling or power. We’re

allowing the bank to free up resources for investment in IT innovation. In another example, a bank launched a new credit card, but executives were surprised by the low take-up. The marketing wasn’t at fault – it turned out the culprit was an IT system that couldn’t cope with enquiry demand. Automation can be used for this sort of network capacity and planning. Flexible consumption and automation have become the converging points of our business, delivering a new wave of innovation in managed services. We monitor systems for the ebbs and flows of demand. What sets Cisco apart is that we know the network like no other. We have been at the heart of the internet for the past 30 years and now manage the networks of more than 50 per cent of the Fortune Global 500 companies. As a company, Cisco builds its success on anticipating market transitions and disrupting traditional ways of doing things. That’s how we solved the problem of mass connectivity by building the internet. That’s how we disrupted the voice market in the late 90s. And that’s how we are disrupting

managed services via intelligent automation. And never has the need been greater. Within five years, 50 billion devices will need connecting. The internet of everything is upon us. Cisco is ready for the Tsunami of IoT today, with over 50 billion statistics analysed annually, providing deep insight for our clients. Automation and our analytics has enabled us to address 91 per cent of issues at First Time to Fix, over half of these with no-touch by humans and 95 per cent proactively before anyone even knew there was a problem brewing. In seconds, 32 seconds or less in many cases. This intelligent automation is not only key, it is the only way the rule book will be written. And as we connect people, devices and things together the old rules of outsourcing won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to embrace the new rules of selective out-tasking powered by industrial scale automation. Steve Pickavance (left) is senior director worldwide development for cloud and managed services at Cisco steve@cisco.com


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Like us: www.facebook.com/biztechreport | Contact us at info@lyonsdown.co.uk | Lyonsdown is a member of the PPA more like a weather prediction centre than a TV studio in the amount of computing power we consume. The volume of computer-generated imagery continues to rise, even for shows you wouldn’t think of needing computer graphics. Removing television aerials from the skyline in period dramas, for example. Plus, the world is a very detailed place. At peak times, when we’re rendering images on several projects at once for advertisers and film studios, we consume the processing power of up to 15,000 Intel cores. Once films are delivered, that demand recedes, so we have excess capacity for some time until we reach the next set of deadlines. Google Compute Engine gives us breathing room during very busy periods, allowing our artists to be faster and more flexible. The result? Fewer bottlenecks, more creativity and more predictability – not to mention saving around £200,000 on the cores we didn’t need to buy. We can now move confidently into final stages of production on our biggest projects, knowing we have a reserve of computational ability on tap. We chose Google because other cloud providers we spoke to were obstructive. I didn’t feel that way about Google at all. Sure, I’m sceptical about the beanbags in the office and the free massages, but what was great about Google was that we didn’t have to explain what we were doing.

ADAM SOLIMAN

FOUNDER, CHARBREW

your own servers means that, in addition to having to repair them when they go wrong, you also have to insure them. A lot of small businesses feel they should get an office but the reality is that people can run a business from a café. People burden themselves with all this overhead. In the past, you had to have big overhead in order to have infrastructure like this at a nominal cost. In this day and age you can use technology so much more. People need to be aware of what the cloud can do – it’s faster and cheaper.

Charbrew, a start-up premium fruit and herbal tea company, was founded in 2009. Waitrose, Tesco and Holland & Barrett stock the brand, while the American version of TK Maxx stocks its gift sets. It uses Microsoft Azure and Office 365 for all its IT needs.

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, JUST EAT

There are only two of us in Charbrew. Initially we went wrong by spending money on our own IT infrastructure. Then we found out about cloud software. Cloud-based platforms are not only more cost-effective, there’s no outlay in terms of hardware up front, which depreciates in value. And running

Just Eat is the world’s largest online takeaway service. Headquartered in London, the company operates in 13 countries and is on track to generate £1billion in revenue this year. It handled 30 million orders worldwide in the first half of 2014 alone. It outsources its IT needs to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

CARLOS MORGADO

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We’re a technology company that happens to be an online food retailer. And if you’re a technology company, the best use of your engineers’ time is innovation. A traditional infrastructure consumes the vast proportion of your IT system, but doesn’t do anything to make you look different. I wanted to do things that moved the business forward. A tech business is dependent on being creative. If I can use off-the-shelf solutions such as running servers, then I’m giving myself a better chance to create a better business. There so many things that you can pick up off the shelf from Amazon, knowing that they’re continually improving, scalable and secure. You’ve freed up engineering to focus on what we do best. Yes, it’s expensive but, in the end, it not about the money but about focusing the business on our core proposition. The most exciting thing is that, in the past, you had to buy a bunch of servers before you knew whether something worked on not. Today you can have proof-of-concept by conjuring up thousands of servers but only run them for a short while. It’s a real turning point for innovation. You can fire up these virtual machines in a matter of minutes.

Getting it right: Shaping solutions that fit the digital market for customers M

any factors are driving today’s digital economy, from the post-recession pressure for companies to reduce costs and improve margins, to the increasing demands from consumers for new and exciting products. Consumer technologies, alongside a new era of highspeed mobile connectivity, is changing the way people buy and use products and services. Average ownership of mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops and the like – is soaring to 3.4 devices per person by the end of 2015; the digital economy is now a daily fact of life. The digital savvy consumer is directly influencing the way new products are used and how they are brought to market, all of which places greater demands on IT services. IT infrastructure has never been so critical to the bottom line. According to Deloitte, the use of outsourcing and managed services is on the rise, to cope with rapidly escalating and changing demands from business. Depending on the service, IT outsourcing is growing at between 12 to 26 per cent, with about 60 per cent of companies tending to outsource some elements of their IT. In finance and administration, billing and payments tend to be the most common functions outsourced – and this is growing. CGI processes more than five million card payments every year and enables the transfer of over £3trillion per day. Most businesses recognise the opportunity to improve speed, efficiency and payment security, but an added benefit of outsourcing payments processing comes from the amount of data created by payment transactions. Industry experts are harnessing this data to

identify consumer buying habits, allowing companies to improve their services and innovate, with new products aimed at the mobile-enabled, data-driven customer. Mike Whitchurch, senior vice-president, Commercial Business Unit at CGI UK, explains: “We shape solutions to fit our clients’ business requirements. As businesses

adapt to the digital economy, they need to ensure their products and services dovetail with whatever devices their customers are using. And that means that we have to be agile in the delivery of our IT services, to help facilitate the new face of commercial operations.” In the increasingly competitive economic climate for businesses and with governments under pressure to tackle deficits, delivering better outcomes with fewer resources is focusing minds on how investment in IT can help drive innovation and results. Whether building a superior customer experience, delivering better patient care, or improving the safety and security of citizens, industries are beginning to open their eyes to where their valuable data assets are, how best to integrate and analyse, and how to action that insight into results. CGI has been overseen some of the largest data sets and analytics platforms in the UK for many years. These include managing criminal data for the Police National Database, analysing data for the UK Space Agency, and managing the data from those financial services transactions. Implementing new digital platforms proves crucial to realising this value. For example, Countrywide, the estate agents, worked with CGI to transform, harmonise and integrate its branch network on to a stronger digital platform. Using outsourced IT gives businesses access to the best-of-breed platforms, a wider array of solutions and services, and the vital industry expertise, which create a recipe for the digital competitive edge. +44 (0)845 0707765 www.cgi-group.co.uk


Business Technology · February 2015

Smart grid

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How MK:Smart is helping improve business efficiency and reduce carbon emmisions Joanne Frearson

