Start-up challenge: Substation control room automation

We are looking for solutions to automate the control elements of electrical substations

Electrical network Start-up challenge PERSEO Smart Grids GSGIH

From PERSEO we are launching a new challenge to find an automation system for the ergonomic and safety elements of the control rooms of electrical substations, to improve and guarantee their regulation through innovation.


Iberdrola has more than 400,000 Substations (ST) and Transformer Centers (TC) in the United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Spain. Of these, 4,400 are ST, substations that transform high or very high voltage to lower levels of high or medium voltage. These are high-power facilities that form the backbone of a grid that provides a high quality and reliable service to a total of 31 million electricity supply points.

The ST have buildings or control rooms containing electronic devices or other equipment, such as batteries, which are part of the control, protection and telecommunication systems. This equipment is sensitive to environmental conditions and some of them, in case of failure, could produce gas emissions, excessive heat, etc. 

The ST have elements that guarantee the correct ergonomics/safety of the ST: lighting, heaters/air conditioners, security cameras, presence sensors, extractors... However, these elements are not always optimally controlled, based on online sensorization, nor are they usually automated.

In these circumstances, the automation of systems affecting the condition of sensitive equipment contributes to maximizing the lifetime of the equipment, while detection systems serve to prevent incidents, making an important contribution to the safety of people, the environment and the facilities.

The situations that the challenge is intended to address include the following aspects:

  • Temperatures outside of the appropriate range for the maintenance of equipment, particularly electronics and batteries.

  • Condensation due to insufficient humidity control.

  • Excessive air conditioning consumption.

  • Aging and failure of air-conditioning equipment due to excessive periods of operation.

  • Lights on without presence

  • Inadequate fume extraction

  • Intrusion by humans and animals, including rodents

In addition to local automation, Iberdrola has been committed for years to the digitalization of tasks in order to benefit from its advantages, such as cost reduction, increased productivity, improved user experience, improved competitive positioning, time reduction and improved communication. 

Finally, our distributor in Spain i-DEExternal link, opens in new window.  already has the seeds of a platform developed on AWS that acts as an IoT device manager, runs AI algorithms, manages a digital twin of facilities,... This platform, known as "SmartPoint", aims to abstract the captured data from the manufacturer/sensor that provides it in order to avoid information silos derived from the use of individual manufacturer platforms by generating a "place" with the capacity to "mix" data from different origins for decision making. The initiative within this challenge cannot leave "SmartPoint" aside as it will have to communicate with this platform when the time comes.

Description of the Challenge

In this context, Iberdrola, through its PERSEO Startups Programme, is looking for an automation system to improve and guarantee the control of the ergonomic and safety elements of the rooms and spaces with control elements of the substations, through the adoption of devices/protocols that also provide information to the SmartPoint platform and allow remote action.

The use of domotic equipment is commonplace both at industrial and domestic level. It is not uncommon for companies or individuals to have remote access, in many cases even via mobile apps, to sensors that indicate the temperature of rooms, switch lights on/off, etc. Platforms or rather ecosystems such as those of Apple, Amazon and/or Google therby help, in the domestic sphere, by including in many cases, in addition to the sensors themselves and the management platform, a device that acts as an assistant: Apple Homepod, Amazon Alexa, Google Nest.

Specifically, the challenge seeks to replicate market solutions in terms of their simplicity (plug&play) and reduced cost characteristics, as the sensor/information requirements do not differ too much from domestic ones. 

However, the requirements for robustness of control devices and sensors, in terms of safety, durability and reliability, are more lax for electronics in the domestic environment than in demanding environments, e.g. in terms of robustness of equipment, in particular in terms of electromagnetic compatibility, and reliability in critical installations, including cyber-safe behavior and integration with i-DE systems, in particular with "SmartPoint".

The minimum functional requirements are as follows:

  • Smart climate control, adapted to the needs of substation control equipment in terms of temperature

  • Indoor and outdoor lighting control

  • Alarm generation by local sensor processing, including: gases; climate control failures (unusual temperatures, humidity or lighting); flooding; and intrusion of people or animals

This will include the following aspects:

  • Selection of sensors

  • Manager/gateway acting as signal aggregator, compute in edge

  • Cloud communication (AWS) to notify alarms,

  • Virtual assistance and call-in capability.

  • Remote control, local control by voice, can be automated.

  • Electromagnetic compatibility at substation level

  • Cybersecurity: encrypted information

  • Device fleet management (OTA)


The challenge is launched within the framework of Iberdrola's new smart grid innovation centre, the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub, a global benchmark in smart networks, through open collaboration and coworking among i-DE suppliers, start-ups and different organisations worldwide.

The team of experts from Iberdrola's Networks business will be responsible for selecting the innovative solution(s) that will enable the integration and demonstration of cybersecure environments.

The prize will consist of a collaboration and test agreement with PERSEO or any other Group company, which will bear the cost of these activities and provide the winner with all necessary technical support, as well as an environment and real data to test the solution, providing access to equipment, teams, infrastructure, high technology sites and shared work areas. The selected project will be developed in collaboration with technical specialists from i-DE, the distribution company of the Iberdrola group in Spain.

It will also be included directly in the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hubs registration process, as a collaborator able to benefit from the services, activities and resources that the GSGI Hub makes available.

If the trial or test of the concept is satisfactory, Iberdrola may offer the winner the opportunity to scale up the solution,  adopting it by means of commercial agreements. What's more, PERSEO will consider investing in the participating company and/or the winner of the challenge.