Navigant Research Blog

IoT and Wireless Communications

— March 7, 2016

Network switch and ethernet cables,Data Center Concept.Whenever the Internet of Things (IoT) and building automation solutions are considered, the topic of wireless communications protocols is bound to enter the discussion. Wireless technology is gaining traction for a host of reasons—there’s no need to run wires, buy conduit, or drill holes into walls when going wireless. It also costs less to install wireless systems compared wired systems. Plus, a wireless system makes a compelling economic case in retrofit situations.

While going wireless may be an easy decision to make, there is a myriad of wireless communications protocol options from which to choose. Depending on the application, factors such as range, data requirements, security, power demands, and battery life often dictate the choice of a wireless communications protocol.

Wireless Communications Protocols

Wi-Fi has been the ubiquitous means for delivering connectivity for most in-building applications. However, Wi-Fi is not necessarily well-suited for IoT applications—it requires too much power and provides too much bandwidth for many applications. Over the past few years, several competing wireless standards have emerged to enable communications between devices for an IoT world. Currently, ZigBee is seemingly emerging as a leader through several collaborations. The standard and its proponents are cutting through the myriad of associations and alliances and attempting to establish a foothold in IoT communications.

Notably, ZigBee inked an agreement with the Thread Group to implement the former’s application library over the latter’s IP networking layer. Additionally, ZigBee and EnOcean announced a collaboration to develop interoperable, self-powered IoT solutions over the 2.4 GHz frequency band in December 2015. This is important because if industry coalesces around a single standard and IoT really takes off, the shipment volume of whatever that standard will be has the potential to dwarf the shipment volume of Wi-Fi.

ZigBee and EnOcean Collaboration

The collaboration between ZigBee and EnOcean is an exciting endeavor. Considering that ZigBee is more prominent in North America and EnOcean is more popular in Europe, the technical specifications that combine the ZigBee solution with the EnOcean equipment profiles will allow wireless device manufacturers to access both the North American and European markets. These manufacturers will also be able to explore additional fields of applications to grow their business for self-powered innovations. The definition of this technical specification is pending completion by the second quarter of 2016.


Hopes to Spur EV Growth in South Korea

— February 8, 2016

moving white carElectric vehicle (EV) sales in South Korea reached 2,821 units in 2015, compared with 1,183 units in the year prior. Considering that the 2015 goal was to have 5,000 units on the road in the country, the EV adoption rate has been rather low in South Korea, mainly due to the lack of charging infrastructure available in the country and consumer perceptions of the vehicles. Nonetheless, the central government and municipalities are introducing plans to push more EV sales. For example, the central government mandated that 25% of the government’s new vehicle fleet must consist of EVs starting in 2015. In addition, the city of Seoul and Jeju Island are aiming to deploy 50,000 EVs respectively by 2017.

Government Plans for 2016

In December 2014, South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) announced its goal to deploy 200,000 EVs and 1,400 fast-charging stations by 2020. In line with this goal, the latest press release from the Ministry of Environment states that the government will subsidize sales for 7,900 EVs, 30,400 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), and 3,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in 2016.

According to the press release, an EV driver can receive up to ₩12 million ($9,928) in purchase subsidies, along with a ₩4 million ($3,309) tax incentive and ₩4 million ($3,309) for the charging equipment. Eight EV models are eligible for this program – the Kia Ray, Kia Soul, Renault Samsung SM3, Chevrolet Spark, Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq, and Labo Peace (a heavy duty vehicle). HEV and PHEV drivers can receive ₩1 million ($827) and ₩5 million ($4,137) in purchase subsidies, respectively, as well as ₩2.7 million ($2,234) in tax incentives. Applicants are selected on a first-come, first-served basis or by a random drawing.

Charging Infrastructure Development

On the charging infrastructure side, there are currently 337 public fast-charging stations in the country with the goal of having 1,400 stations by 2020. That said, the government plans to build 150 stations this year. In addition, some public fast-charging stations may be privatized since the government is encouraging private participation in developing EV charging infrastructure.


