The Nokia Siemens Approach To Building A Smarter Telecommunications Industry

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by

Seppo Yrjola, a member of the CTO Office of Nokia Siemens, discusses how his company is tackling smart grid challenges while attending the GCCA California Cleantech Collaboration, an event organized by Finnish Cleantech Cluster.

Full Transcription:

Ben Lack:     There is so much conversation nowadays about this market and how there are so many issues and challenges that the smart grid industry is currently facing right now and that there’s lots of discussion on ways to tackle a lot of these issues. But there are not as many people that are actually putting their heads down and trying to implement and just focus on getting these problems solved.  Do you agree with that statement?
Seppo Yrjola: That’s a good question, indeed.  I have lived through the IT revolution 20 years ago, cellular revolution 10 years ago, and I think they started with a lot of similarities with the challenges and what we are facing now with smart grid and coming from Nokia Siemens Networks have a strong heritage in telecommunications Issa Asad
and now through Siemens from energy.  It is kind of natural to find ways to combine these two worlds. That how we can utilize our key learnings while it’s industrializing the industry in this smart grid transformation.
Ben Lack:     There is a lot of transformation from the wireless industry and to smart grid, but are you really recreating the wheel?  Or are you able to take some of the existing technologies and implement those into these solutions.
Seppo Yrjola:  Yeah.  Exactly.  That’s a great point, then, that the really our approach in our innovation project we call the project, we are combining a kind of business opportunities with technology enablers.  It’s really not re-inventing the wheel, but see what we already have or that the telecom assets, size of the assets, and how we can utilize these assets in the smart grid space.  And if I start with a concrete example, the one we did with Irish start-up called Service Net two years ago and really the story goes like we have many base stations or cellular network limits, and we have created open element management software platform to manage these things.  Where can we find similarities in smart grid space?  We have windmills, we have solar panels, we have distributor generation.  Then, we ran a kind of innovation project where the startup-built windmill farm management application on top of our software platform. Now it is up and running in Ireland and in Washington state in the US; and exactly the same software platform where we have invested a lot of manpower to create the platform.
Ben Lack:     Give me some learnings that you guys got out of a project like that.  Were you able to apply existing technology for wind?  What are some of the things that have come out of that that say ‘Well, we can do this same thing for other clients in other parts of the world’?
Seppo Yrjola: I think the key learnings, as I said, do not re-invent the wheel.  And, of course, it all starts the way you develop software nowadays.  It’s built on open standards, open interphases and platforms, when it’s easy to integrate other software components and application on top of that.
Ben Lack:     How much does tackling the type of wind generation issues or solutions that are out there, how much of that is part of the portfolio of essentially what you guys want to be part of at the end of the day?
Seppo Yrjola: There’s a lot of opportunities.  I think the wind farms and wind energy is one of the fastest growing in renewables.  The other good example is that, if I continue, is that here we utilize our element management platform, but the other good example is the charging and tariffing platform.  We have learned, and there’s a lot of discussion about smart meters, but what will happen after you have the meters in place?  How to utilize the meters?  How to utilize the data?  And here it comes close to what we also used in Telecommunications world as flexible tariff and different tariffing systems and policies and the individual customer experience.  We are introducing the same to any cheap world through, for instance, one innovation project we did in Philippines that’s about prepaid energy.  That 95% of our Tele-Co customers (new customers in South America, India, China, Indonesia), they are prepaid customers.  And the same way they buy nowadays energy, but they charge to use some card or tokens or others to buy their energy.  Why not use your mobile phone in the same kind of prepaid? And here the idea was to utilize our charge at one platform and do that then together with local utilities and operators.
Ben Lack:     That’s a pretty cool thought because there are a lot of, like some of the countries you just mentioned, there is a lot of the world that is very used to the prepaid behavior.
Seppo Yrjola:     Yep.  Yeah and here once again it’s not just the technology, but the ease of use and how you introduce this to the customers.  They are so used to use that, how they used prepaid voiced-prebased data prepaid energy.
