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Archive for the ‘Smart Grid’ Category

Make the SmartGrid Accessible to All

What is the SmartGrid? It is a measured governmental and industry response to a growing emergency.

Electricity usage in the United States is projected to grow more than twice as fast as committed resources over the next 10 years, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced today in its annual 2007 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. Unless additional resources are brought into service, some areas could fall below their target capacity margins within two or three years. In parts of western Canada, demand is projected to outpace resource growth within about two years.

“We are at the stage where emergency situations are becoming more frequent,” said Rick Sergel, president and CEO of NERC. “Though some improvements have been made, we are requiring our aging grid to bear more and more strain, and are operating the system at or near its limits more often than ever before. As operating margins decrease, we are limiting our ability to manage unplanned events like equipment failures and extreme weather,” Sergel said.

In response, the Obama administration the two following choices. Increase supply which includes mining more copper for transmission and burning more coal for cost-effective production or reduce demand best achieved by efficiency and storage.
Is cost-savings or usability a better carrot?
Thus, we have competitive funding opportunities directly disbursed by the Dept of Energy to demonstrate and invest in lasting SmartGrid solutions. You would rightly assume that your utility is building a team of startups, large manufacturers and investors to apply for these matching government funds.

The key to the success of these SmartGrid solutions is often overlooked, the role of the general public. The current design of the program is based on the assumption that people will more efficiently use energy and voluntarily sacrifice the comfort of air conditioning or convenience of washing your clothes whenever they want. While there are individual consumers can actively reduce their bills dramatically, the average savings is only 5%. However, I question, will you give up your A/C on the hottest day of the year, in Miami, Florida, for 5% savings?

The “Today Show” shows clips of consumers using smart meters to control appliances and managing their energy consumption through an online web site, and it says the average resident in the trial saved 5 percent on their average monthly energy bill.

If saving money is the “carrot” at the end of the stick, then all they have is a stick. No, the Game-Changing technology that the SmartGrid will deliver is that finally our technology will be easier to use. Why do I make such a bold statement? Because it has to be usable and accessible to everyone.

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual’s ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology.

When the user interface is standardized to work with Screen Readers et al. we all benefit from its simplicity. No more will you have to deal with different remote controls and learn how to use each product separately. If you believe that the SmartGrid should benefit all of us, you can email the Dept. of Energy by May 6th at to ensure that our tax dollars support projects that are compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Written by ishak

May 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Smart Grid

Cable wants your data, and charge you for their “service”

I’ve been saying it for quite some time now, Web 3.0 is about me.

I will choose who I do business with very carefully.  Why wouldn’t I?  Brands are no longer equated with trust.  A recent visitor to my office tells me that in France, you’re guilty unless you prove your innocence.  Not in the court system, but in the court of personal relationships.  In other words, you must earn trust from a stranger. It’s not automatic.

Your personal data today (credit card transactions, cellphone location, RFID toll collector) are not controllable by you.  They are identifiable, secretive data farms that can be used as evidence in a court of law.  These are social conveniences that we opt-in.  You don’t have to use these services, but they can save you time and money.  In the very near future, your carbon footprint and your health record will also be in the hands of some very large corporations.

So, I guess it makes sense for the Cable companies to force their “Personalization” features down your larynx.  My ideal of personalization is convenience, but not at the expense of control.  I want to be able to fire my service provider and still keep my data.  But, that is not the ecosystem that your cable provider has in mind…

This does not appear to be an opt-in service.  So, the convenience of personalization comes at the cost of privacy and lack of control.  Now, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Cable companies are in a great position to deliver great services to the technical and the not-so-technical.  They have the ability to make that first screen that you see when you turn on the tube to be everything you want to see and nothing you don’t.  It will require an open ecosystem of standards that allow you to control all of your things.  Let’s hope they embrace this model sooner rather than later.

Written by ishak

April 7, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Smart Grid

Do you want to Twitter your things?

I’m excited that about the Internet of Things.  In 2009, US Presidents can fire a CEO, but can’t limit a bonus to the employees.  C’mon, that’s progress.  Another thing is clear, your gadgety things are full of open source technology.  So, a start up that wants to make money on open source software is no different than, say General Electric.

My question is this: Who can deliver you a better customer experience?  Do big polycorps “get” it? I explained Twitter to a friend over the weekend, and the story that resonated was that I said Frank from @ComcastCares was a good guy.  He questioned how I would know such a thing.  I have never met him.  All I have is a couple of interviews, a friendly polo-shirt-wearing profile picture, and his Tweet Stream.  And, man, is that Tweet Stream impressive.  I know, I do the same thing. Figuring out people’s tech problems over the phone.  Using my personal experience, and intuition to troubleshoot the most likely problem you’re having.

You have to Comcast credit.  After taking over AT&T Broadband’s legacy of poor customer support, they perfected the self-installed DSL filter.  I remember, many years ago, setting up a router for my parents’ Comcast connection, searching high and low for the Gateway IP, DNS servers, etc.

Dreading to call that 800 number just to demand a “technical” person.  How shocking it was for me, to hear a pleasant-sounding older woman just ask me to reboot the modem.  It would sense the router, and we’re ready to roll.  My opinion of Comcast changed that day, and boy did they get it right by responding to Michael Arrington’s horrible customer experience by choosing Frank as their company persona.

He should be the face of the company now.  He certainly never tires of turning people around in their expectations of what it is like to ask a big company for help.  They “care?”  Why?  Because it is their business to care.  They are selling a commodity in a value-add world and everything is moving that way.  Energy, health care, entertainment, mobility, technical support, etc. are all up for grabs in the Internet of Things.  A tidal wave that no company, large or small, can escape.

Twitter is now a platform for companies to be the “good guy” again.  (hopefully, not as gender-specific as my example).  Does it make sense for companies to embed their products as twitter-compliant?  What do I mean?  Well, how do you want to use your things?  What is the ultimate user interface?  Only you can answer that question.  Not some trendy designer.  Definitely not a geeky engineer.  Maybe its time for Twitter to embrace open standards (XMPP) again.

Written by ishak

March 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Smart Grid

Are Walled Gardens and Vendor Lock-In Strategies old business?

Our power grids are the largest remaining artifact of the Industrial Age, and they’re due for a smart upgrade. Using broadband data streams, digital sensors and advanced analytics, demand can be understood in real time. Utilities can source and manage power more intelligently, helping to bring renewable sources onto the grid. And consumers could understand the variable cost of power and alter their behavior accordingly. A smarter utility network could also handle the growing demand for hybrid and electric cars. Today’s utility grid would struggle to manage this burden.

via Samuel J. Palmisano: Let’s Spend on Broadband and the Power Grid –

How in the world will this happen without open standards?  Is IBM an indicator of this massive shift from proprietary technologies to open standards? In a single press release IBM announced plans to increase the  publication of its technical innovations by 50% (>3000) foregoing the need for seeking patents. This, from a company that has just completed their 16th consecutive year leading all companies in patents with 4186 awarded in 2008.

Meanwhile, Cisco looks to manage connected devices using proprietary technology locked in their routers.  It’s a good approach that continues the silo trend in building energy management, but this will not work for the home.  Why not leverage their commitment to the IPSO Alliance keeping the management of devices open and IP-oriented?

Today, we are on such a precipice of change that large corporations are forced to hedge their bets on open technology and proprietary solutions.  If you are their customer, at what point will you want to be free of mandatory service contracts and proprietary hardware?

Written by ishak

February 15, 2009 at 4:27 am