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An INTEgral optimisation toolbox for smart GRID data communication network design and planning

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INTEGRID (An INTEgral optimisation toolbox for smart GRID data communication network design and planning)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2017-02-28

During the last 4 months, Pôle Position’s team has worked hard to determine the best route to internationally commercialise INTEGRID as a decision-making toolbox for distribution system operators (DSOs) to ensure reliable, robust, resource-efficient and cost-effective smart grid deployments in the EU market and beyond. The principal objectives have been to define the most suitable markets, to forecast the market potential, and to design the details of the strategy and implementation plan based on the previous activities.
Pôle Position’s core area of expertise is to work with complex decision making processes that involve large amounts of data and multi-dimensional trade-offs, such as internet and telecom networks, supply chain logistics, etc. One promising domain is the Internet of Things (IoT) linking tens of billions of devices, whose underlying data communication networks deserve a cost-efficient and robust design, and Pôle Position has the knowledge and experience to that role. Among the many applications of IoT we can mention the interconnection of sensors and actuators at industrial plants, smart homes (including alarms, smart appliances, thermostats, etc.), smart cities (electric vehicles charging infrastructure, traffic control, emergency response, etc.), intelligent transportation (autonomous vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle), etc. After analysing these scenarios, we decided to focus first on intelligent grid design issues.
Pôle Position has detected a business opportunity of over €10 million by 2022 and the generation of 6 new job positions thanks to our new product. INTEGRID seeks to internationally develop and market our novel system for optimising the design and planning of the data communication network of smart power grids, which could generate potential savings for DSOs of about 10% per project. The smart grid is an inter-operating large scale system: for EU alone, the total number of smart meters connected by 2020 can be as high as 200 million. Coupled with the complexity of the associated strategic and operational business decisions, smart grid design and planning projects call for finding the optimum balance between reliable, secure, cost-efficient, and universal solutions.
With no direct substitute in the market, INTEGRID allows for Pôle Position’s partners (e.g. consultancy firms, telecom companies, manufacturers and installers of network equipment, etc.) a unique opportunity for harvesting first mover’s advantage into a hot B2B market.
We performed a Market Analysis to understand macro-environmental factors (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, and Environmental), and revised market segments. Analysis of power consumption, cultural similarities, and a common regulatory framework, suggest to initiate our expansion in the “core countries”: Germany, UK, France, and Spain, to take advantage of the window of opportunity of the EU 2020 smart grid targets, with a reactive approach in the rest of the EU.
We have sent a focused survey to over 70 industry players to get a better understanding of their processes, and feedback on needs and preferences from potential users. We are getting so far interesting responses that give us valuable insights on the customer engineers’ journey, and are also pursuing more direct communications with some of them, paving the way for active participation in future pilots.
We have also reviewed the state of the art for the technologies concerning INTEGRID, to develop a fully operative version: high level simulation capability, cost reduction, usability, GUI, scalability, security and confidentiality, data quality, interoperability, and mobility. As EU’s privacy rules are arguably the most stringent of the world, their compliance will fulfil almost any other country expectations.
A business plan was conducted to define the INTEGRID’s exploitation strategy, including financial, commercial and technical barriers to overcome, and mitigation actions. Potential partners for a commercial network that boosts INTEGRID’s expansion were identified. Financial viability was assessed, updating the projection of revenues, cost, margin and ROI for the first 5 years. We have considered three five-year planning scenarios (optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic). Under this last one, our breakeven point will be reached in the 4th year, and the payback will come in the 5th year.
Pôle Position will actively defend its IP at the EU level, taking steps to register INTEGRID brand, if appropriate, and to deploy legal, technical and operational safeguards for trade secrets and to copyright all other distinctive items. Per our research, we have Freedom-to-Operate in the target countries, with no legal barriers or IP regulations impeding our service.
A Phase II execution work plan was prepared, including work packages, resources allocated, schedule and cost baselines. Main activities will be market research and planning and implementation of a scaling up commercial strategy.
Our solution can optimise any kind of smart grid data communication network, even with hybrid configurations. This includes PLC networks (including broadband PLC: PLC S-FSK, PRIME, G3-PLC, Meters & More), wireless (WiMAX, LTE, CDMA2000/EvDO, HSPA+, and 5G such as URLLC or mMTC) and wired (either copper or fibre: DSL, DOCSIS, PON, etc.)
These are some of the different design and planning issues that can be solved:
1. Finding the optimum locations of the smart communication modules (SCMs) in a PLC-enabled network to minimise the number of SCMs by ensuring a robust network,
2. Assigning the optimal communication channels to the SCMs to minimise device interference,
3. Finding the optimum locations of DSL routers/concentrators in wired NANs (neighbourhood-area-networks) to minimise the number of infrastructure nodes,
4. Finding the optimum locations of base stations in wireless NANs to maximise geographical coverage and/or minimise interference of base stations

We have tested the performance of INTEGRID compared to the “as-is” solutions of three DSOs, which wish to implement their smart grid. Our results show that a cost reduction up to 10% in the design and planning of the smart grid data communication network is possible by using INTEGRID. For a smart grid deployment of 6 million households over a 20-year period, a 10% cost reduction in total deployment costs corresponds to over 100 million Euros
Given that improvement rate, the potential savings in the EU alone could reach €2 billion by 2020, considering the plans for installing 200 million smart meters up to 2020. An additional opportunity is the integration and synergy with domestic gas and water smart metering, to give households a complete landscape of their consumption.
Based on the geographical coordinates of nodes (houses), capacity of smart devices and redundancy rate (user defined), our solution is capable of designing or optimising the distribution network, reaching levels of efficiency of near 98%. The optimisation modules can take both cost and other objectives as main optimisation criteria, such as redundancy level or robustness. Regarding the data protection, the information we manage is stored in a cloud-based tool in a 100% secure manner. As a further contribution, Pôle Position’s cloud model of delivery (SaaS) helps to minimizing the carbon footprint of datacentres, as cloud providers are leading the way to green IT technologies.