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ASHING machines have a mind of their own, or at least the ones in Milton Keynes do. They know when it is best for you to put on a washing load, when it will save you the most money and be the most energy efficient. Electric cars are also becoming smarter. They can tell you when the optimal times are to charge them. How have cars and washing machines got so intelligent? Not by undertaking years of study and complicated exams, but through the smart grid: an electrical network that gathers digital information about the way a utility system is used by suppliers and consumers to improve their efficiency. In Milton Keynes, through a project called MK:Smart, residents are taking part in a scheme trialing washing machines and electric cars to see if the smart grid can improve their efficiencies. Around 75 households in the city are taking part in the scheme, run by the Open University and E.ON. The system works by a washing machine connecting to the solar photovoltaics (PV) array. This collects data on the expected weather conditions, solar generation and energy mixture in the grid to give the consumer the best options on when to run a washing cycle. The electric car works in a similar way, by plugging into the smart grid. “There are huge constraints around family life,” says Professor Gerd Kortuem, who is leading the energy scheme for the MK:Smart project. “One of the things that we are working on with E.ON is smart appliances – for example, washing machines that understand the grid status and understand the availability of local green energy generated locally from PV systems.” The aim of the project is to understand how people use these appliances. It is hoped the scheme will give some insight into how they might be able to change their behaviour to use

“This is very much enabling behaviour change. We are trying to figure out what the limitations are, and how flexible family life and the domestic energy system is” – Professor Gerd Kortuem, MK:Smart their electric cars and washing machines at a time which is more beneficial, as well as understanding the restrictions for those appliances changing their behaviour to begin with. “A sma r t wash ing mac h ine has a n understanding of the availability of locally generated green energy,” Kortuem says. “It is also has an understanding of how carbonintensive the current energy generation is in the grid. The washing machine can make decisions of when to run, to either reduce expenses for the consumer, optimise the use of locally generated energy, or to optimise itself to maximise carbon reduction. A person can decide when it is the most beneficial time for them to run the machine.” According to Kortuem, the system is about giving people more flexibility and choice, rather than completely automating life for them. He says: “The typical use case is people loading their washing machine in the morning. The washing machine then tells them, based on the current status, the predicted state of the grid and weather today – ‘I suggest I start myself at a

particular time, I will be done at that time, do you want to do that, yes or no?’ “Then consumers have a choice of doing that. This is very much enabling behaviour change, although there can be some limits to that. We are trying to figure out what the limitations are, and how flexible family life and the domestic energy system is.” When it comes to electric cars, the situation is similar. Kortuem says: “People can decide to change their driving behaviour, for example, to maximise the use of green energy.” According to Kortuem, doing the right thing and being more energy-efficient is as much of a motivation as saving money for those taking part in the project. E lec t r ic ca r s a nd wash i ng machines are not the only smart grid project at MK:Smart, and the initiative is also looking at larger energy structures. There have been few major studies undertaken in the UK when it comes to commercial buildings using the smart grid, so, as part of the MK:Smart project, the

Open University has been connected to the smart grid to help understand demand management. It is hoped the study will help teach organisations what technological and commercial arrangements are needed for companies to be able to implement a smart grid. For a commercial building, the smart grid works by the grid operator monitoring the energy environment and knowing when peak events are about to occur. The grid is engineered to cope with all possible demand issues. For example, in winter, at times of peak demand, these types of events can be predicted within a few hours or even a couple of days’ warning. In response to these events, a signal is sent to the building in question or for the MK:Smart project the Open University. The infrastructure in place allows the grid to turn off equipment remotely, and the Open University can then opt in or out for each particular peak event. In order for big organisations to adopt this approach, studies such as this need to demonstrate their viability as an investment, Kortuem believes. “If you can reduce the peak demand, you can make a strong case that you


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Putting the va-va-voom into data security networks Keil Hubert

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can defer investment for upgrading the grid,” he says. “We have been working both with the Open University and Western Power to find and look at the commercial arrangements. While technically it is not hugely complex, the most interesting finding in this space is actually in the commercial arrangements – the business arrangements are not understood. “There are not enough experiences. A lot of the investment cases around energy, for example, at the Open University are done based on previous experience. What have other people done in this space? What do other universities and large companies do? There is not a lot of experience in the system that can be easily transferred.” Kortuem thinks it is still early days to draw firm conclusions from the project, but he does believe the development has made progress towards making a business case for commercial buildings using the smart grid. To make this case stronger, Kortuem would like to see more trials, include smaller electrical load areas such as battery storage. “There are uninterrupted power supplies all over the place that have battery storage.

Bottom left: Professor Gerd Kortuem of MK:Smart; Insets: Milton Keynes is currently at the centre of the smart grid revolution, from its use of solar panels to the trialling of a unique electric pod transport system

They can all be potentially controlled,” he says. “It is sort of the long tail of the energy market. “Now a number of smaller players and start-ups are looking at the long tail. They are aggregating huge numbers of small loads across the country and turning that into virtual power plants that can be turned off and tuned up or down on demand.” Virtual power plants use smart grid infrastructure by linking-up small distributed power stations, which can be controlled from a central control room from where loads can be switched off and on to form an integrated network. As more research is carried out, it is likely more companies will adopt the smart grid approach. Increasingly, regulations are demanding that firms reduce their carbon emissions anyway, and the smart grid is one method in which they can achieve this. It may soon become the norm for us all to have a smart washing machine or electric car that we consult before we switch on or recharge. And, by plugging into the smart grid, businesses and consumers could have more flexibility on how efficiently they use their energy.

ERE IN Texas, it’s taken as gospel that the cars of one’s youth are inherently superior to all modern cars. It doesn’t really matter when you were born; whatever was on the road when you were an impressionable youth is always better than anything currently available in showrooms. Bull sessions in the office, family dinners, and impromptu conversations in the checkout queue all involve wistful longing for cars-gone-by. I find it particularly amusing when I discover that someone who’s passionate about the supposed virtues of a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is actually driving a brand-new Volvo XC people-mover that’s crammed to its headliner with safety systems and cutting-edge electronics. I understand that people are irrationally infatuated with design aesthetics. That’s why American car companies have been focusing on retro-themed designs like the new Mustang, Camaro and Charger. Under each pseudo-retro car’s bonnet, though, are thoroughly modern safety nannies such as automatic braking sensors, lane departure warning systems, automatic cruise control and driver fatigue monitors. Speaking as a driver who isn’t inclined to die in a fiery crash, I’m all for the new features. I’ll go a step further: I very much want to see the smart motorway implemented so that the distracted drivers around me are less likely to cause a collision. I’m also keenly interested in what these new automotive technology improvements are likely to do for my professional life. We’ve reached the point where most modern cars have a multifunction computer and vehicle-area network installed in them. My in-laws’ Volvo has more computing power onboard than a 1970s fighter plane. We’re probably less than a decade away from networking all of those standalone in-car computers into an integrated public network. That, in turn, means

we’ll need to apply many of the same information security measures to our new cars and to our motorway infrastructure that we’ve deployed to our business data networks. Sometime soon, our cars will need integrated cyber-defence gear to help protect on-board electronics from malicious external attacks. This will likely start as an option on high-end marques. Perhaps Tesla or Mercedes will offer on-board network firewalls and intrusion prevention systems as premium upgrades. Eventually, governments and industry consortia will insist that all new vehicles come with a basic counter-intrusion kit as standard. This will lead to the creation of a great many new hi-tech jobs. Network security architect roles will appear in automotive firms. Dealership service departments will all need security configuration technicians to handle patch management, change control, and identity management tuning tasks. The after-market tuning industry will advertise top-tier security consultants who can harden, optimise, and troubleshoot your car’s stock defensive systems. When I first started working in tech support back in the eighties, there weren’t that many boffins focused on security. It took several years for the cyber-security role to evolve into its own professional domain. Now, we take it for granted that a responsible business doesn’t dare operate its own IT plant without expert staff to handle the design, monitoring, and operation of security-specific components and business functions. We’ll see the exact same evolution occur in the automotive sector, only we’ll see it happen much, much faster. It won’t be long at all before an aspiring university graduate with an IT degree will find a competitive and satisfying job in a garage – performing the exact same data network security configuration tasks that she’d expect to perform in a corporate data centre, only she’ll be working on a new car instead of a traditional server.


