The Wi-Fi Alliance has created a task force to work on setting standards so that Wi-Fi can play a large role in future development of the cleaner, more efficient Smart Grid. Today, this new group released a white paper exploring all of the areas Wi-Fi could aid in communication between the new electric meters, utilities and their customers.
The alliance, which usually reviews new devices for Wi-Fi certification, is very concerned with the standards piece of the puzzle. For a while now, differing standards have been a thorn in the side of network providers and Smart Grid companies alike. The goal is to have all of the technology, software and hardware alike, built into the new grid be interoperable. But as new companies launch with proprietary networks and form their own standard ecosystems (Cisco and IBM among them), this is becoming an increasingly complex mission. Many companies are reluctant to share their technologies with competitors for the sake of open-standards operation.
But this is starting to change, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a government agency, stepping in to take on the generation of universal standards. Now industry leaders appear to be feeling more comfortable with an open-standards approach, but there’s still a ways to go.
In order for Wi-Fi companies to capture a chunk of the Smart Grid business, they will need to keep a close eye on standards, ensuring that it can communicate seamlessly with its prospective customers.
The Smart Grid revolution is based squarely on the introduction of real-time data transmission to the electrical system. Wi-Fi is an obvious player in this space, providing a low-energy, short-distance mode for delivering data wirelessly and efficiently. It could be the best option for sending data between smart meters, consumer facing home energy dashboards (think Tendril, EnergyHub, GreenBox, OpenPeak, take your pick) and utilities’ back end systems, allowing for demand response and other conservation programs to work their magic.
Right now, Smart Grid companies are all over the map when it comes to tapping into wireless networks. SmartSynch, for example, has joined forces with AT&T to transmit energy data over their open public networks. Silver Spring Networks relies on a proprietary network, and Grid Net is pushing WiMax as the best option. It will be interesting to see if a clear winner emerges among them. Wi-Fi is certainly a logical contender.
VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Register for your ticket today at GreenBeat2009.com.