Buildings and Climate Change

— November 6, 2015

According to the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme, the buildings sector is estimated to be worth 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP), or roughly $7.5 trillion. Currently, buildings consume about 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, and 60% of global electricity. Buildings also emit more than 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under the business-as-usual projection accompanied by rapid urbanization, emissions caused by the buildings sector may more than double by 2050.

However, the buildings sector has among some of the most cost-effective and proven solutions for reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions. There are commercially available technologies that can reduce energy demand in buildings by 30% to 80%. Investment in building energy efficiency will lead to significant savings that will help offset incremental costs, providing a quick return on investment. Also, because existing buildings perform far below efficiency potentials in general, there are enormous opportunities for reducing energy consumption. Meanwhile, due to population growth and increasing urbanization, a new construction market is growing in developing countries, where construction activities account for up to 40% of GDP and provide opportunities for adopting energy efficient technologies.

UN Buildings Day

The buildings sector can play a critical role in mitigating climate change by reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions. Consequently, for the first time in the history of climate negotiations, a Buildings Day will be held on December 3, 2015 at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris. This meeting is a mandate from the Lima-Paris Action Agenda of 2014, and it aims to discuss ways to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C to 2°C. The Buildings Day at COP21 will showcase actions already taken by the buildings industry and will serve as an opportunity to encourage communications, collaboration, and implementation among various stakeholders.

In addition, a Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction consisting of governments, companies, financial institutions, organizations, academia, associations, professionals, and user networks will officially launch on that day. By putting the buildings and construction sector on the below 2°C path, the alliance commits to helping countries realize their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which are essential drivers for achieving the ambitious global climate goal.


Japan’s METI Supporting Smart City Projects

— July 2, 2015

According to Navigant Research, a smart city is characterized by the integration of technology into a strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development. While there may be various definitions of a smart city, in many cases, smart cities are desired in order to cope with the growing urban population, achieve sustainability goals, and maintain economic competitiveness through innovation and technology development. In addition, city resilience—the ability to recover from catastrophic events—has become increasingly important in the context of climate change.

In Japan, smart city projects are being led by the central government and local governments, as well as by the private sector. However, due to the centralized political model and events requiring national response, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, large-scale smart city projects are usually initiated by the central government through the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, Japan had a distinct motive to promote smart cities as means to reconstruct affected urban areas.

Subsidized Projects

There have been two waves of smart city projects subsidized by the METI under its Science, Technology and Innovation budget. The first wave of projects is the Test Projects for Next-Generation Energy and Social System. In 2010, METI solicited local governments for smart city project applications. In April 2010, four cities were selected—Yokohama, Toyota City, Keihanna, and Kitakyushu—to receive METI subsidies that amount to ¥126.5 million. Initially, the pilot cities focused on improving the quality of life and showcasing innovative technologies. However, after the 2011 earthquake, there was a paradigm shift to work toward reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency.

These four cities have become the first successful operational pilots in Japan. Some areas of success include demand response programs, which reduced consumption during peak period by 20% in Kitakyushu; home energy management (HEM) programs in which 1,500 homes in Yokohama had HEM systems installed in 2013; vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology; and smart metering. Details on these projects and updates can be found on the Japan Smart City Portal.

In 2012, METI pursued a second wave of subsidized smart city projects to reconstruct cities affected by the earthquake to become more resilient. In 2012, 10 cities were selected for the Projects for Promoting Introduction of Smart Communities program with a budget of ¥8.06 billion. Also, because of the widespread shutdown of the nation’s nuclear power plants post-Fukushima, Japan has been decidedly promoting renewable energy resources to meet its demand. In 2012, the country introduced a feed-in tariff system, as well. While the second wave of smart city projects is still in the planning stage, thanks to the earlier success in the four pilot cities, Japan is getting closer to realizing its aspiration to create the Japanese model of smart cities to export.


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