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Network innovation led by the customer Taking a look at a leading UK smart grid project that’s helping to meet the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions targets

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eaching the UK’s 2050 targets will be achieved largely by increased use of renewable energy sources and the electrification of heating and transport. However, consumer take-up of renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels and electricity-dependent low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, are placing additional demands on electricity networks. The UK’s electricity networks were not designed to support the transition to a future where low carbon technologies are commonplace. For example, it is predicted that in the next 10 years there could be as many as 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. If all of these EV owners decided to charge their vehicles at the end of the working day, during the time of peak demand for electricity (typically 4-8pm), it would be necessary to double the size of the existing network infrastructure to cope with this demand alone. Effectively connecting up and making the most out of existing assets is key to achieving a smarter electricity network. Ofgem established the Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCN Fund) in 2010 in order to kickstart the radical change electricity networks need, to make the low-carbon energy sector a reality. Worth up to £500million over five years, the fund encouraged electricity distribution network operators to engage with partners and carry out innovative projects to develop smart grid expertise and assist in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Schemes supported by the LCN Fund of which Siemens is a part include UK Power Networks’ Low Carbon London project, Western Power Distribution’s Project BRISTOL and Electricity North West’s Project CLASS and Project Smart Street.

Key Network monitoring EAVC Electrical energy storage Siemens is also playing an important role in the UK’s largest smart grid project, the Customer-Led Network Revolution, or CLNR (www.networkrevolution. co.uk). Principally funded by a £27million contribution from the LCN Fund, the project is led by distribution network operator Northern Powergrid, with support from partners British Gas, EA Technology and the universities of Newcastle and Durham.

Looking north Northern Powergrid delivers electricity to 3.9 million homes and businesses in the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. Working with more than 13,000 domestic, SME, industrial, commercial and distributed generation customers, the CLNR project has produced important new learning on the uptake of low-carbon technologies such as solar PV, electric vehicles, and heat pumps and their likely impact on GB electricity networks. The project trialled a range of novel network technologies, alongside flexible demand-side response (where consumers were asked to do something differently; to reduce their consumption or turn on generation in response to a signal from the network operator, for example) to better understand the long-term customer benefits offered by a smarter grid. The CustomerLed Network Revolution project required a smart grid solution with an autonomous control system, capable of optimising voltage control, energy storage, thermal

rating and demand-side response across the network, and co-ordinating the operation of these technologies within the network. Siemens adapted its Active Network Management system, Spectrum Power, to suit the Customer-Led Network Revolution’s needs, known on the CLNR project as the Grand Unified Scheme (or GUS), Siemens Spectrum Power technology takes a wholesystem view of the network, combining, optimising and managing the constraints of the system’s multiple elements. This allows the network to operate as a smart grid, reducing the necessity for costly network extensions and upgrades. The Grand Unified Scheme is one of the most sophisticated active-network management systems to have been installed and operated on a live network. Northern Powergrid has trialled the technology to establish how effectively the Grand Unified Scheme can autonomously manage the network across its two main trial areas in Denwick, Northumberland, and Rise Carr, Darlington, which serve about 13,000 and 10,000 customers respectively.

Demand-side response Real-time thermal rating

Future dynamics

to make the most of demand-side response measures, and help support the uptake of renewable energy sources; one of the biggest challenges faced by Great Britain’s electricity networks in the next five to ten years. GUS could also ultimately contribute to reducing customers’ energy bills by helping to make the most of existing network assets and minimising the need for network upgrades. The Customer-Led Network Revolution successfully completed its study in December 2014, producing a rich body of research, recommendations and tools which will benefit electricity distribution network operators and their customers alike. It has produced new learning that offers important insights for policy makers and the wider electricity industry, as we seek to address the challenges of a low-carbon future and ensure the development of smart grids continues to make effective progress.

The Grand Unified Scheme continually evaluates and reassesses network conditions, making it the ideal solution for dealing with the more complex, dynamic electricity networks of the future. It could enable network operators to work with flexible customers

Dr Vincent Thornley is portfolio & technology manager, Siemens UK Dave Miller is operations technoloy manager at Northern Powergrid www.siemens.co.uk

The Siemens Energy Management Division is one of the leading global suppliers of products, systems, solutions, and services for the economical, reliable, and intelligent transmission and distribution of electrical power. As the trusted partner for the development and extension of an efficient and reliable power infrastructure, Energy Management offers utilities and the industry the portfolio they need. This includes facilities and systems for the low-voltage and distribution power grid level, smart grid and energy automation solutions, power supply for industrial plants, and high-voltage transmission systems. Represented in more than 90 countries, this Siemens Division has nearly 53,000 employees and more than 100 production sites worldwide.


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Smart grid

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Time is right for network operators to combine innovative control methods with new systems ONE OF the biggest issues for companies wanting to implement the smart grid is an internal one, according to Dr Vincent Thornley, portfolio and technology manager at Siemens UK. Thornley (right) says: “For the last 100 years, the distribution network operators (DNO) have done things in a very copper-based way. It is all focused on a particular way of working. It is going

to be some effort to train them to understand a new way. “The DNOs operate very simply, really, but consequently the guys on the ground are not expecting high-level controls and automation on this kit that they are working on. When they come into contact with that, we need to have them fully trained on how we deal with that situation. It is about familiarising themselves with the new techniques.” Other issues the

industry will face when implementing a smart grid is how to put in a sustainable energy system that is lowcost to the consumer. If the infrastructure does not have connections to a low-carbon generation network, it can be extremely expensive to put a smart grid in place. Thornley says: “There have been plenty of occasions where the cost of doing that will kill the project before it has got off the ground. One of the aims of a smart approach is, rather than

using traditional methods you use more innovative control methods to manage the network which allows the project to go ahead. “You can look to switching on more load at particular times closer to generation and moving in terms of load. It is a whole different way of working – where we say the cost of our infrastructure can be huge, we will look to minimise that and we will look to work more adaptively and smarter to make better use of it.”

Smart grids spearheading renewables in Thames Valley

By Joanne Frearson

THE UK government is committed to achieving and 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and has been investing in smart grid projects as way of reaching these targets. The Thames Valley Vision is one such project that aims is to show how smart grid technologies can reduce emissions. The £30 million project based in Bracknell is part of the wider UK programme funded by the Low Carbon Network Fund run by Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, and is being developed by Southern Electric Power Distribution in partnership with local, national and international businesses including the University of Reading and Oxford University. Nigel Bessant, project delivery manager of

the Thames Valley Vision, says: “The way people use energy is changing quite dramatically. It used to be people just consumed energy, now they might have electric cars. “The amount they are producing in energy rather than absorbing it is changing. We need to move from what use to be quite a simple method to a more sophisticated method.” The project will trial new technologies and use the smart grid to collect data and develop sophisticated modelling to understand changes in customer behaviours which will help make a more efficient low carbon economy. The main focuses of the project are to make the network ready for low carbon technologies such as electric and solar vehicles. Businesses are taking part in demand response trials to help reduce the electrical load on the network

during peak times.Bessant says: “What we are looking to do is anticipate what our customers’ energy needs are, forecast forward and support those changes through technology. “If you look at the bits of kit on the network, we have various forms of energy storage. We have hot thermal storage which is where the excess amount of power is collected during the day and stored back into hot water. “Next year we are also looking to use cold thermal storage. That is where we will be running air conditioning not from electricity during the day, but from storing it up from blocks of ice overnight. This helps use energy more effectively. “We have a series of tools working in partnership with GE to help us visualise where

central pinch points are and put in technological solutions. We look at energy storage, the demand response and then look at the commercial needs of our customers to help them make the right choices. “Once you understand what the energy needs are for customers on a much more direct basis you can work out what their needs are for the future. For us it is about working out where we need to add more capacity, so we can increase our solutions like storage. It is about visualising where the need is and putting the right solutions in place.” By analysing how people and business use energy, the Thames Valley Vision project is helping the UK government understand how smart grid technologies will assist them in reaching their CO2 targets.


