Cisco Blogs

Mobile Internet meets Smart Grid

May 14, 2009 - 1 Comment

Photo credit: All Lined Up, by Ian Muttoo, via FlickrThe Mobile Internet is also the pervasive internet, making simple connections available everywhere. Beyond connecting people, broadly available wireless networks also simplify connecting devices, sometimes called “machine-to-machine” (M2M) communications or the “Internet of things.” One application of this technology currently gaining much attention is the smart grid.The smart grid augments the electricity network with sensors, controllers, data communications, computers and software to distribute energy with greater economy, efficiency, reliability and security. New technology increasingly makes possible the extension of the smart grid all the way to residential users and even into their homes. Cisco recently announced its participation in the Florida Power & Light smart grid initiative in Miami.While the Miami project uses a purpose-built mesh network, smart meters can also be connected using cellular networks. Many of the service providers in the United States recently introduced smart grid programs. AT&T announced a partnership with SmartSynch to connect smart meters through its wireless network. Verizon Wireless announced a similar partnership with Itron. And T-Mobile USA announced an “embedded SIM” program aimed at smart grid and other M2M solutions, accompanied by an alliance with Echelon. (No smart grid announcement from Sprint yet, but lest anyone doubt their green credentials, they have announced a grant for hydrogen fuel cells.)Why this sudden charge of smart grid announcements? Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but on 17 February 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the U.S. economic stimulus package), which includes $4.5 billion for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (a.k.a. smart grid). This flow of funds should generate new energy for smart grid projects. (The same act also includes $5 billion for weatherizaton, which should pay for plenty of caulk!)In a previous blog entry, colleague Jennifer Sanford described how IP will help create an interoperable smart grid. With its leadership in this central technology, Cisco is hard at work on smart grid solutions. And the Mobile Internet will be a key component in many of these solutions.Now if I can only get my children to turn off their lights!

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  1. Several interesting insights in this article, with Cisco clearly a leader in smart grid deployment and mindshare. Particularly interesting now is the battle between the various WAN technologies, including Wireless RF mesh (e.g. Silver Spring; Trilliant), cellular (e.g. AT&T with SmartSynch), WiMax (e.g. GE with GridNet), WiFi (e.g. Tropos), and soon LTE. An underlying battle is between proprietary technology (RF mesh) and open technology (e.g. WiMax, WiFi, LTE), in which the RF mesh has a strong head start, but open networks are only going to keep growing in deployment (NIST standards will be very helpful).One critical factor in determining which technologies actually win market-share is the extent to which they economically enable reductions in energy use and GHG emissions. And because both residential and business customers, as well as all levels of government, are generally not willing and/or able to make the extensive cuts in energy usage necessary to reduce and stabilize atmospheric C02 at 350 PPM, energy efficiency and carbon-free energy sources need to be deployed much faster.A great challenge, and a great opportunity.