Ben Lack:     And there is a certain percentage of the market here in the states that is used to a prepaid platform.
Seppo Yrjola:     But, of course, prepaid is just one example.  I think here in US it’s more like the inflexible tariff, that how now utilities can approach their customers like cellular carriers, offering you flexible tariffs and different kind of tariff schemes and bonus programs.  You name it.  All this comes to picture when you have a demand response and this kind of advanced smart grid solution.
Ben Lack:  How much of an impact or how much faster does an implementation like yours, at least for electric vehicle infrastructure and the sort, how much of that do you really think advances the understanding an education of electric vehicle infrastructure to the end user?  These end users are being hit with messages all the time about how they really need to move forward, but to be able to find behaviors that they are used to going back to your mobile example.  Do you really think that helps them say, okay… these are the types of things that we can now apply for the energy space.  Lets end up buying our energy prepaid.
Seppo Yrjola:  Definitely.
Ben Lack: It will run a lot faster.
Seppo Yrjola:    You mentioned this immobility, or electrical vehicle topic, and that’s kind of the third example I would like to share with you.  Here it’s like roaming with your mobile phone.  Nowadays, it’s a fact of life.  You can roam.  You can make your calls any city you are, any country you are you are roaming. That was not the case 10 to 20 years ago.  You need calling cards or quite complicated system to make the call happen.  The same will be with your EVs in the first place, where you are charging your EV and whose energy you are kind of fueling in.  This is another innovation project we are running in Europe with Finish utilities and German utilities.  How you can first do the clearinghouse between different utilities.  How you can do the identity management when you’re plug-in your car.  Who you are.  Whose energy you are.  What is the tariffing scheme.  Once again, the identity management billing, charging and then this roaming system. All of this is based on technologies and solutions we have developed for the Tele-Co world.
Ben Lack:   Seppop, I would like to get your thoughts on the differences that you see in the market conditions for United States innovation in clean tech and smart grid compared to innovation in Europe for clean tech and smart grid.  I mean there’s a lot of different moving factors and differentiating factors that we deal with here in the states compared to Europe and other parts of the world.  How are you guys able to really leverage what some of these differentiating factors are in Europe to be able to get some of these projects out there that you might not necessarily be able to successfully implement in a US-based project?
Seppo Yrjola:     I think the underling needs or challenges and problems are the same:  how to lock in renewables, how to enable electrical vehicles, how to scope with aging infrastructure, how to be able to invest in bits instead of copper, how to make the grid reliable; lot of talk about security, cyber security; how to insure the customer privacy.  I think big issues are the same, but even inside of Europe there’s a huge variation between different countries, and I think the same in US, but, for instance, being here in California, I think that California utilities is a forerunner here.  It’s pretty much the same things we are talking about and implementing in Europe.  Of course, the standards are different and maybe the competitive landscape is different because of the deregulation and others, but basically I think that the same problems we are solving.
Ben Lack:  :  That’s why you guys are playing in the American markets because there is a lot of good learnings here, as well, I would say.
Seppo Yrjola:    Yep.  Drivers are pretty much the same all over the world.  They are just in different order, whether it’s environment or CO2 reduction or whether it’s the security of supply or aging infrastructure.  I think that the top five are the same, but maybe in different order and you know it’s all about energy politics and other highly regulated market.
Ben Lack:  :  Why does this industry interest you?  Why have you chosen to spend time in this space and tackle some of these problems that the world is essentially facing today.
Seppo Yrjola:     This is a personal question?
Ben Lack:  :  Yes.
Seppo Yrjola:  What to say…  I think having spent the last 20 years in eye safety and telco industry, I think the beginning to connect people- that was the mission.  Now, it’s there, it’s everyday life.  I think now the next challenge is we all talk about environmental issues.  It’s doing the right thing and, at the same time, I heard you use the word “turning to cream to cream,” to create new business, and by creating new business, new growth for Nokia Siemens and this industry, as well as doing the right thing and swallowing some of the biggest problems in the world related to energy.  I think that motivates.


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