Business Technology · February 2015

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Smart grid

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Get yourself connected To become truly smart, our power grids must become integrated and interoperable. By Joanne Frearson

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LOT OF factors come into putting a smart grid in operation. Companies have to take into account the infrastructure of a building, the stakeholders involved and also the security of the systems. Although the smart grid is helping create energy efficiencies, it is in its early days. There are many challenges ahead, and standards on how firms should put a scheme in place are only in the process of being developed. Dr. Catalina Spataru, senior researcher in Smart Grids and Energy Networks at the UCL Energy Institute, says: “There are some difficult challenges in implementing the smart grid. It will be an evolution of projects over several decades until we will really be there.” She explains these difficulties lie in the fact that existing networks were not originally built with the smart grid in mind – and adaptation can be a complex process. Not only might the infrastructure need updating, the network could be owned by various stakeholders, with different ideas for the way they want their part used. “The problem is, each stakeholder is responsible for different parts of the system,” Spataru says.

“Each might make different choices about its evolution and end-use. All these stakeholders need to be integrated and not act independently from each other. At the moment a major challenge is integrating the different providers.” Much research in this field has confirmed the need for collaborative understanding in terms of application of interoperability standards, so utilities can buy equipment from different vendors, knowing they will work with each other. There are initiatives taking place to help develop the sector, such as the International Smart Grid Action Network, which promotes smart grid global partnerships. The aim of this organisation is to focus on policies and standards, information, finance and business models, technology and system developments. Another challenge for organisations implementing the smart grid is in the area of information security, says Spataru. There are concerns a cyber-attack on a smart grid could shut down a city, while other fears concern identity theft and whether private details or behaviour patterns can be hacked into and stolen through the smart grid. Spataru says: “Technology could open up all kinds of opportunities for hackers. We need to work a little bit more in developing this integrated framework for keeping all these systems secure, and to make sure information about consumers remain private. “Otherwise, consumers will not trust in this two-way communication of the smart

grid. We need to come up with more forensic tools to try to not only identify the problems, but also to recover the problems.” A lt hou g h t he r e i s a potential cyber-threat for the smart grid, Spataru believes this is no more a risk than most organisations currently face. The smart grid is still in its developing stages, but interoperability standards should help firms as they put smart grid schemes in place to help increase energy efficiency.

Below: Dr Catalina Spataru of the UCL Energy Institute

Smart grids: the key to utility efficiency U

TILITIES are using smart grid technologies to make their networks more efficient, as new regulatory frameworks call for firms to reduce their carbon footprint and support smarter practices. European climate and energy targets call for EU countries to reduce their greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by the year 2020, raise energy efficiency by 20 per cent and for 20 per cent of all energy to come from renewable resources. In the UK, Ofgem’s RIIO regulatory framework is calling for utility companies to develop smarter gas and electricity networks for a low-carbon future. “Developing a smart grid is key to improving network efficiency,” says Tim Liew (below), market development manager for 3M’s electronics and energy business. “It sounds very straightforward to be able to measure voltage and currents on the distribution network, but the reality is they have a very old infrastructure network that is not designed to provide that kind of data. “The UK RIIO framework encourages utilities to focus on improving efficiency and extending the lifespan of existing infrastructure. The drive for them is more about getting more efficiency, getting more lifespan out of the infrastructure they have already.” 3M has developed a sensored termination product, which connects to the sub-station distributing the electricity capacity without having to upgrade the switch gear. It can calculate how much load is going through a particular network, so that utility companies know how to best manage the capacity. “Given the increasing number

of renewable sources being connected to the network, being able to monitor and understand exactly what is going on at key nodes is vital,” says Mark Gledhill, business development manager of future networks at 3M. “That will give utility operators the appropriate information to make decisions and how best to manage it. “From that, they can do a number of things to alter the voltage or the current accordingly to match consumer requirements. They can also monitor how much headroom networks have, and how much spare capacity they may or may not have.” “As the 3M-sensored termination product can be retrofitted to upgrade existing switch gear, utility companies do not have to replace expensive equipment, helping them lower capex,” says Gledhill. “This is a lower-cost solution that is quicker and easier to implement.” 3M has developed other products to help utility companies upgrade their networks without having to replace major infrastructure, such as Aluminium Conductor Composite Reinforced (ACCR) conductor cables. According to Gledhill, this can increase capacity by up to double what is possible with traditional overhead lines. 3M has also developed a product to replace SF6 in switchgear – a fluoroketone solution which is part of the NovecTM Dielectric Fluids range. It is nonozone depleting and results in a more than 95 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. By adopting smart grid technologies, utilities will be more able to meet the demands of new regulation standards and provide a more efficient network for all. www.3M.co.uk/electrical


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Business Technology · February 2015

Smart grid

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FLY ME TO THE MOON The UK’s first crowdfunded space exploration project could lead to widespread electronics and engineering innovations on planet earth… Joanne Frearson reports

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ANY ELECTRONIC inventions which we rely on today began life in a space scientist’s laboratory. Black & Decker cordless electric drills first designed to bore into lunar rock on the moon missions, for example, were later adapted for the medical, manufacturing, building and home consumer industries. The guidance computer used in the Apollo missions was the first to use integrated circuits, which meant that computers no longer needed to be the size of a room, thus paving the way for the development of the personal computer. This single invention by NASA is said to have brought forward the information age by between 10 to 20 years. In the UK, a new space exploration project, Lunar Mission One, successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter and due to launch in 10 years, has the potential to change the way things are done on earth in much the same way. David Iron, the project’s founder, tells me although it is hard to predict where advancements end up, the project should further the field of electronics. The mission will send an unmanned robotic landing module to the moon’s south pole, an area unexplored by previous missions. Its aim is to improve scientific understanding of

the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the moon and the conditions that initiated life on earth. The probe will use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20 metres, up to potentially 100 metres – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled on the moon before. Telerobotics will be used to help operators on earth understand what is happening down the borehole. Iron, a former Royal Navy engineering officer who devised the world’s first public private partnerships (PPPs) for space, the UK’s £2.5billion Skynet 5 PFI military satellite communications service, is no stranger to such large-scale projects. He says: “The deep drilling is going to require developments in remote control which will take us beyond where we are at the moment. The drilling will need sensing and have to be modified for the lunar environment because it is going to be very hot. There is no cooling and it is dry.” The other area of innovation is in the scientific instruments used by the probe. “We will be putting in a suite of instruments within the body of the spacecraft so they can analyse the rock cores that are brought up by the drilling,” says Iron. “We want to see if where we are going is suitable for a human base.” Iron expects these robotics elements to make an impact in the terrestrial mining industry, and Left: an artist’s impression of the potentially make exploratory drilling safer. “People Lunar Mission in mining, minerals and the oil and gas industry One lander on the are going to ever-more-inhospitable places,” moon’s surface; Above right: the Iron says. “They are trying to do it more and mission will also more by remote control – the people that can leave behind analyse the results are very expensive and they information want to get that minimised. The more they can archive capsules; do remotely the better. Right: project “As you do that [remotely] it becomes founder David less safe – if we can make it safer Iron

