The ‘Internet of Things’ is a simple concept in which everyday devices have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data for monitoring, analysis and management. UPS systems are one such device whose connectivity via the internet could open up a wider energy storage role for the thousands of systems already installed.
Uninterruptible power supplies vary in their communications connectivity options and what comes as standard. Basic "single-phase UPS systems":http://www.ecopowersupplies.com/eco-ups-systems/single-phase-ups will include a USB interface. Larger systems will allow for a slot-in network management card using Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and may even provide other options including the communications protocol preferred within industrial environments known as Modbus/J-Bus.
By connecting to an IT or industrial network, the UPS can be monitored, managed and controlled. Often the network manager will use the proprietary software from the UPS manufacturer for UPS management including setting a minimum, safe runtime period that the uninterruptible power supply should run for when the mains power supply fails before executing a system server shutdown. With the rise of virtual server environments, this functionality has become even more vital to install.
The ‘Internet of Things’ (or #IoT if you follow Twitter and Google+) provides an even wider scope for UPS management, whether planned or not. One has to remember that one of the biggest concerns about the IoT is the potential for cyber attacks, especially "cyber criminals entering our homes":http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/06/smart-homes-security-risk-internet-of-things, let alone our work, blue light, military, transportation and public environments. Secure firewalls and password controls have to be put in place to prevent any form of network attack from being successful. However, with secure protection and safeguards the Internet of Things provides tremendous opportunities to use assets within the wider system in new ways.
Uninterruptible power supplies provide such an opportunity due to their stored energy capacity. This could not only be used to benefit the site they protect but also wider power availability on the grid itself. UPS systems are installed with a connected battery set to provide back-up power to the local loads. For some sites, especially with large runtime battery sets, the energy stored within the batteries could be used as part of the National Grid demand response and energy storage programmes.
In the UK there are potentially thousands of UPS systems that could be used in this way. It is not beyond imagination that some UPS manufacturers are working towards new inverter and power electronics developments to enable an #IoT functionality in the future and possibly a retrofit package for existing systems.
Over the next 5-10 years we will become more accustomed to ‘Internet of Things’ connectivity and automated control within our lives. The elements for this already exist and it is not hard to imagine critical power infrastructure assets like uninterruptible power supplies and generators having a ‘dual ownership’; between the site that procured them and the grid operators who will use the asset’s stored energy to maintain power across the grid. When you off-set relinquishing some control of site assets to the tariffs that grid operators would pay for use of those assets (UPS, batteries and generators), the Internet of Things could also provide an attractive source of revenue.