Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Growing Need For Cyber Security in Smart Grid Networks

The Growing Need For Cyber Security in Smart Grid Networks

The proliferation of the new distributed intelligence , communications networks and automation controls particularly in Field Area Network , utilities must address growing Smart Grid security needs with new approaches and tools. Smart Grid security needs to be built it and layered upfront in the planning stages rather than added during or after deployment. [1]

References :

[1] The Growing Need for Cyber Security in Smart Grid Networks by Stan Pietrowicz , Tom Mazzone (Telcordia Technologies, Inc)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Smart Grid : Trends to watch in 2011 and Beyond

Trends to watch on Smart Grid in 2011 and Beyond
The ‘smart grid , the integration of the new embedded computing and communications technologies into the fabric of the power network is widely seen as the means to adapting our electrical infrastructure to meet these global needs.
The months ahead should witness the maturation of the smart grid as all the trials , mandates and pilots move towards production deployment. There are some trends that bear watching and scrutiny .
In the following section , Pike Research focuses on some trends that will be most influential in the emerging smart grid sector.
1. Security will become the top Smart Grid concern
In 2009 at the Black Hat conference , the infamous smart meter hacking demonstration did raise cyber security awareness within the smart grid community.
The discovery of the Stuxnet worm in July 2010 awakened the industry to the tangible and very complex threats to the Supervisory Control and Acquisition (SCADA) Systems that run todays semi-smart grid and are posed to take a central position in a fully integrated and controversial really smart grid. 
Stuxnet is a relatively silent worm that specifically targets and embeds itself into SCADA systems providing a potential means to wreak havoc.
The technical analysis on Stuxnet continues as it appears to be a very sophisticated attack not aimed at the electrical infrastructure. But if nothing else ,the threats security experts have been warning of for years have now moved from theory to reality. Since the industry is taking greater notice especially regulators and government , utilities will need to determine what cyber security measures are required - even as standards and regulations are still evolving.

2. Distributed Automation Will Rival AMI as the most visible Smart Grid Application
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) captured the most mindshare within the smart grid discussion.
Distribution Automation (DA) has been spurned by the threat and opportunity of plug in electric vehicles (PEVs) and distribution generation (DG) , as it moves to the earliest phases of actual commercial adoption.
The technological word association with the term distribution automation is likely to evolve as the industry confronts the realities of transforming the distribution network from a one - way to a multi way power network.
Distribution automation projects , whether they target leading edge applications or traditional reliability improvements.
They have the potential to deliver tangible benefits without requiring intensive consumer engagement or behaviour change.
3. The 'Bakersfield Effect will continue but some consumers will actually like the Smart Grid.Bakersfield Effect

 In Smart Grid history , 2010 is the year of the Bakersfield Effect.
This expression refers to the birthplace of loud consumer pushback on smart meters which was blamed for dramatically higher electricity bills experienced by PG&E customers in the summer of 2009.The Bakersfield Effect s impact on smart grid development
a. Consumers have been introduced to the smart grid through national news stories chronicling problems. This feeds an already well cultivated antagonism towards their local utility.
b. The uproar has spotlighted whether the benefits of smart meters (and the smart grid by association) are big enough , accessible enough , near enough to warrant the extra costs being passed on to consumers. The industry has been ill prepared to answer questions especially from the consumers
c. Fringe groups are questioning the health effects of RF- based AMI systems. Normally these claims would be easily dismissed , but the backlash atmosphere has spooked a few municipalities into banning smart grid deployments within its borders.
d. Regulators and especially politician , aware of the ruckus, are responding with a mix of rational questioning and irrational opportunism. Meanwhile , may utilities have responded with a mix of surprise and cluelessness.
4. Smart Meter and AMI focus will shift towards Europe and China
As large as these European deployment are , they pale in comparison to Chinas smart metering deployment plans which will come into focus in 2011. Chinas State Grid Corporation has thus focused on large scale ,high voltage transmissions system buildouts. However , it has also been quietly working on specific smart metering standards (mostly PLC based) and initial tenders across a number of provincial utilities already total over 40 million meters. Ultimately , plans for over 700 million smart meters across China by 2020 are being discussed, dwarfing the plans of any other regions. Whatever the timeline , the vast quantities involved will certainly focus the industrys attention on smart meters. Moreover , with the standard regime seemingly favouring indigenous smart meter manufacturers , China vendors are likely to become even stronger competitors across the globe. 
References :
[1] Smart Grid : Ten Trends to Watch in 2011 and Beyond by Bob Gohn and Clint Wheelock from Pike Research (Published in Q4 2010)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Can turning off Analogue TV make broadband better ?