by getting them in a better position to understand what is going on. As something is drilled remotely, I would think that would be quite an economic benefit, quite apart from reducing things that go wrong.” The other part of the project involves placing a pair of digital archive time capsules in the resulting borehole: a private archive where people who invested in the project through Kickstarter have the opportunity to place anything from a simple message to pictures, photographs, music and can even send their own DNA, and a public archive, which will involve collecting data from around the world. “The public archives is a huge database project, a huge internet project,” Iron says. “We are expecting more than 10 million people to contribute to this public archive. You have all the issues of data collection, data security, integrity and languages, cultural things, the ability to get online access – people have to be online to participate.” Although Iron believes it is difficult to predict whether developing the archive will lead to innovations in the electronics industry, he does admit it is possible it could aid the storage industry. He says: “It is a digital archive and we are going to be investigating what type of technology we use – it could be something like Blu-ray technology, or it could be microelectronics or DVDs. “We have our volume to deal with, which is a tube, so whatever we create has got to fit into it. But it could be anything – it could be chips, it could be drums, it could be disks. That will need to be developed, so this is the hardware of the microelectronics.” One area which Iron is confident that Lunar Mission One will make a difference, however, is in increasing access to broadband in poorer regions. “Increasing the spread of broadband around the world will probably be the biggest benefit,” Iron says. “In some of the poor regions, only about a quarter are connected by broadband. “These connections in connectivity are increasing all the time, but what we do is increase the rate. Maybe we can bring it forward by 10 years – say it takes 20 years to be able to connect everybody, if we could bring that forward by 10 years, that would be great.” By the time Lunar Mission One is launched in 10 years, it is likely we will have already benefited from many related innovations, from robotics to helping spread broadband around the world. What could potentially start off as an idea for a mission to the moon could soon become a norm for the electronics industry on earth.


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Low Carbon London: Smart ways to make electricity demand flexible

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magine a future where electricity demand is flexible to flatten short peaks on the network, lowering electricity distribution costs and making better use of green energy. Varying electricity-intensive household chores to coincide with times when wind power is plentiful may sound like something from science fiction, for example, but this relatively new technique has just been tested for the first time in Britain. It was part of the cutting-edge Low Carbon London smart grid trials led by London’s electricity distributor, UK Power Networks, to plan for the future energy demands of a sustainable city and accommodate low-carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps. The trial involved 1,100 EDF Energy customers in London, where three rates were paid for electricity – 4p, 12p or 67p per unit. Households received dayahead prices via their smart metering in-home display units or text messages so they could plan their electricity use. A large majority modified their electricity consumption in response to the price signals. Participants found appliances like washing machines and dishwashers the easiest to adapt and lighting, cooking and showering the hardest. The average household saved £21 over the year, while the super-flexible family saved £148. A small minority would have been worse off but were financially protected during the trial. Some 91 per cent of participants supported the tariff and 81 per cent felt it should be standard for everyone. Participants reported experiencing an element of a game or challenge in fitting their behaviour around the high or low rates. A survey showed 60 per cent would be more likely to sign up to such tariffs if there was a link to using variable renewable energy output.

Key findings from the trials…

DEMAND SIDE RESPONSE CONTRACTS In this trial, business consumers were rewarded for reducing their electricity consumption or generating electricity locally, when required. Big hotels, for example, turned down their air conditioning. Some 37 participants voluntarily reduced enough electricity to supply 18,000 homes at peak. This approach is expected to save customers in London, the South East and East Anglia £43million on the cost of delivering their electricity over the next eight years. SMART METER TRIAL Electricity consumption data was

collected from 5,500 homes across London and a home appliance survey identified the number and type of electrical devices in 2,830 households, helping electricity distributors plan for future power demand. It found there could be a 10TWh saving in electricity consumption by 2020, equivalent to approximately 9 per cent of the projected domestic demand in 2020, by switching to more efficient appliances. ELECTRIC VEHICLE STUDY A trial of 72 domestic, 54 fleet and 1,408 public charging points provided new information on how much networks must be strengthened to cope with extra electricity consumption. One concern was that drivers would simultaneously charge their vehicles after the daily commute, potentially overloading the electricity system. Researchers found the

Martin Wilcox, head of future networks at UK Power Networks, said: “There are clear reasons why we did this trial, which are about supporting the country as we try to reduce carbon emissions. We were trying to find out how flexible people could be in the way they use electricity, to see if this can make better use of intermittent renewable energy and reduce short peaks on the electricity network, keeping down the costs of delivering electricity for consumers.”

EV charging system could be more manageable than feared, with a later EV charging peak than anticipated at 9pm. The impact of mass-scale charging remains substantial for electricity network operators, at around a third of household electricity consumption. ACTIVE NETWORK MANAGEMENT Trials monitored the impact of green electricity being exported to the London network, such as from combined heat and power plants. The team calculated spare grid capacity and controlled output where the customer allowed it. Researchers found this approach could allow up to a third more distributed energy plants to export power to urban networks.

While this trial was with domestic customers, researchers tested the same “demand side response” principle with large business customers. Hotels and shops were among those financially incentivised to either lower or defer their electricity use at peak times, or generate electricity locally when required. 0845 601 4516 www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk

The Low Carbon London findings are accessible online at www.lowcarbonlondon.info

Smart grid findings revealed Results are out from one of Britain’s largest smart grid trials. After four years’ work, 27 reports have been published revealing results from the Low Carbon London trials. London was the test bed for a range of cutting-edge trials, the results of which could help millions of people across the UK. Carbon emissions from today’s electricity system are around 450g/kWh and the Government is seeking ways in which to reduce this by between 100-200g/kWh by 2030. If only one of the initiatives demonstrated was fully adopted across the country, an additional contribution of 5g/kWh towards this reduction Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor’s senior environment and energy adviser, said: “Helping Londoners access energy which is affordable, secure and sustainable is a key priority at City Hall. We have worked closely with UK Power Networks through Low Carbon London to help develop this dynamic blueprint that could develop the transformation of the capital to one of the most energyefficient cities in the world”

would be achieved, with the potential for far more. This could only be otherwise achieved by replacing a further 700MW of conventional generation with low carbon generation. The £28.3million project explored ways to meet extra demand on the capital’s electricity system anticipated from local green electricity, heat pumps, electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels – without overloading the network or adding significantly to electricity bills. The trials included rewarding customers to reduce or increase their consumption as required, flexible energy tariffs based on renewable energy output, EV-charging schemes, a home appliance survey and monitoring the impact of green electricity systems. Low Carbon London was funded through Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund and by UK Power Networks. The partners were Imperial College London, Siemens, CGI, EDF Energy, Greater London Authority, Transport for London, National Grid, the Institute for Sustainability, Flexitricity, Smarter Grid Solutions and EnerNOC.


