NARRATOR Welcome to the DNV GL Talks Energy podcast series. Electrification, rise of renewables and new technologies supported by more data and IT systems are transforming the power system. Join us each week as we discuss these changes with guests from around the industry.
MATHIAS STECK Welcome to the last episode of series six of DNV GL Talks Energy. My guest today is Colin Yu, Vice President of Envision Digital. Welcome, Colin.
COLIN YU Yes, good to be here.
MATHIAS STECK Colin, we want to talk about new technologies and ways to connect new technologies via the internet of things, but before we get into this topic, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and Envision.
COLIN YU Envision is a group of companies. We invest a lot in core technologies, including hardware and software, so the whole motivation is to create a sustainable future for humankind. So, I’m the Vice President. I mainly focus on building the IoT technology platform for the group.
MATHIAS STECK Envision has made quite a remarkable development. I learned about the company when you were a wind turbine manufacturer; today, you call yourself the world’s leading renewable technology and energy IoT platform company. Can you share with us, what is driving Envision?
COLIN YU Yes. I think that driving Envision is what is needed to create this kind of sustainable future? In the beginning, we thought that the cost of energy, renewable energy, is the first part, that’s why we had the wind turbines, the smart wind turbines. So, we invested in the most high-performance, effective wind turbine in order to lower the cost of the renewables and make renewables become affordable to everyone. So, that’s why we had the wind turbines business at the beginning.
Over time, you can see that the cost of energy is not the major [factor] to get renewables into the market; it’s because the intermittency of the renewables makes it hard to be consumed. So, that’s why we focus on this synergy of the energy to make it accessible and to become available to the grid to be consumed by most customers.
So, that’s how we created a software business. In order to decentralize renewable energy to be manageable, to be predictable, to be able to be combined with other energy resources, and be able to do that balance and control and energy management system with the IoT platform to make it affordable to the grid, to make it safe, secure to the grid, to consume all these renewable assets. So, that’s the evolution from the cost of energy to the synergy of energy.
MATHIAS STECK And you are not only doing this in China. I know that also with your wind business you went to South America, you have opened up a digital hub here in Singapore, so you offer this for international clients?
COLIN YU Yes, from the beginning, we are quite international because we think we are solving the problem not just for China. Decarbonization must happen globally, so, no matter, from the wind turbines or solar and energy storage to the IoT platform, we serve our customers globally, from North America to Europe to South America to Asia, and especially now we are opening up specifically for Singapore and Southeast Asia.
MATHIAS STECK Let’s talk a little bit about the internet of things. If you go to IoT conferences, there are a lot of big words, a lot of vision statements. When you go to the booths of certain providers, you might still sometimes find little breakout-board pilots and these kinds of things. For your perspective, how far developed is the internet of things already, and what actually needs to happen to get it to a scale we are discussing today, solving problems, connecting all kinds of devices and having more intelligent grids and energy systems?
COLIN YU I think everything is evolving over time, especially for new technologies, so, it’s not a surprise for IoT to be adopted as a core platform to make sure that OT, the operational technology, will be available to combine, will be easy to combine, with IT technologies. So, in fact, I would say IoT is mature in some of the fields already. For example, for EnOS AIoT platform, we are already connected to 50 million devices, and that actually combined with over 100gigawatts of assets. So, we are connected to many, many thousands of wind turbines and lots of mediums or players, the solar panels and the inverters, so, lots of EVs and charge poles. All these, from an energy perspective, connected to those devices, are mature.
And the second one is to be able to create a meaningful solution. We are talking about devices and data and then the actions on the data. So, if you focus on a particular field, for example wind turbines, performance enhancement and predictive maintenance, these fields, I would argue, that those are mature solutions. We have been deploying these kinds of solutions to many customers, like Pattons, Shell, globally, so, those are actually running well for a couple of years. Some of the new IoT solutions, such as a vehicle to the grid, because lots of challenges are not the technology itself, it’s policies, the business models. So, we are still experimenting on those solutions. So, I would say that IoT, from a platform technology perspective, they are mature; but for applications, vertical applications, that we are growing from some of the existing places, like asset management, to new business models, like aggregation of assets to new busies provide for facilities, those are pretty new so we still need to invest a lot for the future.
MATHIAS STECK Could you elaborate a little bit more on the big barriers or the greatest challenges for IoT?
COLIN YU Yes. I would say for challenges, the first one, is not pure IT technology, because actually from an architecture perspective, a very challenging perspective, when they almost have a similar architecture from device to data to insight and to controls or actions… So, I think lots of players are doing well on a lot of the technologies. I believe that the biggest barrier is understanding the business. So, the IT, the platform player, might not be able to know about all the operating challenges. Just to give you an example, in China if you want to connect a wind turbine to the cloud, you need to have a specific data-forwarder, you cannot just connect with TCP/IP or the normal transportation network protocols. It’s not allowed. You have to put it into a data buffer. The buffer is a single unidirectional buffer that stores the data and forwards it to the cloud.
So, this simple thing, you should make sure you understand the security, safety and the regulation policies and create a corresponding solution. And so, once you forward the data, you lose some of the data quality, it becomes an issue. So, for example, if there are some data, suddenly, some of the reading is not reasonable, it’s an outlier; somebody stored [that data] in a buffer and [forwarded], and then you probably lose the association, where’s the data coming from, why it has the wrong format or the wrong reading of the data. So, the whole data pipeline, to read the data, process data and correct the data, make sure the data quality is good, and then how to use data as models for later on, to do data mining and also machine learning. Those are also challenges.