Can turning off Analogue TV make broadband better ?

Global data traffic will increase by 39 times from current levels by 2014 , according to the wireless firm Cisco. This means data traffic of 3.6 exabytes per month which is equivalent to 39 billion gigabytes.
Every device that uses wireless technology uses a part of the spectrum. This includes remote locking car keys and remote controls right through to the latest smartphones or tablets.
With 4G technology and LTE just around, they are expected to provide some relieve some pressure on capacity. However , many see them as just a short term solution.
The radio spectrum is where all wireless communications takes place and has traditionally been ring fenced , with certain services using specific bandwidth. [1]
TV Channels are in one space , radio in another and telecommunications a third all entirely independent from one another. [1]
White spaces are the specific frequencies that are not always used within these groups of TV Channels , radio and telecommunications. These white spaces can be utilised by new technology designed to make use of every gap between broadcast .
More spaces are in frequencies are about to open up with the phasing out of analogue TV across the globe. The efficiency of Digital TV has left more spectrum open and white spaces to utilise. [1]
The range of this signals excites the developers of white space devices as they can permeate buildings in a way Wi-Fi cannot and it provide a neat solution especially in rural areas making information travel over significantly greater areas.
References :

1. BBC News - Can turning off analogue TV make broadband better.mht

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Smart Grid Survey

Oracle Utilities released its first survey C-level utility executives in March 2010. The Smart Grid Challenges & Choices Report surveyed 152 North American utility executives to understand their vision for the next 10 years , how they expect the smart grid to evolve our communities and homes and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
Of the 152 executives is that 53% are from the United States and 47% from Canada . Their roles or job titles are that of Owner/Partner, CEO, President, CFO, Principal, General Manager, Managing Director etc.
In the post I shall only focus on two surveys among others that were conducted , they are :
1. Priorities for the next decade.
There is a tie for the first place between improving service reliability and controlling customers costs . The data from the survey is as follows
Improving service reliability and operational efficiency (40%)
Controlling customer costs and limiting rate increases (40%)
Developing demand response and energy efficiency programs (33%)
Updating physical infrastructure (29%)
Implementing smart metering (26%)
2. Smart Grid Predictions : Those implementing Smart Grid : What do you think will take off fastest with customers ?
According to the survey smart grid
In home displays for real time usage cost data. (68%)
Smart appliances (41%)
Mobile device portals. (36%)
Distributed energy resources. (20%)
Electricity storage. (12%)
References :
Caroline Yu and Janice Hazen.
Oracle Utilities , Smart Grid Challenges and Choices Part2 :
North American Utility Executives
s real time usage and cost data is expected to be the most popular with customers. The data from the survey is as follows. Visions and Priorities

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ofcom delays 4G mobile auctions

Ofcom delays 4G mobile auctions
The auction would sell off a huge chunk of the available spectrum equivalent to three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today.

However, Ofcom has said it would cap how much of the spectrum firms can buy to ensure the mobile market stays competitive.

The bands being sold are the 800MHz and 2.6 Ghz frequencies which also includes parts of the frequencies used by analogue TV which is being switched off as digital TV is rolled out.

This extra spectrum will be used to support 4G mobile technologies which will mean among other things higher download speeds and better web browsing.

