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The Future of Energy is the Internet of Things

Data is the key to innovative energy technologies

Written by Keith Kohl
Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:36PM

How many smart devices are in your home?

Phones, tablets, TV's... and more houses every day are installing smart thermostats and meters that monitor water and energy use.

This influx of connected items or “things” makes up the ever-growing “Internet of Things.”

Boston energy consultant Peter Kelly-Detwiler estimates that there are about 200 billion “things,” but only 20 billion of those are fully connected.

Google Data Center“This number is expected to grow to 30 billion by 2020,” he claims.

Now, one may assume the biggest challenge facing this growth is energy consumption—after all, those electronics are only going to need more electricity.

However, the real challenge lies in data.

You see, those billions upon billions of devices are communicating day in and day out. In 2013 alone, this amounted to 4.4 zettabytes of digital data bits circulating.

On average, this number doubles every two years, and is expected to reach 44 zettabytes by 2020.

So while the future Internet of Things will need to keep up with energy consumption, the first issue to address will be how to continue to send, store, and receive all of that data smoothly and quickly.

Kelly-Detwiler suggests that data centers will be the key to this trend. He notes that data centers are one of the quickest-growing energy consumers in the world.

Data centers provide constant integration for not only connected utilities, but also banks, hospitals, and a plethora of other businesses.

In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed around 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity—about as much energy as can be produced by 34 power plants.

This actually brings the issue back to the beginning: these data centers, which will be more and more necessary as the Internet of Things grows, will need massive energy sources.

Some big companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have recently begun installing renewable energy farms to power their data centers.

There is some concern that the U.S. energy grid cannot take on many new data centers. Individually funded energy farms are one thing, but the infrastructure in the U.S. needs to be repaired, updated, and made to fit new environmental requirements before such energy-intensive projects can be applied.

That's why Kelly-Detwiler suggests that future data centers will be built overseas where the grids are less strained. Some possible locations include Sweden, Norway, and Quebec.

To continue reading about this fast-growing trend, simply click here for the USA Today article.

Until next time,

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Keith Kohl

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A true insider in the energy markets, Keith is one of few financial reporters to have visited the Alberta oil sands. His research has helped thousands of investors capitalize from the rapidly changing face of energy. Keith connects with hundreds of thousands of readers as the Managing Editor of Energy & Capital as well as Investment Director of Angel Publishing's Energy Investor. For years, Keith has been providing in-depth coverage of the Bakken, the Haynesville Shale, and the Marcellus natural gas formations — all ahead of the mainstream media. For more on Keith, go to his editor's page.

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