The Smart Grid is a popular topic of conversation in business and governmental circles these days. Last week I attended ConnectivityWeek in Santa Clara, California, which was well-attended by established companies, entrepreneurs, and representatives of federal agencies including the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The number of different and equally interesting simultaneous tracks made it difficult to choose just one session for each timeframe. It was definitely a good investment of time to be there, so if you’re interested in getting a broad spectrum of information, put it on your calendar for next year!
A fundamental take away is that there are many potential paths to a Smart Grid replete with competing technologies. The very real fear is that there will be solutions that lack interoperability – although those solutions may adhere to a standard. Did you know that there are 15 different standards bodies that have a say in Smart Grid technologies? Not one of those standards bodies has a pinnacle role like you would find in the telecommunications industry, which has the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to play referee. So, the Obama administration has tapped NIST to play a central role in ensuring that standards do address interoperability. They have a 3 phase plan that consists of:
P1 – develop roadmaps and build consensus on existing standards
P2 – create public/private standards panels for new and revised standards that will be the NIST framework for the Smart Grid
P3 – test and certify solutions based on these standards.
It’s a huge job that involves herding cats and a very critical one to ensure the most effective (read fast and inexpensive) deployments of Smart Grid solutions.
This week the action is happening in Los Angeles, specifically the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) which is hosting the WIN SmartGrid Connection (http://winmec.ucla.edu/smartgrid/2009-06/). WIN stands for Wireless Internet SmartGrid, and is defined in the Smart Grid Dictionary. The one-day conference occurs this Wednesday, June 18th and is the second in a series of Leadership Roundtables focused on the roles that wireless, RFID, and sensor technologies will play in the future Smart Grid. UCLA’s Wireless Media Lab and WINMEC developed a wireless technology called the ReWINS (Reconfigurable Wireless Interface for Networking of Sensors), as a foundation for an architecture whose end result is to monitor and control sensors that would reside in a home environment. It works with wireless protocols including Zigbee and Bluetooth, and the low-power solutions could be gaining momentum.
The list of attendees includes influential players: the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, Cisco, EPRI, Motorola, at least one National Lab, and local utilities. The conference agenda includes panel discussions to review electric utility perspectives on Smart Grid communications infrastructures and government perspectives on objectives and regulations targeted to these infrastructures. I’m sure standards are going to be discussed as well in this conference – indeed, I think it would be impossible to avoid the topic. For more information about this conference, please go to http://winmec.ucla.edu/smartgrid/2009-06/.