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Taking the Temperature of the Smart Grid

Sandra Manning, utility marketing manager, City of Tallahassee, demonstrated a running smart-grid application.

Story reprinted courtesy of MuniWireless

To get the most out of an industry convention summit, be a moderator, speaker and audience participant. I had that opportunity at the Smart-Grid Summit in Miami Beach last week. While stranded visitors from the north enjoyed highs of 81 in Miami Beach, the summit proved to be one of the most informative smart-grid discussions ever. I opened the smart-grid sessions with a presentation on smart-grid security offering excerpts from top industry professionals, some of my past articles and other publications. The opening quotes ended with an INFOSec article, Scientists Decry Cyberwar as Governments Respond, featuring quoted grid-security warnings from top national and homeland security officials.

Session keynotes included Dr. Massoud Amin, director Technological Leadership Institute College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota; Roxy Podlogar, vice president Product Strategy, Green Energy Corp.; Maureen Harris, commissioner, New York State Public Service Commission; and Orjiakor Isiogu, chairman, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Sandra Manning, utility marketing manager, City of Tallahassee, demonstrated a running smart-grid application.

Smart-grid security was the main focus or this event. The subject came up in every discussion throughout the summit. The general consensus was that we need to start putting security solutions in the smart grid now and continue as smart-grid networks and intelligence are added. The issue was how this high-end security could deal with issues of personal home privacy, breaches, criminal activity and cyberwar. The question was not if we need smart grid security -- it was how to accomplish it.

A list of more than 20 participants -- from organizations such as NIST, FERC, NERC, IEEE, Wimax Alliance, WiFi Alliance, Zigbee Alliance, Grid Net, GridWise with even NSA, DoD and Homeland Security -- added their input to the complex issue of smart-grid security.

Many of the participants and audience members came from the old Telco/Internet deregulation days looking at the smart grid as their new beginning. Major carriers like Verizon and AT&T looked at the smart grid as just other product on their networks. There was scarce but very valuable attendance by power companies who were most helpful in dealing with the realities of where we are today and where we need to go in the future.

Discussions included building a strong grid foundation; power transmission and distribution; the growing voice of the customer; smart home killer apps, rural smart-grid opportunities, electric vehicles and public vs. private smart-grid networks. The main summit take aways were:

  • Smart grid security was the main theme and sub-theme of every discussion.
  • Most people do not understand what the smart grid is for.
  • Social networking will be the best promotion tool to educate people on the smart grid.
  • Communication companies and power companies are just getting to understand each other.
  • Never has there been more organizations pursuing what is considered the last communication gold mine.
  • Communist countries will probably deploy the smart grid first.
  • There is too much oversight in the smart grid and not enough testing.
  • The future needs of electric cars and current smart-grid capacity mandates the power grid.
  • We don't know if we should regulate or deregulate power companies.
  • Rural owned deployments may be the best place to start.
  • We are beginning to see Telco/Power Co-ops.
  • Many power companies have plenty of fiber optics for a smart-grid backbone infrastructure.
  • Smart-grid grant money is just now being distributed with jobs soon coming.
Point of Interest: The power went out at the Miami Beach Convention Center during my security panel discussion and we continued to run on auxiliary power with dimmed lights. The outage was just an inconvenience. If you want to know how important electricity is to you and how dangerous it is to be without it, come to Florida after a hurricane.

All in all, it was a great conference with specialists in every subject matter and limited corporate pitches. The panelist presentations will be up in two weeks on the. Smart Grid Miami Summit's website.

Larry Karisny is the director of Project, consultant, writer and industry speaker focusing on security solutions for public and private wireless broadband networks supporting smart grid, municipal, critical infrastructure, transportation, campus, enterprise and home area network applications. 

Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.