Digital platforms especially transaction and IoT innovation platforms are shaping the digital world. Such platforms play a key role in many industries. They will also shape the green hydrogen economy. For example, Hyfindr.com, a transaction platform, has been recently launched. Hyfindr continues to ramp-up its marketplace to simplify the supply-demand of hydrogen products.
Over the last two years, we studied IoT innovation platforms in the green hydrogen economy. Such platforms rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) as the technology vision. IoT means that physical things, assets and/or products become smart, connected, capable to communicate. Data about product condition and usage can be easily exchanged between product providers and product users. Data can be now analysed through artificial intelligence and machine learning. The data trigger the innovation of digital services improving product usage and making product user more successful.
To let IoT platforms succeed, companies need to depart from their traditional innovation pipeline approach. IoT platforms evolve in three steps (see Figure 1):
Utilising data to improve existing services along the product life-cycle,
Utilising and converting data into digital services,
Sharing data with innovation partners in the platform ecosystem to develop complementary (digital) services.
Turning key products for the hydrogen economy into IoT innovation platforms
Key products such as wind turbines, solar systems, energy systems, electrolysis systems and/or fuel cells are becoming steppingstones for IoT innovation platforms for green hydrogen economy. These products are now easily connected, responsive and intelligent and a vital part of larger systems.
Wind turbine manufacturers (e.g., Vestas, Siemens Gamsea, General Electric, Nordex etc.) are investing heavily into exchanging and analysing data about their wind turbines together with the wind park operators. These data trigger new digital services for increasing the wind turbine performance. For example, Vestas is establishing Scipher, an Energy Analytics platform.
This platform enables Vestas to provide following three new digital services:
Scipher.Vx for visualising the wind asset performance.
Scipher.Vx+ for proactive and advanced analytics on wind turbine performance monitoring.
Scipher.Fx for forecasting renewable from 5 minutes to 14 days ahead more accurately to make wind energy more predictable and reliable for the electric grid.
Wind turbine manufacturers are now reaching step B. They have started to use and convert data into digital services.
Solar system providers are also starting to move toward step B. Senec, a solar solution provider, is now offering the digital service called Senec Cloud. Senec Cloud offers a virtual credit on green electricity. This virtual credit simplifies the balancing of producing and consuming green electricity between electricity providers and households.
Energy system providers are also moving toward step B. Total Energies selected, for example, Siemens’ platform MindSphere for monitoring its Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) stations. While these stations are still mostly offering natural gas for vehicles, Total Energies is currently developing numerous hydrogen projects to prepare the market for wider H2 mobility adoption. Alternative H2 fuel products make the refueling equipment at the stations more complex. This makes a precise operation and monitoring of the stations necessary. Therefore, while Total Energies commits to grow its number of stations to 450 until 2025, Siemens’ Mindsphere platform enhances the station supervision through connecting the stations, gathering, and exchanging data between Total Energies and Siemens. With these data, the total cost of ownership of the stations will be considerably reduced.
Electrolysis system providers benefit from the current hydrogen hype. But these systems are still in the early stage of getting connected, responsive, and intelligent. System providers pay most attention to satisfy the rapidly increasing requests for hydrogen projects. The idea that data about the electrolysis can lead to an IoT platform is not very advanced. A noteworthy exception is Enapter’s energy management system (EMS).
With its EMS, Enapter has done a first step into the direction of an IoT platform. This EMS connects any device for generating, storing, and transmitting energy into a unified energy network via simple software integration. Energy generation, storage and transmission becomes more predictable. EMS includes following digital services:
Monitoring, controlling and automatically balancing energy generation and consumption.
Controlling and managing remotely hydrogen production and storage to ensure efficient use of available energy resources and reliable power supply.
Acquiring, harmonising and receiving telemetry data from heterogeneous components across dispersed energy production and storage facilities to enhance the control loop and substantiate management solutions.
Planning, developing and improving operation objectives to ensure optimal equipment performance, yield desired business results and achieve sustainable energy goals.
