Spotlight on....Zhong Fan

Spotlight on....Zhong Fan

Zhong Fan, Professor and Academic Director of Smart Energy Network Demonstrator at Keele University

What is your current role at your Institution?

I am a Professor and Academic Director of the Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND) at Keele University. I have been leading a team of postdocs, PhD students, and business personnel to develop one of the largest at-scale, smart energy living labs in Europe. The £15M project is funded by ERDF and UK government, and supports cutting edge R&D in many areas of smart energy and sustainability in collaboration with local businesses.  

How does this role build on previous work? 

Prior to joining Keele University, I was Chief Research Fellow at Toshiba Research Europe in Bristol, where I led research on smart grid, ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), 5G and data analytics. My team pioneered the work on mesh network solutions for smart metering that was instrumental in Toshibas successful win of a major smart metering contract in Japan. I am also an Advisory Board Member of the IEEE Industry Community on IoT.

I have worked extensively with academia and industry in many collaborative projects funded by Innovate UK, EPSRC, and EU. My industry experience is very useful to my current role at Keele as I need to work closely with many SMEs and big corporations as part of the SEND programme.  

What is the most exciting thing about the research that you have done to date?

ICT and AI are key enabling technologies for future smart systems including SLES. In recent years we have seen tremendous advances AI has made in many fields, and I am particularly excited about the great potential that various AI techniques that can facilitate in the "smartness" of SLES. We are currently working on distributed machine learning algorithms that can carry out smart energy data analytics without compromising user privacy, this is novel and essential. 

Compared to conventional energy networks, SLES bring about new cyber security challenges specific to the local context and better connectivity. I am therefore also interested in identifying these challenges and proposing new solutions. 

What skills and perspectives are you bringing to EnergyREV?

After I trained as a telecommunications engineer, I moved into the energy (smart grid) sector in 2009 and have worked ever since at the boundaries of ICT and energy networks. I'd like to contribute my expertise in IoT, data science, and cyber security to the CPS aspects of EnergyREV. I am also interested in skills development in the SLES sector. In the meantime, I am very happy to learn from colleagues in other disciplines such as social sciences, management and government policies.