By Naresh Persaud-Oracle on Feb 19, 2015
The digital revolution is creating abundance in almost every industry—turning spare bedrooms into hotel rooms, low-occupancy commuter vehicles into taxi services, and free time into freelance time. This abundance is delivered on mobile devices. One industry, however, is using mobile apps to help its customers do less.
The utility industry is using smartphones to help its customers conserve energy in their daily lives by tapping into smart meters.
The results can be powerful. Armed with information from smart meters, consumers can reduce their energy bill by 20 percent. Using the dishwasher at 12 a.m., for example, will cost less than running it after dinner when everyone else is doing the same. To provide a wider economic lens, if only 10 percent of American households reduced energy consumption by 26 percent, the excess energy could power 2.8 million homes or reduce energy bills by US$4 billion annually.
In Belgium, smartphones and tablets provided a ubiquitous platform to deploy energy-saving applications. So Electrabel, Belgium’s largest energy company, launched a campaign to provide smart boxes, smart thermostats, and smart plugs that would allow homeowners to view power usage and control appliances from their mobile devices. A great idea! But how to make it all secure?
Providing digital access to all of the appliances in someone’s home requires rethinking security: Which users in the household would be allowed to control the devices? How can the utility company detect fraud and take corrective action? With all of these devices online, how can the utility company manage access by administrators? How can it enable consumers with simple services like password reset and profile changes? Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the attacks on the energy and utilities sector have come in the form of web application attacks.
To keep its smart meter and mobile services from going to the dogs, Electrabel used Oracle’s security solutions. You can read about Electrabel’s implementation in Oracle Magazine, along with another interesting use case at Vodafone Group.
Stories like Electrabel’s are only the beginning. Cisco estimates that by 2020, there will be 50 billion devices on the planet and, according to the report, 69 percent of the value will be people-centric communication, which makes the Electrabel story that much more important—because the interaction between devices and people will rely on similar security processes.
Some estimates show that the smart home market will double by 2018. Like Electrabel, the industry must do the work to keep criminals from hacking these applications and stealing personal data—or even worse, using these services as an entry point to cause potentially catastrophic failures like the attacks against SCADA systems.
Building security into new services is critical for the utilities industry—just as it will be for every business embarking on a digital transformation.