Telcos will one day be able to use the same cloud-based service that reduces their own power consumption to generate another monthly revenue stream and curtail customers' electricity usage and expenditures if all goes according to Shields Energy Services' plan.
The vendor developed a family of smart devices controlled by a platform Shields Energy designed primarily to retrofit existing commercial buildings. Customers -- telcos, railroads, building managers, retail and hospitality -- use Shields Energy's CODA solution to get visibility into their electric consumption, Dan Shields, managing director of the eponymous environmentally friendly firm, told Broadband World News today.
Zapping a Problem
Shields Energy's IoT solution CODA reduces reactive maintenance and energy consumption, improves health and safety, delivers remote-asset condition monitoring and provides estate-wide visibility to improve a company's decision making, according to the vendor.
This is Shields' third green-tech business, he says. Unlike customers of his prior startups who primarily wanted to reduce their electric bills to save money, today customers have more reasons to worry about power consumption. In addition to boosting their bottom lines, more companies say they care about the environment. Investors and boards of directors increasingly demand corporations think and act for a sustainable world, and employees want to work for a business that cares about Mother Earth, Shields noted.
"Now a big driver is the investment community that's looking for companies with sustainability at their heart," he said. "The Shell executive team are now getting bonuses based on their carbon-reduction. Most companies with good carbon-reduction performance spreads to other parts of the company so it's a good investment."
The British company uses sensors to monitor electricity consumption and data so telcos -- as well as other vertical-market customers such as railroads, building operators, retailers and hospitality chains -- can see and control usage via Shield Energy's combination of CODA cloud-based platform, IoT smart devices, business intelligence and analytics. By retrofitting buildings with IoT sensors, Shield Energy's solution gives telcos visibility into their energy usage in the same way operators monitor and proactively control their networks, Shields said.
"Rather than hundreds of buildings in an estate [telcos] have thousands of buildings -- but usually the same number of facility managers," he said. "They have zero visibility into their remote buildings, but are measured on network performance and uptime. Remote visibility is key. With 5G coming in shortly, that has a much, much higher energy demand. That's going to add to the base stations… Service providers know they have to do something about their utility bills."
That's partly because 5G uses 64 transmitters and receivers with massive MIMO versus a 4G network's need for up to eight, my colleague Iain Morris wrote in Light Reading recently. Energy's a worry for many operators, including Vodafone, China Telecom and Orange. And while it's a hurdle service providers must overcome, it also could be an opportunity.
Plugging in to electricity's opps
When Australia's Telstra hired former utility executive Ben Burge in 2016 rumors immediately started circulating that the service provider was about to enter the power market. He was, after all, brought on to create a team to look into generating home-energy services to Telstra's millions of customers (and non-subscribers too). Despite some investments in solar and wind power, Telstra has not moved into retail electricity, at least not yet, Renew Economy of Australia reported. Yet it remains a worthy idea, according to some analysts.
"[Telstra] could employ various strategies, ranging from a low-risk approach, becoming a retail reseller of energy… or a bigger and bolder move to become an outright owner and operator of integrated energy assets," wrote Morgan Stanley. "Importantly, we also believe that bundled products can drive lower churn. For example, (New Zealand's) TrustPower, which offers bundled products (power, gas, broadband and phone) has observed churn rates up to 37% lower for bundle customers."
Smaller carriers do not need to generate their own power, insists Shields. Rather than becoming utilities they can use Shield Energy's software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, partnering with Shield Energy on the managed service to monitor and oversee customers' utility usage. This will not only give CSP subscribers lower electric costs, Shield says, but also will make the relationship between provider and customer stickier due to the broader array of products and services they share.
"We really want to be the technology provider and manage software subscriptions so they can do the managed service provision using our technology," Shields said. "We're not doing it yet."
The vendor already works with several Western European telcos, as well as some in its UK homeland. It's also approved for sale in the United States. The IoT solution, which runs on its own network to avoid any potential issues with a telco's infrastructure, is sold via subscription.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.