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Inspector Dogberry Being a well-connected hound, Dogberry’s home is filled with smart gadgets, from the washing machine that tells you when it is most efficient time to wash your clothes, to his snazzy hybrid car. Every year the Inspector pays attention to the latest smart home gadgets that get wheeled out at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, and some of his favourites were from Nest. They included the August Smart Lock, which connects to the Nest Thermostat and starts warming or cooling the house immediately when you unlock

your door. Similarly, when you lock your door on the way out, it will set your Nest Thermostat to Away to help you save energy. The Kevo Smart Lock can also tell your Nest Thermostat who is at home and what temperatures they like. It also helps Nest know when no one’s home, so your thermostat doesn’t waste energy. The Nest Thermostat can also let your washer and dryer know when you’re home and will automatically switch

Worldwide revenue from energy storage for the grid and ancillary services is expected to total $68.5billion from 2014 to 2024. Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst at Navigant Research, says: “Developing energy storage that is viable for grid applications has been a goal for a number of years. Recently a number of factors, including the falling price for lithium-ion battery systems, have begun to converge to bring that goal close to fruition.” Navigant estimates that 362.8 megawatts (MW) of projects have been announced in the 2013-14 period, with a similar distribution between North America (103.3 MW), Asia Pacific (100.5 MW), and western Europe (91.1 MW).

to quiet mode. And if you are signed up for Nest Rush Hour Rewards and have an electric car, Chargepoint can help you avoid charging the car when energy demand is high and electricity is most expensive. Clever stuff…

The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has outlined 10 recommendations to member states and the European Commission to harmonise smart grid certification across the EU. Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of ENISA, says: “Smart grid and renewable energy are very promising for the European industry. Security certification is an important tool towards increasing user trust in the power supply chain.” The recommendations include appointing an EU steering committee to co-ordinate smart grid certification and provide guidance to implement a chain of trust and promote international recognition.

Going long distance Chevrolet is introducing an allelectric vehicle, the Bolt EV, which has been designed to offer more than 200 miles of range. Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, says: “The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity. Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers. “We have made tremendous strides in technologies that make it easier and more affordable for customers to

Twitter: @dogberryTweets

integrate an allelectric vehicle in their daily lives.” Drivers will be able to select operating modes designed around preferred driving styles, such as daily commuting and weekend cruising. The modes adjust accelerator pedal mapping, vehicle ride height and suspension tuning.

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By Matt Smith, web editor

Siemens Smart Grid Watch https://blogs.siemens. com/smartgridwatch This Siemens blog aims to go beyond the “smart grid” buzzword to inspire innovation through community dialogue. The firm is passionate about transforming the world’s electric grids and uses Smart Grid Watch to discuss the issues surrounding regulation, smart meters, consumer engagement and the latest research in the field.

ComputerworldUK

Bird & Bird Smart Grids Blog

www.computerworlduk. com/topics/it-outsourcing

http://twobirdssmartgrids.com

ComputerworldUK has a section dedicated to IT outsourcing. As well as providing the latest news in the industry, the hub has a section dedicated to blogs. Recent posts tackle subjects including what to consider when choosing a data centre and why control and process optimisation alone are not enough for CIOs.

SmartGrid (FREE – iOS)

Irish power operator EirGrid’s app is proof of what the smart grid can achieve, with real-time data on pricing, demand, CO2 emissions and more.

National Grid (FREE – Android and iOS)

The US National Grid’s app provides helpful regional information on power outages caused by storms and tips on how to stay safe.

This blog is run by Bird & Bird, an international law firm with a team dedicated to energy and smart grids. The site covers smart gridrelated issues across the EU as a whole as well as taking a look at individual countries including the UK, Germany and France.

Forrester IT Outsourcing http://blogs.forrester.com/ category/it_outsourcing On this section of technology and market research firm Forrester’s blog, experts give their thoughts on the issues surrounding IT outsourcing. The latest articles reveal what’s fuelling the US technology market’s growth and explore what the privatisation of Chinese IT service providers means for their business customers.

Smart network solutions full of energy JT’s Managed Metering Connectivity service uses every single mobile network in the UK and Europe to keep energy providers connected to their devices. When one network has no coverage or fails in some way, JT SIMs jump over to the next available network. If there are any known regional problems, JT SIMs can be controlled to only connect to good networks in a given area. This type of deep network control can only be provided by an agile Tier 1 network operator. JT’s network solution for smart meters helps energy providers and consumers get the most out of today’s technology. JT’s SIM technology, management platform, network skills and partnerships keep a smart world connected.

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he energy market is evolving quickly for the benefit of consumers and the environment. Renewable technologies like wind power represent new chances to help the environment. On the other hand, they cause problems with intermittent energy supply and storage. You probably want to keep the lights on whether it’s a windy day or not, so the grid has to compensate for this. Smart meters solve these problems, but they have to stay connected. Smart meters depend on SIMs, just like the SIM in your mobile phone. Smart metering connectivity requirements have now evolved beyond simply sticking a SIM in a meter, in the same way the internet has evolved to perform better and be much more reliable. However, if the connectivity is too expensive energy providers have fewer savings to pass on to customers.

JT M2M, the machine-to-machine division of Jersey Telecom (JT) in the Channel Islands, has developed a bulletproof solution for both

these problems. JT’s Managed Metering Connectivity service provides maximum coverage and control at market leading prices.

Paul Bullock is head of M2M at JT Wholesale +44 (0)1534 882620 www.jtm2m.com


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INSIDE TRACK Time for utility companies to make the most of their data

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Working together to conserve energy – and water T

he same infrastructure can be used to enable smart metering between various utility networks to conserve energy and water and drive operational efficiencies. Andy Slater, marketing director at utility infrastructure systems firm Sensus, says: “It is about having a network for smart metering that is also easily adaptable for the smart grid. Why build something on top if you have already got the existing communications structure? Why not reuse it?” In North America, Sensus has been operating multi-utility networks using this technology, operating integrated smart metering and smart grid networks for some years. In some cases these are also supporting water and gas utilities. Arqiva, a strategic partner, plans to roll out a similar system in Manchester and further north, using the Sensus longrange radio communications solution known as FlexNet. Neil Adams, director of the Strategic Customer Team, EMEA at Sensus, says: “At the moment smart metering and smart grid have been separated to a large degree, but there is some sense in using common network infrastructure to enable both. Some people would clearly

like to be able to sell a brand-new network for each different application, but that does not make sense from an economic perspective. If there is infrastructure already there, why not use it?” In North America, companies are achieving economies of scale by having one network that addresses three utility types. For example, water companies can lose up to 25 per cent of the water they purify and pump into their distribution network. These leakages put pressure on the energy system by the pumps having to work harder. If a company can reduce their leakage it can also reduce the amount of energy that it is pulling off the grid. For the water company it’s about saving water; for the energy company, it’s about lowering peak usage. “By having a network of sensors you have real-time data to be able to make better business and resource deployment decisions to manage the water network,” Slater says. “Ultimately that means the utility can reinvest the money it would have wasted sending people out to investigate problems into improving services to consumers. “These companies are the largest consumers of energy in the local network. If you get smart water networks and smart

grids working together, there are big savings for everyone.” Sensus has been undergoing trials in North America with water companies. In the town of Oro Valley, Arizona, there has been a 57 per cent in leak adjustments after the city installed a Sensus smart water network. In the UK, there are a number of water companies actively investigating the advantages that smart water network technology brings them. Adams says: “Water conservation is important. Water is a critical natural resource. In the UK we have too much water in the north of the country and droughts in the south east. We can’t move water around that easily. “To help water utilities with those challenges we also use these technologies to enable them to have more data to inform both themselves as the water network operator, and the consumer in terms of their behaviour.” If the smart networks of the different utilities used the same communications infrastructure, better economies of scale can be achieved. 01256 372800 www.sensus.com

ith the emergence of smart grid technologies across the globe, utility companies are investing significantly in the tools required to interpret and analyse the wealth of data now at their disposal. Smart grids are enabling a two-way conversation between utility suppliers and consumers. They are rapidly increasing the quantity and quality of data available for interpretation. The nature of this data is such that processing it manually is neither practical nor efficient, and this is the key factor driving greater investment in smart grid data analytics tools. The significant increase in investment towards smart grid analytics is unsurprising when you consider the wealth of possibilities this technology can offer utility companies. Smart grid data can drive greater automation of utility networks, with the information gathered by the

grid being used to improve processes and efficiency. The data analysed from a smart grid can also be used to better understand customer usage patterns, such as in what regions and at what time of day energy and water usage is higher. Using this information, utility companies can make informed, strategic decisions about how resources are allocated, and better prepare for future consumer needs. The opportunities for software providers lie within this framework of cost-efficient and meaningful distribution of information to educate and empower customers. The ability of some suppliers to create action and knowledge from this information will see new leaders emerge and improve the reliability, efficiency and safety of the grid for the benefit of consumers, utilities, and the environment. +44 (0)20 3691 1 785 www.gentrack.com


Business Technology · February 2015 · 21

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Drawing up designs for life

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he major industry trends have not changed since the last year. The internet of things, with its positive implications for a diverse array of vertical markets, will remain the driving engine behind innovations. For Europe, we need to add autonomous driving to the list. The demand for vehicles to communicate with each other is a serious endeavour for car manufacturers.

