Standards and standard thinking

The developing Smart Grid portends opportunity and risk on both sides of the meter.  I spend enough time rhapsodizing about Smart Grid opportunities, so its time to look at some of the risks.  For customers, which could be utilities or end users, there are risks in selecting solutions that lack interoperability.  Will the smart meters a utility selects for a territory today work with the HAN solutions their customers will be buying tomorrow?  Another risk lies in cybersecurity.  A dumb grid does have  at least one advantage – it reduces the overall points of unauthorized entry.   Smart meters with their 2 way communication capabilities offer millions (literally) of points of entry unless comprehensive security standards are deployed in all solutions across the grid. 

Fortunately, there are very smart and dedicated people working with great speed and purpose on establishing standards for interoperability and cybersecurity.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a leading role in developing national Smart Grid interoperability standards for the USA.  Working in close coordination with major stakeholders like utilities and industry vendors, NIST has a 3 phase plan to build consensus on existing standards for interoperability and cybersecurity and an interim roadmap; facilitate public/private panels to drive harmonization of standards and evolution of technologies to those standards; and then develop a plan for a test and certification framework.    The interim roadmap was published late last week and is available for public view at  It’s an interesting read!

Now on to standard thinking.  We all have great expectations of the technological advances that the Smart Grid can deliver.  It appears that at least some technology vendors and utilities have great expectations of consumers too.  At a recent conference, an oft-cited example of demand response and how price changes will drive consumer behavior concerned laundry.  In this example, it was predicted that consumers will choose to do their laundry at midnight when rates are lowest rather than another time of day (or night).  Hello???? Here are three reasons why this is a really great example of bad standard thinking:  1)  who is getting up at 1AM to move clothes from the washer to the dryer?  Or is that what the live-in maid is supposed to do?  2)  many multi-tenant communities (like my condo association) don’t allow laundry after 9pm because of noise.  3)  Midnight is not the best time to line-dry clothes – especially for consumers who are fortunate to have outdoor lines.  I don’t know about you, but I like to hang laundry outside in daylight hours when I can see what I’m doing. 

So here’s my plea to the technology vendors – get past the standard thinking.  Its not about what the technology can do, its about what people can and will do with the technology.