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Fresh news on smart grid and green technologies

Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications ‘mess’

Vendors will tell you that the Internet of Things (IoT) is here today. We’re here to tell you that it isn’t.

This is your warning label. It’s the small print on the prescription that outlines all the nasty complications.

The first thing to realize is that many wireless communications protocols that allow home devices to exchange information aren’t interoperable.

Second, installing a home automation system will likely require investments in bridges, which are separate pieces of hardware that connect with home routers. But in time, this may be an unnecessary expense.

Third, the market is filled with vendors taking shots at one another’s wireless technology. There will likely be some disruption as protocols are sorted out and settled on.

Behind the scenes, groups and vendors are promoting a range of machine-to-machine wireless communication protocols, including Z-Wave, ZigBee, Insteon, Bluetooth Low Energy and new arrivals such as the Weightless standard. These are protocols that enable devices, light bulbs, thermostats, door locks, wireless speakers, security systems, lawn sprinklers and sensors of all kinds to talk with one another.

Features these wireless protocols all have in common are low energy and low bandwidth requirements, the goal being to extend battery life for as long as years. Most use mesh networks that enable devices to pass signals to one another, extending network range, reliability and redundancy. Wi-Fi is a big part of this, too, and cellular technology will be as well. Each has role to play in connecting things.

We’re still in the early days of the IoT and, to be fair, it’s important to note that device makers are being forced to make bets in an immature environment. But at this point, no one has made a bad bet.

For instance, in 2009, Schlage introduced a wireless locking system with a clever TV commercial showing a man using a BlackBerry to unlock his front door while he was miles away from his home.

More here.

Top 5 Data Center and IT Lessons Learned from the Cloud Giants

Do you want to” stand on the shoulders of giants”? One way of doing this is to use others’ IT lessons learned. In this whitepaper from Forrester Research, Amazon, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Rackspace contribute what they’ve learned while “living in the cloud.” The economics and efficiencies of the world’s largest cloud and hosting service providers can provide cloud lessons for all, whether you support a large or small-scale enterprise.

In this Nlyte-commissioned whitepaper, Forrester interviewed many of the leading web, cloud, and hosting providers and uncovered five key lessons enterprise IT can apply within its own environments.

Let’s face it:   the cloud model is continuously evolving. One of the best ways to adapt to an ever-changing infrastructure is to learn what other leaders (and cloud giants) have done right. In this report, Forrester discusses several factors that impact modern cloud computing platforms and how cloud organizations learned to adapt. These concepts include:

  • While Cloud And Hosting Service Providers Operate At Scale, There Are Differences
  • Size Matters: Large Scale Provides Economic Leverage . . . .
  • . . . . But The Benefits You Get At Size Aren’t As Unattainable As You Might Think
  • How Do They Do It? Standardization, Optimization, And Automation
  • Hardware Standardization And Simplification Sets The Stage For Operations At Scale
  • Automation Is The Key Enabler To Productivity And Efficiency
  • Aggressive Management Of Power And Cooling Is Universal

The proliferation of IT consumerization, new types of workloads and an explosion of data points has placed some new – amazing – challenges for the modern data center. These cloud giants have battled outages, growing pains, legacy systems, and so much more. Now, they’re here to deliver 5 very valuable lessons.

More here.

Smart Grid Program Supports More than 2,800 Jobs in 2013

ComEd has announced that work related to its sweeping smart grid initiative supported 2,871 full-time equivalent positions in 2013. The positions included nearly 1,000 direct full-time equivalent jobs at the utility and its contractors as well as more than 1,800 indirect positions created by the program. The data was submitted in the company’s 2013 grid modernization progress report to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

The report showed that the grid modernization program – a comprehensive effort to modernize and build a smart grid, improve system reliability and reduce outages, and deploy 4 million smart meters – produced 978 full-time equivalent positions, including 314 at the utility and 664 contractor positions. In addition, ComEd estimates that 1,893 indirect jobs were generated over the course of the year at a variety of businesses that benefit from the ripple effect of approximately $253 million in capital spending. ComEd works with the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory (REAL) at the University of Illinois to calculate the number of indirect positions resulting from the smart grid investment.

“From the very beginning of this program, one of our main objectives has been to create good-paying jobs across our service area, and we’re very excited to report that we’re exceeding the goals established by the Illinois General Assembly when it passed this important legislation,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. “We also have submitted a plan to accelerate the installation of smart meters this summer so we anticipate that this significant investment and expansive work under the Smart Grid program will remain a strong driver of economic growth for some time to come.”

More here.

MongoDB Partners With Silver Spring Networks to Scale Real-Time Smart Grid Data Platform

MongoDB today announced that Silver Spring Networks, a leading networking and solutions provider for smart energy networks, is building on the MongoDB database to seamlessly capture and store high volumes of rapidly changing, complex machine-to-machine (M2M) data for its new SilverLink(TM) Sensor Network. A revolutionary approach to unlocking insights from real-time Smart Grid data, the SilverLink Sensor Network enables developers to utilize previously unavailable or now-enriched data to deliver new applications and services for utilities and energy consumers, at up to 10x the speed and 1/10th the cost of traditional utility IT infrastructure.

The SilverLink Sensor Network produces near real-time analytics of fast moving data, as well as historical data, across a variety of parameters, such as temporal, geospatial and sensor-type, enabling utilities and application developers to extract deeper and actionable insights into energy usage patterns as they’re happening. Silver Spring Networks will also enable the MongoDB developer community to further accelerate development and deployment of new value-add applications that leverage Smart Grid data. Standard and new software-defined sensor components and applications will be made available to utilities, sensor network operators and consumers through the SilverLink App Store.