Of course, policies, regulations, always play a critical role in the IoT stuff, because security is a priority. So, in today’s panel we talked about lots of privacy and security, those are not new to industry. In China, of course the business model is opening up, it’s much better than before, but the regulation, the policymaker… it takes time to digest what’s going on in the world and then make the best decision for the country. So, those are where lots of barriers [are imposed]; mandatory requirements to the application and to the platform itself. So, those are all the challenges coming from the different device sides, and data quality side. Understanding the technology – so, what does it mean, to correlate that data, and also the policy, security requirements. There are lots of challenges, yes.
MATHIAS STECK Looking ahead, I would be interested in your view on ownership and location of data. So, when we look into private use cases, maybe let it be WeChat in China, let it be Facebook elsewhere, despite all our concerns about privacy and all these things, we have happily adopted the habit to share a lot of things with a lot of people.
In the industry space, we still see that ownership of data and location of data is quite important, location of data very often because of country policies, as you just mentioned, but going ahead, if we really want to unlock the whole value of digitalization on a global scale, what would you think? Will we see the same development we saw with private data? That we move to a more open, sharing economy there? Or will there always be these barriers in place?
COLIN YU I believe this must be the balance between privacy and intelligence. We call it big data, we always call it big data, but I would say we need to remove first, the data, the location data, the product data must reside in the country, follow the policies of the country’s regulation. That, we cannot break from that kind of regulation. But how do we do that…because lots of detailed data reside in the local storage, but the thing about that, what you need is not really specific. Lots of models, don’t need to take specific locations, or the ID of devices. You can remove those private data but you can still generate, you can train machine learning models in the country. But the model itself doesn’t contain any other private information anymore.
For example, you could characterize a location with the location data, the terrain data, the weather data, those are the inputs of the model. So, we could train the model and, once you’ve picked the model out for a country, you need to apply the same model to the location. It will work because those are the features of your models. So, basically, we could train models, generic models, from different locations and combine a set of different models, and you could still create optimization models of models. Actually, that’s how we work to keep continuing to enhance the overall model in the long run.
MATHIAS STECK As we briefly said at the beginning, Envision has opened its global digital innovation hub here in Singapore. I would be curious to learn why Singapore? We had a very similar discussion, our own company opening up a digital hub here in Singapore, so, there must be good reasons for this, but what were your reasons? And especially, what is your vision going ahead? What do you want to establish here?
COLIN YU Yes, we have been working with Singapore, governments and agencies and enterprise, for quite a while.
First, in Singapore, it’s a combination about Western culture and Chinese or Eastern Culture. It’s an oriental country and western country. So, they are hardworking, first, they are really detail-oriented; they also have the mind of freedom and [are] really open-minded. So, that’s why you could easily work with different agencies and companies on innovation.
And Singapore has a lot of talents also. So, we have the talents to work together on some specific projects, and the motivation, I think there’s a lot of motivation in Singapore to make Singapore a living lab, for example renewables, liveable and vibrant environment as a role model for the country. So, that’s why, this kind of motivation will help us go straightforward to the task; the go-to model to get things done.
The can-do mindset is really important in Singapore also. So, that’s why we can see the projects are moving really well, the government agencies, enterprises in Singapore. And so, on the other side, Singapore has become a role model of the world.
The prime minister of Singapore came to Envision. He gave us guidance, if we could do really well in Singapore, all the solutions, all the products we are doing well in Singapore, which has been proven to be a successful product, can be rolled out, scaled out, to the entire world with the help of the enterprise of government agencies and enterprise, because they do have really good international business. So, for example, once you work with one company in Singapore, they have a similar project in Vietnam, in Thailand, in Malaysia and in China. So, actually we could easily scale the whole project outside of Singapore; just like Singapore’s ‘One Belt, One Road’. That is how we could see that we could focus and get things done, and also would be scalable over time.
MATHIAS STECK We are unfortunately coming to the end of this episode already, but I want to tie it back a little bit to the Singapore International Energy Week, which is happening right here while we are recording, and also remind us that the inter-governmental panel on climate change have issued a very alarming report at the beginning of this month about what needs to happen to prevent climate change.
So, if you look at the topics discussed here and the awareness of urgency, how satisfied are you with how fast the industry is moving towards a less carbon-emitting industry, and what is your major takeaway from SIEW?
COLIN YU I would from my observation, things are happening. So, year over year, I can see progress, but I would argue, my personal view, we are still too slow. Not brave enough to solve lots of problems. But actually, today, we can see not that much input from the regulators. We have a lot of input from the industries. But the industries actually are doing point-to-point solutions; there are a lot of point-to-point solutions. But how to make those people work as an ecosystem to solve the global challenges, I cannot see that happening that much; everyone is fighting their own path to solve part of the problem. So, I still really hope to see us bring everyone together, against human beings’ biggest challenges over time, and I can say we are brave enough to break the barrier and have a can-do and a will-do mindset, to try new things and experiment and fail fast, and then actually get new products and innovations out of the door, quickly. That’s what I wish for the next year, so we can see big progress.
MATHIAS STECK Thank you very much, Colin, for your very interesting insights and good thoughts. That was Colin Yu, Vice President of Envision Digital.
NARRATOR Thank you for listening to this DNV GL Talks Energy podcast. To hear more podcasts in the series, please visit dnvgl.com/talksenergy.