For our semiconductor customers, these trends will provide opportunities to differentiate and drive growth in end markets. However, new trends come with new challenges, such as securing functional safety. For Cadence, the opportunity lies in the hundreds or even thousands of new designs coming up for each vertical market. Big systems companies need

to get involved in all levels of design to differentiate in this increasingly complex environment. We identified this opportunity by providing for our customers a system design strategy that is enabling the design of end products that impact our daily lives. Alexander Duesener is corporate VP EMEA, Cadence Design Systems

Smart sims for smarter utilities

Why the ‘smart grid’ is more than just a buzz phrase

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emand – especially peak demand – for electricity is on an upward trajectory. The unrelenting drive to connect people with devices and machines is ushering in automation to every industry and the home. This ability to automate and connect is changing energy dynamics and highlighting constraints in electricity infrastructure, from generation and transmission to distribution. Subsequently, the need for a smarter, connected, more efficient and digitally active energy approach has never been more apparent. The UK is witnessing an energy evolution. The electricity network was designed to be one-dimensional – to transmit power from vast facilities to major load centres via high-capacity power lines out to sub-networks, and then on to industry and consumers. However, with more intense pressure on capacity, there is a need for the

network to be multi-directional and intelligent. This has brought about the advent of the smart grid – the ability to use digital communications to detect and react to local changes in usage as part of a smarter energy strategy.

Giving energy back Imperial College London has said that the UK should have ten million homes with solar panels by 2020 if it is to fulfil its renewable energy potential. This means that Britain could get as much as 6 per cent of its annual electricity needs from solar power, according to estimates. Those households with solar panels will be able to feed excess energy back into the smart grid for cash benefits. And it has the potential to transform disinterested consumers of energy into active participants in energy decisions. As efforts to find renewable means of generating that power increase, getting power from A to B without major changes to the current system becomes increasingly complex. With classic grids, if a local sub-network generated more power than it was consuming – for example, a house with solar panels – the reverse flow could raise safety and reliability issues. A smart grid aims to manage these situations.

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Enabling the smart energy revolution In a smart grid scenario, sensors can indicate which surges and losses may be dangerous, especially when parts of the network are under stress, and determine and automate the best response. Power can be rerouted to customers in a matter of seconds, while safety is maintained. It is this ability to react quickly and intelligently that enables blackouts to be avoided and ensures continuity and availability of power to consumers. The digitisation and synchronisation of disparate technologies within the energy infrastructure will be critical if the UK is to overcome one of the biggest inhibitors to the smart energy revolution – a legacy network. The UK is preparing to roll-out smart meters to every home to provide real-time data to energy suppliers and empower consumers to make better energy choices. Behind the scenes, there is an infrastructure energy revolution taking place. One with which Schneider Electric is helping drive the UK towards a better energy future. Barrie Cressey is smart grids director at Schneider Electric www.schneider-electric.com/uk

mart meters have the potential to deliver significant cost savings to utilities and consumers, but there have been numerous false dawns. Along the way the respective merits of different connectivity technologies, such as PLC, RF mesh networks and cellular, have been debated. The latter has become a popular choice, not only for pointto-point communications, but also for deployment in data concentrators. Once installed, meters go on working for 10, 15 or more years, which means that changing SIMs is impractical. Therefore, in order to avoid being locked into the service of a single mobile provider, utilities require data communication solutions that are mobile provider agnostic. In addition, these solutions should enable the implementation of customerspecific profiles, as well as the guaranteed ability to change to a new mobile provider without the need to change the physical SIM. Therefore multi IMSI SIMs are needed. Remote management is a key requirement, as is the need for a robust security

mechanism. We provide a smart SIM card to enable remote manipulation of the IMSIs. By creating a customerspecific profile on our core network, the customer can change mobile networks when they have the need. Privacy issues have been the main concern in smart metering. We address that issue by employing a true end-to-end security solution, developed inhouse, for internet of things ( IoT ) communications, that employs state-of-the-art cryptography technology. Cryptography is the foundation of data security and it is widely employed in e-commerce activities. The security keys that the solution generates, using an ultra-secure process, are stored in transparent files that are embedded in the SIMs. IoT communications is migrating away from the proprietary vertical model towards the open, horizontal model of enterprise and mainstream networking environments. This is a move that Wyless fully supports. marketing@wyless.com www.wyless.com


Business Zone

22 · Business Technology · February 2015

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Delivering long-term value for both consumers and industry Cyber terrorism: would your business survive an attack?

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loud is a hot topic at the moment, given the recent Sony network breach which resulted in thousands of confidential documents being made public. The scandal is still ongoing and it’s raised some interesting questions around cloud technologies. Do users really have control over it? Will they ever stop using “Password123” as their password? Cloud computing has transformed the way businesses use IT, both inside and outside of their organisation. In spite of the economic benefits offered by public cloud services, organisations are reluctant to move their infrastructure outside their premises. However, they also want to apply the lessons learned from public clouds to better optimise the resource usage in their infrastructure. Enter private cloud! So what is private cloud? Simply put, private clouds are cloud infrastructure based on dedicated hardware under the control of the organisation, offering services on-demand through a self-service portal. Private clouds provide an elasticity that was previously unavailable in the traditional computing models, including rapid computer resource provisioning with services billed back to individual business units. There have been a number of recent surveys conducted around cloud technologies, and the concerns and barriers to wider adoption all seem to align around:

• Performance and reliability of cloud services

• Complexity to deploy • Compliance and security • Lack of transparency about data centre facilities, hardware and disaster recovery by public cloud providers Private cloud solutions can address a lot of these concerns, and can potentially be rolled out as part of the hybrid cloud model for business. Keep everything you need tight control over on your private cloud, and then potentially leverage public cloud for additional needs or to bridge the gap during internal expansion or

periodic requirements. To address these concerns Boston has worked with a number of leading technology partners to bring private cloud solutions to market. In partnership with hardware vendors such as Mellanox, Supermicro and working with software technologies like Openstack and VMware, private cloud deployment is no longer the daunting task it once was. Performance is critical for cloud adoption. Users need predictable and repeatable high levels of performance running their applications in the cloud. To guarantee this performance Boston has teamed up with Mellanox to support its CloudX™ reference architecture. The solution helps improve compute and storage infrastructure efficiency, enable applications to process vast amounts of data in real-time, and accelerate business analytics and decision-making. CloudX incorporates virtualisation with the fastest bandwidth and lowest latency interconnect solutions. Built around the fastest interconnect technology of 40/56Gb/s InfiniBand and Ethernet, CloudX provides the fastest data transfer and most effective utilisation of compute, storage and Flash SSD components. In addition, Boston is also rolling out solutions powered by VMware EVO:RAIL, fully integrated and validated on Supermicro hardware. EVO:RAIL is a complete, hyperconverged infrastructure appliance. It combines compute, networking and storage resources into a single 2U, four-node form factor to create a simple building block for the Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) and private cloud. Our customers can deploy and set up an entire private cloud in a few simple clicks and scale up capacity (both in terms of compute, storage and networking) with a simple scalable building block. David Power is Head of HPC at Boston Limited +44 (0)1727 876 100 sales@boston.co.uk www.boston.co.uk

