The logo of Tesla model 3 is pictured at the Auto show in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, ... [+] 2018. All-electric vehicles with zero local emissions are among the stars of the Paris auto show, rubbing shoulders with the fossil-fuel burning SUVs that many car buyers love. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
As evacuees lined up at gas stations to flee Florida in the weeks before Hurricane Dorian, Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk announced that the company would boost the range of its Model 3 cars, enabling residents to travel further out of the range of the storm. The manufacturer, which has also provided free charging in the lead up to previous storms, was able to extend the range of its vehicles for a short period of time.
Tesla wasnt alone in remotely assisting those in Dorians path. General Motors provided enhanced OnStar services for customers, including those with lapsed registrations. That technology can help with directions, free calls, in-vehicle Wi-Fi and more.
In fact, Tesla and OnStars moves reflect a deeper shift. Consumer and business-facing infrastructure is growing increasingly connected in an Internet of Things, with more devices connecting each day: The Economist reports that 1 trillion internet-connected devices may be online by 2035. For some consumers, some of these IoT gadgets may seem superfluous in actually improving our lives (see Amazon's smart microwave). However, as Tesla owners have learned, IoT devices can be a lifeline.
While Teslas news applied specifically to Florida, climate change is impacting homeowners up and down the southeastern coast (and more recently in California), as a warming planet intensifies the Atlantic hurricane season and the Santa Ana winds. As storms grow stronger and more frequent, theyll not only cause more damage to seaside communities, but also the power grid that plays an increasingly vital role in our day-to-day lives.
Less discussed in the news around Tesla was how the companys PowerWalls helped to mitigate electricity loss for residents.
In the past, homeowners who had installed net-metered solar panels were stuck without power when the grid went down, even though their solar panels frequently survived the storm. In recent years, some PV solutions offered homeowners the opportunity to plug directly into an inverter that supplied direct power. While that solution allowed homeowners to temporarily power their homes during a blackout, solar power failed once the sun went down.
Homeowners seeking to power their homes around the clock turned to Teslas Powerwalls, which can include energy storage (batteries) that can power a home when power is unavailable. In tandem with rooftop PV panels, Powerwalls can power home essentials, like refrigerators, sump pumpts, lighting and air conditioning, when grid power is knocked out by high winds or falling trees.
In advance of storms, Tesla can remotely engage a software feature called Storm Watch, which fully charges the unit so that it can power customers homes for an extended period. Once the storm passes, users systems automatically return to their regular settings.
In this Oct. 27, 2016 photo, Rhonda "Honey" Phillips poses next to a Tesla Powerwall battery and ... [+] inverter connected to a solar panel array in her yard in Middletown Springs, Vt. Phillips is one of the growing number of Green Mountain Power customers using the Tesla battery to store solar energy when her panels aren't collecting it. GMP has been working to link solar energy with battery storage on both a large and small scale. (AP Photo/Dave Gram)
Tesla is not the first electric vehicle manufacturer to help its customers optimize their electricity usage in times of need. In the wake of the 2011 Thoku earthquake and tsunami, Nissan (OTCMKTS: NSANY) unveiled a function that allowed owners of its Leaf electric car to use their cars as a backup battery for their homes. This year, the company announced plans to expand the program to Australia, while rival Mitsubishi (OTCMKTS: MSBHY) unveiled a similar technology earlier this year. However, Teslas technology is unique in its ability to remotely provide additional aid to homeowners in times of crisis.
What is critical to all of these solutions is remote control and management. The power of IoT is that it provides the possibility for companies, like Tesla, to tailor services to their customers and respond in real-time to unforeseen events. And by collecting data from these devices, the companies can optimize their performance going forward.
A good example of this is GE (NYSE:GE), which has begun installing IoT sensors in its aircraft engines, allowing mechanics to remotely monitor the health of individual components and collect data on use, helping to not only prevent engine failure, but also to better monitor usage and wearing tear. Armed with data, airlines can better plan preventative maintenance, reduce downtime and more efficiently deploy their fleet of aircraft, lowering costs and reducing passenger delays.
IoT is a gamechanger in powering our lives. Coupled with cleantech, IoT is offsetting some of the impacts of climate change. While there has been much hype around the B2C applications of this technology (everything from smart refrigerators to smart doorbells), it is in the B2B infrastructure applications where there is even greater potential for IoT to positively impact our lives and meet the sustainability goals we have for the generations to come.
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