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SmartGrid 2.0 - How Smart Apps and Devices, 4G transform Utilities?

Please welcome our newest blogger to the Smart Utilities team, Deepak Pelluru. 51480.jpgDeepak's first blog centers around the next generation of Smart Grid and the impact of smart devices and communication infrastructure on the traditional utility.

SmartGrid 2.0 - How Smart Apps and Devices, 4G transform Utilities?

By Deepak Pelluru

SmartGrid is the buzzword in the utility firms across the world which purportedly yields magical results such as ability to predict energy consumption patterns for effective load balancing of power supply based on the demand, bi-directional communication between consumers and utilities for optimizing the peak time demands, demand response from the consumer side, providing visibility and analytics to the end consumers about the power consumption by their devices etc. All the above result in preventing black outs, creating energy efficiencies, cutting down carbon emissions etc

Even as SmartGrid is being acknowledged as the 'way to go' for most traditional utilities, there is already the next generation i.e. SmartGrid 2.0 in the reckoning which is an intelligent software driven, smart device, smart equipment and topology 'aware' grid system spanning across the generation, transmission and distribution pieces of the energy supply chain.

SmartGrid 2.0 is also being touted as the 'SoftGrid' with intelligent software at the heart of the whole system. I think it will be to the utilities industry what the digital 'soft' switches and routers were to the communications and internet industry. This will transform the utility ecosystem from a collection of electro-mechanical devices to a system that is similar to the communications ecosystem with all the devices such as grids, substations, transformers, transmission towers and meters being controlled by software. I believe that just as we have the telephone exchanges and routers or mobile network equipment controlled by a real time Operating system software (e.g CISCO, Nortel, Ericcsson etc), we will also have the transmission and distribution equipment of the power grid run by customized Operating system software. All the devices on the power grid will be linked either by a communication network such as a WAN which is made possible thru' the power lines themselves or via a 3G or 4G mobile network. Each device will have an IP address and can be tracked as well as send and receive messages/commands.

The devices on the power grid starting from generation and going all the way thru' the transmission and distribution equipment will be 'aware' of each other's presence on the network thus spanning a network of topology aware devices. The Smart devices in the customer premises like the Smart A/Cs, Smart Washing Machines, Smart Toasters etc will also be IP based networked devices running on embedded software and connected over a 3G/4G network which can send and receive bi-directional communication to and from the Grid as well to and from the end consumers.

I will now take a trip into the future on my time machine and see how the life of a common man will change with these contraptions. Some illustrations that come to my mind are as follows:

  1. The smart devices on the customer premises such as the Smart washing machines and their ilk will have an UI akin to today's smart phones, which are connected to the Internet as well as to the Utilities Grid. They have Smart Apps which can be downloaded and installed. These Smart Apps will pass on the device status such as the power consumption stats to the Social Apps like Twitter or Facebook or via SMS to the users Smart Phone. The end consumer can control the power settings and schedule runs using Smart Apps based on the information that these devices pass on from the grid about the power supply situation. This is taking today's "demand response" system couple of steps forward. This will be very useful in load balancing during the emergency situations when there are risks of blackouts.
  2. Much like the algorithmic trading that happens on the world's leading stock markets, the smart devices of tomorrow will have Smart Apps that make possible the trading of energy within and across the grid depending on the power load and the offering price. Consumers can buy and store energy when it trades at a price point as well as sell the energy produced by them (using renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy) at a price point. We might have the global energy trading stock market existing in the near future for all we know!
  3. The power grid which will be a network of interconnected IP devices will be 'self healing' as it is self aware and can manage the power routing via different routes when there is congestion in a particular line. This will be similar to the way internet routers send traffic along path with least traffic. This will help prevent overloads in the power lines
  4. The diagnostics that are sent from the various 'topology aware' devices can be analyzed centrally and give visibility into the functioning and health of the devices at any point of time. Either the problems can be fixed remotely via the IP network or help can be sent to the physical location of the device which can be determined in conjunction with a GIS system such as Google Maps. This will go a long way in preventing distribution efficiencies and enhancing reliability of power availability. The power losses can be tracked and traced and preventive action can be taken to fix these power losses and thefts at any point in the power grid.
  5. Like we have the mobile apps on today's smart phones and tablets, we will have a plethora of Smart Apps for the different types of Smart Devices which can be used for bi-directional communication between the end user and utility firms which will help usher a green and carbon free world.

In summary, the utility industry is all set to see a revolution from an electro-mechanical based devices to a world of Smart IP Devices with freely downloadable Smart Apps which will improve the energy savings, balance energy demand and supply as well as bring the renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, oceanic current based etc into the main stream power grid and integrate all these seemingly disparate elements!


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