The digitalization of the world of energy is one of the biggest IT projects of all time. It means that billions have to be invested in plants and systems that bring electricity generation into line with fluctuating energy consumption.
We spoke to Frank Schmidt, Head of Deutsche Telekom's Energy business area, about how the digitalization of the world of energy, the move away from nuclear power and the resulting transition to a renewable energy regime constitute the biggest IT project of all time.
People are saying that the change in energy policy is the biggest IT project of all time. Would you agree?
Frank Schmidt: The digitalization of the world of energy is certainly one of the biggest IT projects of all time. Because the transition to renewable energy is much more than just the move away from nuclear power. It means that billions have to be invested in plants and systems that bring wind and solar power as well as conventional electricity generation into line with fluctuating energy consumption. And at the same time it needs to be customer-focused because customers are becoming more likely to change supplier and the price war is escalating. Customers want more than just a quick and easy contract agreement: they also want to communicate online. These days the Internet generation checks their e-mail inbox more than their actual mailbox. People prefer to communicate using their smartphone. That's why energy providers are redesigning, optimizing and automating the majority of their business processes. They need intelligent synchronization of how energy is generated, supplied and used – and this can only be done with IT and fast, intelligent networks.
Will Deutsche Telekom also be selling electricity connections in future?
Frank Schmidt: My business area is focusing on solutions for the energy sector: from the secure transmission of consumption data from smart meters to IT systems that help digitalize processes common to the industry. Deutsche Telekom's own data centers in Germany already process 100 million data sets daily for its mobile communications network operation and generate 40 million telecommunication bills every month. The energy sector will soon need to perform similar tasks when a smart grid is being operated or bills are being generated for variable-load rates.
Data security and data protection are important issues. Does this apply to the energy sector too?
Frank Schmidt: Absolutely! Smart metering represents the breakthrough into the world of mass data. With 50 million meters in businesses, industry and renewable energy systems, we could soon see 4.8 billion new pieces of data being generated every day. These readings are turned into encrypted data packets with a time stamp. Meter data represent personal information nationwide and must be protected accordingly. Deutsche Telekom is experienced in administering and processing mass data. We have more than 600 employees working to safeguard and protect such data. The Telekom Trust Center has already issued around 100 million certificates for the German market over more than 20 years. Furthermore, our highly-secure data centers mean we have the necessary infrastructure.
Which solutions will Deutsche Telekom bring to the energy market?
Frank Schmidt: We are looking to support energy companies with our IT solutions, to digitalize their business processes and to offer new services. Allow me to illustrate our IT expertise by giving you 3 examples: Some twelve million smart metering systems will bring transparency to consumption and supply by 2022. Our Gateway Administration Services enable us to support this project right down the line - from the installation of meters and smart meter gateways, to data transfer, encryption and decryption, provision of certificates from our own certifying body and preparation of meter data for downstream IT systems. All these services comply with the requirements of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).
The digitalization of the world of energy brings many advantages but could also leave us more vulnerable. In order both to safeguard power supplies and to protect individual privacy, the Federal Office for Information Security stipulates that data is encrypted and signed, that communication partners are authenticated and that IT infrastructure is subject to stringent security measures. Deutsche Telekom offers all the necessary components for this: from digital certificates that safeguard communications, secure data-center operation in line with BSI security guidelines ("IT-Grundschutz") or ISO 27001, to advisory services for security certification.
Automating our homes and networking them with the environment is the next step to take in digitalizing the world we live in. In collaboration with BMW we are currently demonstrating how drivers will soon be able to regulate heating and lighting at home and to turn all kinds of devices on and off from the comfort of their car even when they are hundreds of kilometers away. Never again will you be heading off on holiday and having to rack your brains about whether you forgot to turn off the hallway light. Drivers can also receive alerts if, for example, a window or patio door is opened, or a smoke alarm, motion sensor or water detector is triggered when they are not at home. More than 30 partner companies have already joined the open, vendor-independent QIVICON Smart Home platform where they can sell their own products to end users.