Vodafone released a statement “ We agree with Ofcom that there is time for reflection given that the spectrum will not be available until 2013 . It is very important to get the rules right to ensure that the rollout of 4G services benefits consumers and the wider economy.”

On the hand, the other mobile operator Three was the auction to take place earlier and it has voiced fears that it would run out of room in its 3G network.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Integrated Critical Communications Infrastructure for Smart Grid

Integrated Critical Communications Infrastructure for Smart Grid at Connectivity Week

On the 25th May 2011 at the Connectivity Week conference in Santa Clara, California USA , there was a very informative session and the main focus was on wireless networks to be used for Smart Grid Critical Communications.

“ Critical communications infrastructure that supports the likes of military , emergency services and law enforcement is protected to serve the public good and is not subject to everyday market focus.

Electricity is a strategic asset for all modern economics and adequate safeguards are needed to protect grid in much the same way.

One way of doing this is to allow utilities to share the dedicated spectrum and radio frequencies that support that support essential services.

The purpose of this session is to elucidate the rationale for utilities use of wireless to send and receive critical communications related to Smart Grid. “ [ Allan Weissberger ]

The key characteristics of the Critical Communications Infrastructure as highlighted by Kat Shoa from The Directive Group are :

    Supports military , emergency response and law enforcement
    Fundamental to public safety during emergencies
    Spans broad geographical areas
    QoS of utmost importance  Public vs. private networks  Security : physical security , data security  Integration / deployment timelines

Howard Liu , Network Architect , Southern California Edison (SCE)

His presentation shed light to what cutting edge utility has done to build and operate its own network.

His suggestions were :

               Utilities have to build their own integrated communications network for applications eg. Disaster recovery
                       They have to develop a road map for executing their network strategy
                       An integrating different sub-networks as a key issue

The other key points highlighted by Howard were :

SCEnet has been performing well for over 15 years SCE’s Unified Communications Architecture anticipates all enterprise communications needs

SCE’s Integrated Critical Communications Infrastructure has a vision of a Layered Communications Architecture

Utilities had to build their own Integrated Critical Infrastructure for Critical Applications

SCE will consider complementing that with a Telco company going forward

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Five Simple Ways to Tap Your Greatest Power

Five Simple Ways to Tap Your Greatest Power

Consumers may be the greatest untapped resource a utility has in the move towards the smart grid . Customers can be empowered to manage their own energy consumption and make behavioural changes that are favourable towards energy management. The potential for energy savings are enormous for both utilities and consumers.

One of the biggest challenges may very well be getting customers to change their energy consumption behaviours . Fortunately , recent studies have shown that consumers want to go green. Home owners in focus groups conducted by Green Research responded favourably to the idea that better information would give them greater control over their energy use

There are five basic principles that utilities can employ that can help turn customers into a great source of power .

Namely they are :

1. Educate

Utilities simply need to educate consumers of all opportunities the smart grid provides and how variable pricing and smart meters will arm them with the information they need to actively manage and reduce their energy costs.

2. Engage

Getting the customers attention and holding it by giving them a compelling reason to be involved in a conservation as a partner right from the start. By encouraging to take part in making a difference in not only their own energy output but that of the larger community as a whole will ultimately get consumers engaged in the bigger cause of energy efficiency.

3. Empower

The smart grid will allow consumers unprecedented access to their homes real time electricity usage information . Thus , customers will feel empowered by having control over their own energy usage and output as well as what they pay on a monthly basis.

4. Emphasize

Utilities need to emphasize that the smart grid can help them respond more efficiently to variable power production introduced by renewable sources , power outages and ultimately build fewer and decrease the use of carbon based power plants.

5. Equip

Utilities should provide the best option and tools to make home energy management possible. User friendly smart meters and home energy management systems with high tech flashy features will be important in attracting early adaptors who can be key influencers within the customer base. Giving customers what they want will ultimately benefit the utility by driving profits up and saving energy in peak demand periods.