Cisco, German utility Yello Strom team for Smart Grid pilot project

Cisco Systems has recently stepped up its participation in the Smart Grid — the formation of a cleaner, more efficient electrical grid. Two weeks ago, it formed a coalition of Smart Grid companies that agreed to ensure interoperability between their devices and services. Today, it announced that it is partnering with top German utility Yello Strom, to roll out a Smart Grid pilot program aimed at giving energy consumers the information they need to cut their usage and electrical bills.

The program will cover about 70 German homes and businesses, which will be outfitted with smart meters and IP networks designed to transmit data about energy consumption to the utility and its customers in real time. They will also receive home energy management dashboards, slicing and splicing this data, indicating how much energy various appliances are using, and giving users the ability to set rules for their buildings. For example, a homeowner in the program would be able to say it only want to run their clothes dryer during off-peak periods when electricity is cheaper.

Yello Strom will be providing the meters, called Yello Sparzaehlers, while Cisco administers and secures the networks used the transmit and receive the massive amounts of data generated. Cisco’s expertise comes in providing cybersecurity, especially defending against hacker attacks that could disrupt the grid and cause costly disruptions in service. It also strives to provide a more sensitive network capable of responding to changes in energy flow. For example, if the grid is stretched during peak demand, the network would receive signals that power needs to be shut off or redistributed to prevent blackouts.

One of the main goals of the pilot is also to integrate more renewable sources of energy, particularly solar and combined heat. Eventually, energy consumers could choose to add a certain amount of renewable energy sources to their power mix. Considering that Germany is the leader in solar energy development, including rooftop panel generation, this will be increasingly vital for new electrical grid systems in the country.

Yello Strom made news in July when it first introduced the Sparzahler meter, one of the first models to integrate with Google PowerMeter, allowing consumers to view their energy consumption and spending via any internet browser. The meter is also capable of tweeting your energy use at various intervals, so you can share with your Twitter followers exactly how much you are consuming at any given time — a motivating tool if you’re trying to cut down. As always, the Yello Strom meters will be using home broadband networks, instead of using a general wireless network, allowing for faster data retrieval and fewer outages.

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