Today’s smart grid enhances the traditional transmission and distribution network with pockets of automation, connectivity, and centralized IT systems. But the grid of tomorrow, the Neural Grid, represents a vastly more powerful platform of hard and soft assets that leverage ubiquitous connectivity, the cloud, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, and pervasive sensing to perform a variety of energy and non-energy applications.
Navigant’s latest white paper, From Smart Grid to Neural Grid: Industry Transformation and the Top Five Technologies Poised to Bring the Grid Into the Cloud, defines this next-level grid and identifies the critical components expected to transform legacy infrastructure into a platform that will eventually support a fully mature Energy Cloud environment.
According to the white paper, in the Neural Grid, data and intelligence reside largely in the cloud, managing the intersection of generation assets and distribution networks with energy customers, buildings, transportation infrastructure, city systems, and distributed energy resources assets. Asset ownership is diverse, and utility grid data and assets work with third-party data and assets to coordinate energy supply and demand. This enables deep customer involvement and choice, and sets the stage for premium services and pricing.
As the Neural Grid takes shape, the challenge for owners of legacy infrastructure will be to upgrade their networks with dynamic, intelligent, and autonomous features that enable more than the transport of electrons, supporting an open environment for new services creation.
To learn how the smart grid investments of today will transform into the Neural Grid market of the future, enter your information below and download the white paper.
Navigant Research estimates that products, services, and technologies identified in the Neural Grid ecosystem will see their revenue grow by nearly 6% annually through 2025 to more than half a trillion dollars. Five technology segments offer sound investment opportunities today and even greater upside in the longer term:
Connectivity: Fiber, low power wide area technologies, and licensed spectrum solutions (i.e., private 4G, 5G) will be imperative to formation of the Neural Grid. In the meantime, existing connectivity solutions support smart grid deployments occurring today. Connectivity to the billions of grid and energy assets worldwide will present a large and growing market opportunity for decades, although the purpose of that connectivity — and favored networking technologies — will evolve.
Sensing and measurement technologies: Low cost sensors integrated into virtually every element of grid and energy infrastructure will provide the data that allows for analytics and AI to manage every layer of the Neural Grid.
Drones and cloud robotics: When unmanned drones and robots are able to learn via vast stores of data in the cloud and interact seamlessly with humans thanks to natural language processing, they will be able to perform repetitious maintenance and monitoring tasks. They will also have the intelligence to tackle new problems, reduce human error, and keep people safe.
AI: AI takes analytics and the cloud’s ability to store a virtually unlimited arsenal of information, images, and more to allow for machine learning and intelligent automation. Ultimately, cloud-based AI is the brain in the Neural Grid.
Cybersecurity: Ubiquitous connectivity and data collection heighten the already clear need for vigilance with data security for customers, systems, assets, etc. As the Neural Grid forms, widespread, holistic cybersecurity solutions will be critical.
In a nutshell, the Neural Grid takes the world’s largest machine — the grid — and gives it a brain. It replaces dumb network assets (poles and wires) with intelligent, multifunction infrastructure that interacts with cloud-based intelligence for energy and non-energy purposes.
Principal Research Analyst, Navigant Research