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mart meters are on the rise in Europe: around 200 million incremental installations are expected by 2020 and the UK is among those leading the pack. The government’s rollout of 53 million smart meters across every home and small business is estimated to cost £12.1billion and, while significant focus is being placed on that, the reality is that the benefits to the consumer stand to be much larger. However, Britain’s smart grid success depends not just on installing advanced meters but on unlocking the full value of the data they generate. We need a smart grid that engages, educates, and empowers energy customers, ensuring they become active participants in a smart energy future. By providing more than 3,000 times the amount of energy consumption data that conventional meters deliver, smart meters offer tremendous opportunity for high-value engagement between customers and their energy suppliers. With the right analytics platform, utilities can offer their customers personalised data-driven insights designed to help them reduce their electricity and gas bills. By doing so, utilities can improve their customer relationships, boost adoption of low-cost digital channels, and achieve other key goals, such as promoting best tariffs for consumers, encouraging appropriate payment plan adoption, and optimising periods of peak demand. In a market where energy providers are facing challenges from multiple directions, the business case for utility customer engagement is dramatic. According to published research by Opower, every household in Europe could generate an incremental €15-€40 in annually recurring revenue for energy retailers. That’s equivalent to a 20 to 55 per cent increase in the value of the customer relationship. And combining smartmeter data to integrated analytics and digital channels of communication can help make it a reality. Worldwide, leading utilities are investing in technology that can reliably ingest, analyse, and act upon enormous amounts of energy data. And they’re seeing immediate results in the form of heightened customer engagement – just look at E.ON UK, which doubled its web traffic in just three weeks by launching a cutting-edge web portal that offers personalised energy insights to customers. As smart meters proliferate across Europe, there’s a lot to be excited about: more informed consumers, more efficient use of energy, and more value from customer engagement. With the right combination of technology, data, and analytics, Britain’s smart grid investments stand to deliver immense longterm value for both consumers and industry alike. +44 (0)203 478 1201 http://opower.com/valueofce


Business Technology · February 2015 · 23

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The debate What is the future of smart grids? Rob McNamara

David Smith

Tim Liew

Martin Anderson

Associate director techUK

Chief executive Energy Networks Association

Market development manager 3M

Managing director Smart Grid Networks UK Ltd

Smart grids will transform our energy system as we know it. Our grid will be more responsive to peaks in demand, the rollout of electric vehicles, and a changing energy mix. In the end, it all helps contribute to an energy system that is more secure, sustainable and affordable. The transformation will be dependent upon a range of participants – established utilities, but also new participants. The tech industry is fundamental to smart grid development. Without its expertise, products and services across a range of areas – such as communications, cyber-security and data analytics and management tools – the smart grid simply will not happen. Strong dialogue is required between the different players in smart grid development. techUK plays a key role in ensuring just that. As the industry body for some of the UK’s most dynamic companies, we help the energy industry understand the role tech will play in making smart grid a reality.

Our networks are faced with facilitating lowcarbon transition while continuing to deliver a secure, affordable service. In the coming years the wires and pipes of our gas and electricity infrastructure will need to cope with a significant increase in intermittent supply from wind and solar sources; increasing demand from the electrification of heat and transport; and the introduction of “green gas”. To meet these challenges while keeping costs as low as possible will require a new approach to how we build and operate our network and a move towards a smarter grid. The smarter network will use advances in automation, communications technology, and data monitoring to move from a passive network which takes energy in one direction, towards a more efficient, intelligent grid. Energy Networks Association’s Smarter Networks Portal is an online repository for the fascinating projects in our sector, offers a great insight into how the energy system of the future will operate.

Situational awareness is critical in the MV distribution grid, as faults can have a significant impact on large numbers of customers. Accurate information about the state of your MV grid can help protect your customers – and your reputation – against the steep costs of outages, repair work and lost productivity. Better information drives better decisions: rapid fault diagnosis, a fast, accurate response, and precise load control all depend on grid visibility. 3M Sensored Cable accessories support the demand for smarter grid management. 3M Sensored Terminations can be retro-fitted to distribution substations without having to upgrade switch gear. It can measure how much load is going through a network, giving utilities the data they need to manage their capacity. Ultimately, it’s about upgrading the network to meet future requirements in a way that brings both environmental and cost benefits that can be passed on to consumers.

The grid will be a vital part of the next technological paradigm shift – the new energy system. Like the change a decade ago in the telecom industry, from analogue copper lines to today’s mobile service and entertainment world, the power net will go from a radial, passive infrastructure to a new system of realtime, measured, actively managed net to meet the requirements of the new energy system. The challenge is to realise the shift costeffectively. Real-time information of the net situation will be of necessity, so equipment for fault detection, measurements and reliable communication will form the basis for the transformation, complemented by intelligent systems for control and management. A successful merger of existing infrastructure using equipment with future-proof standard interfaces and starting with areas with exceptional problems or requirements is a sound and financially acceptable approach.

www.techuk.org

www.energynetworks.org

www.3M.co.uk/electrical

+44 (0) 1484 485368 www.smartgridnetworks.net

Spotlight: Addressing skills shortages Universities must have access to stateof-the-art electronic systems design methods to prepare graduates for future challenges

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niversities have a vital role to play in the support and growth of the UK economy, by supplying industry with highcalibre graduates and conducting relevant research. This is especially true for the fast-moving electronics sector, where highly skilled graduates are the essential lifeblood of the UK electronic systems design industry. The Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Microelectronics Support Centre, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, has been actively supporting UK universities in this key endeavour for more than 30 years. The modern electronic systems design industry depends heavily on a large number of sophisticated commercial computer-aided design tools, configured into complex design flows which are coupled

to integrated circuit fabrication. These design flows are constantly evolving to meet the challenges of increasing system complexity and the performance opportunities of small-geometry transistors. Many individual universities would find it impossible to use these modern design methods effectively without centralised support and training.

Enabling the future The Microelectronics Support Centre provides advanced training in these design methods, and direct technical support for these complex design tools. The training and support offered by the centre is structured to efficiently introduce postgraduates, academic staff and researchers to the best design methods and design tools for their teaching and diverse research projects. Through the centre’s ECsupported, Europe-wide Europractice scheme, the economies of scale enable UK universities to access the latest design tools and modern integrated circuit fabrication processes at affordable prices. Currently, 65 universities across the UK and a further 600 academic institutions across Europe purchase services from the STFC Microelectronics Support Centre

and are able to use the same design methods, design tools and integrated circuit technologies as large multinational corporations. The long-standing nature and the widespread use of these services mean that virtually all postgraduate students entering the industry after undertaking electronicsystems or integrated circuit orientated research have used and benefited from the technical support, configured design flows and training provided by the Microelectronics Support Centre.

At the forefront The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of the UK’s seven Research Councils responsible for supporting, co-ordinating and promoting research, innovation and skills development. STFC supports universities, provides access to leading facilities and is developing Science and Innovation Campuses, based around its National Laboratories, to promote academic and industrial collaboration. Dr John McLean is head of the Microelectronics Support Centre 01235 445276 www.stfc.ac.uk