Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Italian power plant receives industrial IoT communications upgrade

Steve Rogerson
March 5, 2015
Enel’s Federico II power plant in Brindisi, Italy, has been equipped with a communications platform that delivers dedicated coverage, using TDD-LTE wireless technology, and integrated communications between personnel, sensors, machines and applications, increasing the quality, efficiency and safety of the plant for the management of mission-critical processes.
Athonet Smartgrid, part of Enel’s startup incubation programme, and 3 Italy, a mobile operator part of the Hutchison Whampoa Group, have implemented the dedicated 4G-LTE network for what is one of the most advanced power plants in Europe.
A TDD-LTE ultra-broadband micro-network has been implemented covering the entire plant, ensuring data, live video and voice services, both fixed and mobile, with an optimal level of coverage, low latency and service continuity assurance even during critical emergencies. This creates an independent dedicated micro-network that can be easily reproduced at any production plant and construction site.
The industrial IoT is the smart industry paradigm that in this case has not only been applied to the Brindisi power plant but also to the adjacent construction site of new coal storage domes.
Athonet Smartgrid’s distributed LTE virtual mobile core network provides a guaranteed low latency, reliable ultra-broadband service, delivering full control to the user in a cost-effective manner using a virtualised software approach. And 3 Italy’s TDD-LTE technology, enables distribution of capacity among the two directions of data transmission: those that originate from sensors, terminals and videocameras (uplink); and those that originate from network platforms (downlink),
“We decided to invest in Athonet Smartgrid because we believe that the ability to rapidly create dedicated networks using LTE technology is an important enabler for us to improve productivity and safety of our production assets and to offer integrated services to our customers,” said Ernesto Ciorra, head of innovation and sustainability at the Enel Group. “Through our open innovation strategy comprising continuous collaboration with highly innovative start-ups we aim to broaden our offer towards our customer base and group companies”
Athonet Smartgrid and 3 Italy have delivered a system that implements the distributed mobile network concept, often referred to as NFV (network function virtualisation), completely integrated with Enel’s ICT infrastructure, that meets the industry’s technology requirements. It enables fixed and mobile applications such as live video surveillance of the entire area, monitoring of moving vehicles, audio-video communications among plant personnel and with the enterprise network or the outside world, and sending and receiving alarms from fixed or mobile body-worn sensors.
“This new installation in a complex environment has confirmed the flexibility and high performance of our virtual mobile core that enables the creation of dedicate secure LTE mobile networks in very short timeframes and in remote areas,” said Karim El Malki, president of Athonet Smartgrid. “This is an important step towards the distribution and virtualisation of the mobile network to offer innovative services to enterprises that were previously unthinkable, tailor-made to customer needs and that can be quickly reproduced for different environments and operational needs.”
The performance offered has enabled Enel to implement services for predictive diagnostics, workforce management, machine automation and safety of all operations in the power plant and construction site.
“Once again 3 Italy demonstrates that it is a pioneer in the implementation of new technologies in support of development and innovation,” said Dina Ravera, general director of 3 Italia. “Thanks to the opportunity we secured during the Italian government’s LTE frequency auction, having identified TDD as the ideal technology for the IoT, we are now able to build efficient and competitive platforms to cater for this important sector of innovation and growth, including industrial and mission-critical applications.”