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Trends for 2023: From Renewables and Electric Vehicles, to Smart Cities and Smart Agriculture

As we settle into a new year, we look ahead with anticipation and excitement at the year ahead – the possibilities for Wi-SUN Alliance members and for Wi-SUN FAN technology.

It’s a time of change and disruption across many of the industries that our members operate in, from the growth in renewables and smart grid technology, to innovative applications in smart cities, and new opportunities in smart agriculture and smart infrastructure. All of this is within our sights as we continue to evolve as an organization and embrace new markets, and new opportunities.

We invited some of our members – our best ambassadors – to tell us what they think. We asked, ‘What are the most significant developments and challenges in your industry right now – and how can Wi-SUN play a part in delivering solutions to problems over the next 12 months, and beyond?’.

According to Itron, grid reliability is top of mind, especially in the face of growing demand from electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy sources. Research shows that 85% of utility executives surveyed are extremely concerned about ensuring grid reliability/resiliency with increased demand from EVs,” Ed Eckert explains. “Implementing flexible, standards based IoT networks that support multiple applications will be a key element in preparing for disruptive technologies in the energy space.”

Ed also believes that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) signed by President Biden back in November 2021 was a major turning point for U.S. infrastructure. “The IIJA represents a historic $100B+ opportunity for infrastructure investment to secure safer and more sustainable energy and water distribution systems. Designing technology solutions to maximize interoperability through standards will be critical to ensuring these investments are future-proofed and support a broad ecosystem of value-add applications.”

With renewable energy applications and EVs common themes among members, Rogerio Almeida, Sub-1GHz Americas Marketing at Texas Instruments, adds: “We see Wi-SUN being used to address design challenges in renewable energy applications.

“Take EV charging applications within the grid infrastructure space, for example. The benefit of using Wi-SUN is that it can provide the necessary connectivity between stations for load balancing, along with connectivity to the cloud to indicate charger availability for drivers searching for stations. Wi-SUN Sub 1-GHz mesh network reduces the cost compared to having a cellular module in each charger for connectivity. Drivers will have access to this information even if the chargers are installed in places without a cellular or Wi-Fi signal, because Wi-SUN runs on Sub 1-GHz frequency bands that have a longer range and are more robust to physical interference like walls in underground garages.”

When we caught up with Exegin’s President, Leslie Mulder at Enlit Europe in Frankfurt, he talked enthusiastically about the developments he’s seeing for ‘industrial-grade IoT’. “There are a lot of opportunities for Wi-SUN mesh networking technology where you can develop networks in the order of tens of thousands of nodes.

“The classic use case is in the smart utilities space where you want to have communication with your electric or gas meters; communication that flows up to the provider, as well as down for maintenance and over the air upgrades. For smart city infrastructure projects, like street lighting and smart garbage collection, you also want to have device to cloud communication and vice versa.

“We are also seeing more novel applications in smart agriculture where large farms could benefit from automating devices in fields or even automating the plants themselves, where farmers could do soil monitoring or optimizing the growth of a particular plant.”

For Peter Knazko at Renesas Electronics, the benefits of interoperability will remain a key selling point for Wi-SUN technology as utilities and other industrial users build smart applications using multiple vendor solutions.

“Wi-SUN gives them more control over the costs of building their networks as they have more choice and not tied to a single vendor. Any device, whether it’s a sensor or smart meter, goes through the same rigorous certification process to guarantee interoperability between devices.” As Wi-SUN FAN capabilities continue to evolve, Peter adds that, “Wi-SUN Alliance membership offers all the benefits of understanding the technology and influencing how it looks in the future.”