While electrolysis system providers are mostly using data to improve services along the system lifecycle, there are still only a few initiatives to augment the systems through digital services.
Fuel cell systems: Fuel cells are the dominant hydrogen application for mobility and heating systems. Such systems are quite advanced when it comes to being connected, responsive, and intelligent. Thus, the vehicle, train and/or heating system providers push the idea of becoming an IoT platform relatively independently of whether their systems use fuel cells or alternative solutions. For example, Alstom’s Coradia iLint, a passenger train powered by a hydrogen fuel cell benefits as any other Alstom train from digital services for improving train operation:
Digital passenger solutions for optimising real-time train occupancy and for smoother passenger flow on rail platforms
Connectivity-based fleet management solutions for quick and efficient access to real- time train data for diagnosing and improving performance of the trains and their components
Similarly, Viessmann’s heating systems are now made “hydrogen” ready. These heating systems are connected, responsive, and intelligent and act as an anchor for Wibutler an IoT platform and ecosystem around smart living. Viessmann’s digital services offered through this platform include:
ViCare for an intuitive operation and adjustment of the heating system
Vitofloor for saving energy for underfloor heating automatically and so on
With the Wibutler platform, Viessmann is no longer just utilising data for own digital services. Viessmann moves toward sharing data with innovation partners in the ecosystem to develop new complementary (digital) services.
Key questions and answers to move further toward an IoT platform
IoT platforms unleash their economic opportunities not through growing the business but through scaling the platform. While growing is about increasing revenue by increasing resources, scaling means increasing revenue without substantially increasing resources. Once IoT platforms have reached a critical size, they benefit from network effects. Platforms rapidly scale by delivering value to more and more platform users through digital services based on available platform data and analytics tools.
To further scale IoT platforms, managers need to answer following key questions:
What are possible key interactions between platform provider and platform users the IoT platform could improve?
What are possible network effects pushing the IoT platform?
What is the value the platform provider is proposing to the customers?
What is the value the platform provider is proposing to possible innovation partners?
What are possible ways for monetizing the IoT platform?
What are possible ways for scaling the IoT platforms?
There are some common answers to these questions, companies can think about. Key interactions addressed by IoT platforms are basically about collecting, exchanging, and analyzing all data of any connected hydrogen assets. Relevant network effects helping to scale IoT platforms emerge from adding value (e.g., additional functions, improved performance, risk reduction) to hydrogen assets through digital services and adding value (e.g., better prediction of breakdowns, less effort for repair and maintenance services) to the service activities.
Value propositions for customers and/or platform users should be steered toward improving the hydrogen asset availability and performance as well as increasing energy efficiency. Innovation partners could be attracted through proposing a better coordination among various innovation partners and additional revenue opportunities of complementary (digital) services.
When it comes to monetizing the IoT innovation platforms, managers can price the platform costs into the product price or can include these costs into service contracts. Alternatively, managers can start with selling the digital services separately. Just like a digital application customers pay a monthly fee for. Managers might even think about as-a-service models for monetizing the IoT innovation platform:
Wind turbines: Wind park operators pay for the wind energy produced and do not purchase wind turbines.
Solar systems: Households pay for the solar energy produced and do not purchase solar systems.
Energy systems: Energy consumers pay for improving energy consumptions and not for the energy systems.
Electrolysis system: Electrolysis operator pay for the hydrogen produced rather than purchasing the electrolysis systems.
Fuel cell systems: Customers pay for the kilometers the hydrogen vehicles and/or trains are running or the heating provided and not for the actual fuel cells.
When it comes to the question of scaling IoT innovation platforms, most reasonable answers are about connecting more products to the platform and integrating more innovation partners.
Of course, there are no easy answers about scaling IoT platforms in the green hydrogen economy. But these platforms will play a decisive role for letting the hydrogen economy succeed or not. More insights on IoT platforms have yet to be discovered through further research and discussion.