Why the Energy Sector Needs Edge Computing Networks
As with other industries, organisations in the energy sector require access to powerful and versatile technology tools and platforms, to operate effectively in what is now a largely digital economy. For many businesses, the comparatively recent emergence of cloud computing and the “as a Service” sector has made such resources available on demand in a cost-effective manner that also contributes to operational efficiency, flexibility, and the capacity to scale.
However, traditional cloud computing models often fall short when it comes to the unique requirements of the energy sector. For example, power providers may balk at the prospect of ceding control over the supply of electricity in their jurisdiction to conventional cloud systems that process information in a data centre outside their home country. As a localised data processing paradigm, edge computing assures energy providers of greater governance and security of information and systems in the areas that they serve. Energy providers in regions such as the European Union (where data security is governed by strict regulatory compliance regimes) also benefit from direct control of local edge networks.
Energy providers also routinely need to track supply and demand in real-time, and use data to predict demand levels in advance. With the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) energy sensors, these monitoring processes must also deal with a continuous stream of information from a widely dispersed network of devices.
Processing operational data in the energy sector using the conventional cloud promotes inefficiency, as it involves significant costs due to data transport, and increases the potential for latency and associated errors in processing time.
Moving processing power and analytics closer to the point of data capture with edge computing networks presents a more viable and efficient alternative.
Edge Computing in Energy Exploration
According to research by Cisco, a single offshore oil platform generates two terabytes of data each day. This information must be processed and analysed as quickly and accurately as possible, to help address operational and business issues. However, energy exploration facilities are often located in remote or hard to access locations, far from conventional data centres. These regions may also experience network connectivity issues, making data corruption and latency (the delay occurring as data packets move between the point of transmission and the ultimate destination) major challenges to information transport and analysis.
Using edge cloud deployments to process data locally provides significant advantages. An emerging class of technology solutions such as micro data centres and prefabricated modular data centres offer oil and gas companies an edge computing infrastructure that can process information more quickly and accurately at remote exploration and drilling sites. Localised data capture and analysis with edge cloud also enables real-time monitoring of conditions like pressure levels, gas and liquid flow volumes, physical stresses on equipment and pipelines, and other critical variables.
How Energy Production Benefits from Edge Cloud
With potentially millions of customers depending on the outcome, energy production facilities have to undertake a continuous cycle of monitoring, preventative maintenance, and quality control. Rapid and real-time analytics and insight are essential for this.
Edge cloud infrastructure allows energy producers to fit monitoring apparatus to generating equipment and other production hardware. It also enables producers to link the output from sensors and monitors to measuring tools situated in management offices or carried as mobile devices by plant workers. Edge computing power enables localised monitoring of the conditions of physical equipment. It can also provide alerts and options for shutting down machinery or processes when faults are detected, or if power output falls below anticipated standards.
Security is a major concern for energy producers, and edge computing offers advantages in this regard as well. System administrators can more easily segment an edge network for cybersecurity protection, as edge computing is distributed. Network segmentation ensures that any data captured remains private and protected from unauthorised third parties.
Edge cloud also offers efficiency gains for computing and analytics by reducing costs and lowering energy consumption. Localised computation reduces the amount of data transmitted on a network, which in turn reduces bandwidth pressure and latency. This reduces costs and the amount of energy required by local equipment.
Benefits of Edge Computing for Energy Distribution
The ability to fit sensors to pipelines, power cables, and other distribution infrastructure allows edge computing to confer the same benefits to energy distribution as it does to production. So, operators of energy distribution networks can use localised data capture to keep continuous track of the condition of physical equipment, thereby facilitating proactive and preventative maintenance. Localised information processing ensures data security, and compliance with data governance requirements. Edge analytics for performance monitoring allow for real-time adjustments, to optimise energy distribution flows.
As nations transition to an energy landscape less dependent on fossil fuels, many energy companies are making the shift to renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen. However, due to their unique requirements, these facilities are often in remote or offshore locations. Using specially configured micro data centres, edge computing can provide the localised analytics capability, protection for physical enclosures, power protection, environmental monitoring software, and security needed to effectively operate these production and transmission points.
For the emerging sector of smart electricity grids, edge computing can deliver data and analytics with low latency, which helps in monitoring their frequency in real-time, and providing the analytical insights needed to proactively mitigate fluctuations between power generation and loads.
Edge cloud network segmentation helps to ensure data privacy for smart meters and smart homes -- as does edge computing’s capability to process data locally. This gives smart grid administrators the power to reduce data risk, by limiting the amount of information transmitted to the public cloud.
With its ability to reduce latency and the bandwidth consumption typically associated with conventional cloud deployments, edge computing confers multiple advantages to businesses in the energy sector. Organisations concerned with energy exploration, production, and power distribution can benefit from the localised data capture, analysis, and insight that edge cloud makes possible.
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Here at zsah, we understand that utilising edge computing isn’t a straightforward process. timely data transmission is important to. Our team of experts can help organisations in the energy industry to get the most out of their edge deployments – including data transfer, field measurement, regulatory documentation, and more.
As a managed service, zsah saves you not only on the capital cost of servers and hardware but also the soft cost of not requiring a team of engineers to support your IT infrastructure. Our solution helps offset compliance and support needs for your organisation, reducing your time and effort on compliance and cybersecurity requirements.
We continuously assess, monitor and repair any infrastructure or network issue, ensuring that the entire environment is reliable and functioning at optimum levels at all times. Should a disaster strike one location, full recovery can be achieved by switching immediately to another so you don't have to deal with backup and redundancy issues.
If you’re in the energy sector and would like to learn more about zsah”s managed cloud and edge computing services, get in touch with us.