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The open community smart grid

published, Apr 19, 2009 1:28am
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You may have heard of the smart grid initiative being rolled out across our cities and run by big utility companies, but have you asked why this initiative only delivers what the utility companies want?

Why don't we ask what if...

  • ...what if the smart grid was open, and allowed the community to build, participate, extend and operate it?
  • ...what if the open smart grid used the internet to communicate?
  • ...what if it had nice interfaces to exchange and share information?
  • ...what if such a thing became the “twitter”of the the energy space?

created on: 04/19/09

 

For some time now Smart Energy Groups have been thinking, planning and recently flat-out working towards building something that could deliver tools and resources to help us become more energy aware and efficient.

So far the build is rocking along quite well - the pipeline includes a basic web app for energy monitoring and circuit switching, easy interfaces and an open source device - and the the whole shebam should be demonstrable very soon.

So apart from building something that would be kinda neat, it would allow communities to share information, benchmark how they are going, and work together to become more energy aware and efficient. This is something we really need to do, now more than ever before.

So - what if the community leads the way?

What do you think?

@samotage
image courtesy of flickr

 

 

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I like the idea of anything like this being open source, though I loath "smart grids" in general.  Better to have it more targetted, focusing on "smart buildings" in the large cities and such instead.

There are many reasons for this but fundamentally I don't trust somebody with potential control over the power running to my house.  It's far too easy to abuse that power.  For limited and focus applications, such as managing power to a skyscraper, it makes great sense and can help a power company trim a lot of load in times of need.

Hey Steve,

I hear you dude.

This is precisely the point of the open community smart grid (...it's not really a smart grid, more distributed connected devices) - so that the members are in control of their own energy, and have the power to opt in our out of of demand reduction.  This effectively puts you back into control of your home, as opposed to the unloving utility company.

Big buildings will (and are already) being automated by Utility companies as their first base, however the rest of use can also expect to benefit from active energy saving, particularly as the price of energy goes up.  Here in Victoria, for the next 5 years we will se a 17.5% raise in prices every year - and they've been going on for the past 2 already.  This will make energy very expensive, and this is even before a carbon cost component.

Increases in price will ultimately drive us all towards a need to better manage our energy, and what better a responsibility for "us" than them?

Sam.

i dont think this at all... not a crazy fantic.. but look into the NWO... and this post... wake up people!

Is there some code repository for this OSS project so we can also contribute? Or at least a published roadmap? I could not find it after admittedly only cursory look around.

PC

Hey PC,

Sure!  The project is in it's early stages, and the plans are to document more of the API and other components soon.

There is some into here http://smartenergygroups.com/api

Which points over to a repository on github: http://github.com/samotage/Smart-Energy-Groups-API-Services/tree/master

This contains a simple(ish) ruby client program targeted to run on a PC - however at the moment work is in progress on putting together some software to run in an OpenWrt embedded Linux environment.  If you have skills in this OpenWrt area this would be awesome!

There is also an Arduino framwork called Aiko built as part of a local #hackerspaces effort http://groups.google.com/group/connected-community-hackerspace/ which also forms part of the solution:

Aiko: http://github.com/geekscape/Aiko/tree/master

You can contact me here:  http://smartenergygroups.com/questions/ask

Or on twitter @samotage

It would be great to get you involved!

Sam.

Sam,

We are looking into the project now. We do have experience with DD-WRT and converted WRT54G routers (and several "bricked" devices to prove it!). Our concern is the limited RAM and FLASH on such devices. In addition, FLASH burn can become a problem. We are currently considering how to incorporate usb sticks on supported devices. This would give us the OS and mini-web server on the device and updateable code (even sqllite perhaps) on the stick. It might increase the cost by only 4 to 9 EUR.

While we know some Ruby developers, none are currently on staff so I am afraid we may not be able to help with that soon. We'll work on it though.

Peterr

Hey Peterr,

We've got OpenWrt running with 4Mb flash and 16Mb ram booting up nicely off the USB stick, which gives plenty of room for growth.  Cutting USB support also frees a heap of space from the image burnt to flash, so it could be possible to run sqlite and a small footprint C program to interact  with the server, and probably more appropriate for this limited resource platform.

Right now we are running the Ruby client on a PC with heaps of resources which is fine for this purpose, but the next stage is to transfer the client to something more appropriate for the residential gateway, and OpenWRT is a great candidate IMO.

If you like I can send you my build notes for getting the little OpenWrt box up, running and booting from USB?

you can email me over here: http://smartenergygroups.com/questions/ask

Sam.

 

 

 

 

Also,

I've just added a forum topic for this discussion.

http://www.smartenergygroups.com/forums/10-The-Open-Grid

Sam.

the word at Energy 21 today from companies with experience in smart grids overseas is that they are loathe to make them internet enabled because they havent got a surefire way of keeping hackers out. Can you imagine a virus being planted into a web based grid that switched on all the appliances at once in a large area? meltdown.

I see where you are coming from, and it's a valid point, however I believe it's important to consider this in light of the maturity of the web security mechanisms in place that we use and trust v.s. Smart Grid security mechanisms that leave most gasping at their inadequacy to secure the networks.


Utility companies think that rolling out their “private” comms network is the answer to this.  Fact is – this comms network is typically unsecure and unencrypted PLUS their meter hardware has significant exploits that enable the installation of rouge code inside the meter allowing hackers to take control.  This is scary stuff, and the issue has been almost systematically ignored by the utilities and outside the core competency of meter manufacturers, who traditionally have never had to deal with this stuff.


CNN recently proved this could be done with just $500 worth of common kit...


The big danger for the utilico is not turning everything off – but turning everything on, a scenario that will damage their distribution infrastructure.

Sure there are vulnerabilities with the web, but these days we app technology has some pretty darn good weapons to fight with.  So which would I choose?


A standards driven secure web application any day.

Sam,

@samotage

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