Archive for the ‘smart grid’ Category

* Smart Grid Utilities

Posted on June 22nd, 2010 by Dave Johnson. Filed under smart grid.

The “smart grid” is a pretty popular term these days is used to describe a new generation of electricity distribution network or grid where electricity usage at by the end user is tracked in real time. Today, tracking of electricity is done by prediction until the utility physically sends a person to the consumers location who then reads the value on an electricity meter. This new real time tracking of usage also means that the consumer can not only see their usage at any given time, but they can also see the price of electricity at that time allowing them to make decisions to try and save money - generally that means using electricity at night when rates are lowest.

If there is one thing that is clear, it is that the smart grid is going to be built on Internet standards like TCP/IP, the only question is what medium it will use. It might be WiFi, mesh networks, power line communication, cell networks, radio, or just plain old broadband.

The interesting part is that however the data gets from your house or business to the utility, it will have to be over a TCP/IP network that could conceivably have enough bandwidth to also provide you with services ranging from Internet to phone to television - as many telecommunication companies do today.

With enough bandwidth a smart grid utility could provide ALL of your utilities.

Companies like Google are certainly ready to be the provider of all the software a utility might need on top of an Internet connection to be your single utility provider. With Chrome OS or Android as the nervous system of a smart house to Android on your mobile phone, TV, Voice and PowerMeter. These pieces of software could even come from various providers like Skype or Microsoft but certainly using a battle hardened, open source, developer friendly operating system like Android at the core makes sense. Beyond that they should also be taking advantage of the increasingly powerful smartphones like the Android, iPhone and Blackberry and using them as the user interface to all of their smart systems.

In the past the stringent security and reliability requirements placed on utilities probably forced them to write their own software preferring security through obscurity rather than using open source software that probably didn’t even exist. Today is different though and there are many open source software projects that can likely stand up to their requirements.

If utilities were as smart as they hope their grid will be, they would be ensuring that their smart grid offering gives them the ability to offer other value added services to their customers just as other communications companies have either moved from providing broadband to providing voice services or vice versa.

Image credit Tom Raftery

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* Cloud Computing + Smart Grids = Smart Clouds

Posted on November 25th, 2008 by Dave Johnson. Filed under cloud, smart grid.

The discussion about what cloud computing is over at James’ blog is still raging.

While cloud computing is fascinating and a great opportunity for making IT more efficient in it’s own right. However, I have been thinking about smart grids a lot (and so have a lot of others like the better half of RedMonk and even The Google), which in short are electricity grids that have the ability to both provide and accept both electricity and information about the prices of said electricity all over the same wires making it possible for companies, government and people to choose to use electricity when it is cheap and generate it when it is expensive, thus, helping to reduce the amount of generation infrastructure required in a network to cover load peaks.

A classic example of this is when everyone in England gets home from work (or when the East Enders comes on the television) they turn on the kettle to make a cup of tea, the issue of only rich people being able to drink tea aside, resulting in a large spike in consumption that would (hopefully) be reduced by higher instantaneous pricing.

Today, users are charged for cloud computing in a predictable way at a rate of about $0.05 to $0.10 per hour depending on the provider. However, as we move to smart grids (and we already are with companies like Trilliant and GridPoint leading the way) we are going to see changes to the way cloud computing and most other service are billed for.

In the cloud all your data needs to be backed up and sitting on hard drives somewhere that likely need constant power (like Amazon S3) while other parts of the cloud are more temporal in nature like the load on a CPU (Amazone EC2). All this adds up to a more complex cost structure for the cloud provider.

At any rate, this post is not about smart grids but instead about smart clouds and the eventual reality where computing power has a temporal cost associated with. This will create a new niche for software that manager can manage CPU and storage load according to electricity price as well as new developer skill sets with a bigger focus on batch processing rather than real-time processing. I am just sort of thinking out loud here but think that the rules of the cloud (and development in general) will have to change if we move to a low carbon economy.

As I write this I can’t help but think about applying the real-time pricing concept of smart grids (and maybe smart clouds) to other areas of IT as well. For example, why not have dynamic pricing on bandwidth? When there is plenty of bandwidth in the middle of the night let me have 100Mbs and charge me the same price!

Not exactly sure where I am going with this but just formulating some ideas …

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