“The distributed M2M networks we deploy for smart grid and smart city applications capture millions of data streams that will exponentially grow as more devices are connected. Using a new cloud data service to model, correlate, aggregate, analyze and externalize these streams in parallel and in near real-time, the SilverLink Sensor Network will provide customers with insight to significantly increase energy efficiency, conservation and provide a higher level of customer service,” said Charles Sum, Vice President, Software Architecture and Analytics, Silver Spring Networks. “With MongoDB’s industry-leading NoSQL position and Silver Spring’s robust ecosystem, the partnership will bring the next generation of apps and developers to leverage the power of the SilverLink Sensor Network.”

More here.

Can telcos tap into the datacentre business?

There is something of a land grab going on at the moment. Commercial datacentre businesses and network operators are both expanding their facilities. They recognise that in our increasingly networked society, the requirement for datacentre capacity will continue to grow, driven by factors such as the vast increases in data volumes as well as changing business processes and IT paradigms.

Many telcos have become very serious about developing their datacentre businesses. It seems just about every network operator is intent on buying or building out footprint. Some are further ahead than others. In 2011, for example, CenturyLink bought Savvis and Verizon acquired Terremark. TeliaSonera has also expanded its datacentre facilities in recent years and T-Systems is currently building a vast 150,000m² datacentre – Germany’s largest – in Saxony, Anhalt, in response to “Germany’s high demand for cloud services”.

Many operators believe there are rich pickings to be had from the cloud. Analyst firm Gartner forecasts the cloud services market will be worth $20.6bn in two years, with both infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and cloud management and security services growing. In a recent note, it pointed to a slight reduction in the rate of growth in IT outsourcing – specifically co-location, hosting and datacentre outsourcing – as organisations shift to a cloud services model.

More here.

Accenture and Siemens form smart grid venture

Accenture and Siemens have formed a joint-venture company that will seek to bring together Siemens’ smart grid products and Accenture’s managed-services capabilities.

The Munich-based OMNETRIC Group will offer utility companies combined services focused on data management and systems integration, with the lure that such services will improve efficiency, grid operations and reliability.

The core focus will be to integrate operational technologies — such as distribution management and real-time grid operations — with IT systems such as meter data management, to support smart metering, demand response to manage energy consumption and virtual power plants to enable load management.

More here.

TI helps manufacturers connect more with launch of Internet of Things (IoT) cloud ecosystem

DALLAS, April 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Texas Instruments (TI) (NASDAQ: TXN) today introduced a third party ecosystem of Internet of Things (IoT) cloud service providers. This ecosystem will allow manufacturers using TI technology to connect with the IoT more easily and rapidly. The first members of the ecosystem include 2lemetry, ARM, Arrayent, Exosite, IBM, LogMeIn, Spark, and Thingsquare. Each member has demonstrated its cloud service offering on one or more of TI’s wireless connectivity, microcontroller (MCU) and processor solutions for a wide-range of IoT applications spanning industrial, home automation, health and fitness, automotive and more. Visit TI’s website to learn more about the IoT cloud ecosystem members and their offerings.

About TI’s cloud ecosystem
Manufacturers need proven hardware, software and an easy way to connect to the cloud, manage services and capitalize on the growing IoT market. The cloud ecosystem allows TI customers to find the best cloud service provider to meet their individual needs and get the most out of their TI-based IoT solutions.

Members of the TI IoT cloud ecosystem offer services to meet the growing needs of the IoT including integration of data into business processes, data analytics, customizable user portals and smart phone apps, and compatibility with multiple wireless technologies. The TI IoT cloud ecosystem is open to cloud service providers with a differentiated service offering and value-added services running on one of TI’s IoT solutions. If your company is interested in joining, please contact cloud-ecosystem@list.ti.com.

Quotes from TI IoT Cloud Ecosystem members
“We are excited to be a part of TI’s new cloud ecosystem, and are looking forward to playing an important role in enabling customer innovation with TI-based IoT solutions,” said Kyle Roche, CEO of 2lemetry. “By using 2lemetry’s ThingFabric IoT platform, we hope to help TI customers bring their IoT enabled solutions to market faster, quickly connecting and scaling their network of connected products.”

“At ARM, we believe that the Internet of Things will transform every business model on the planet,” said Adam Gould, vice president, IOTBU, ARM. “TI’s cloud ecosystem will accelerate that transformation with ARM® Sensinode™ software securely connecting billions of gateways and sensors to cloud platforms.”

“Arrayent is excited to be a member of TI’s IoT cloud ecosystem. TI’s silicon and software solutions are a key part of Arrayent’s truly complete and class-leading IoT platform. Our close collaboration dates back to 2007 and one of the industry’s first IoT product launches with Mattel Inc. Together we expect to accelerate our customers’ efforts to create compelling connected consumer products,” said Abid Hussain, vice president marketing at Arrayent.

“Exosite® enterprise-ready scalable cloud services, event processing engine, open platform for business systems integration, device and data marketplace tools and easy connectivity with TI hardware, makes it simple to build world-class connected product offerings quickly. We are proud to be a member of the TI cloud ecosystem initiative,” said Mark Benson, CTO at Exosite.

More here.

Why Opower’s IPO is so important to all of us

Virginia-based Opower went public on April 4. Shares soared on its first day of trading, opening more than 30% above the offering price, before drifting down a bit.

Opower sells to utilities – it currently has 93 utility customers. It analyzes energy usage data to provide end-users with information on their consumption and personalized recommendations on how to cut their bills.

First, it gives legitimacy to home energy management, a sub-sector that has perennially failed to meet expectations. Second, it provides a real-world example of successful analytics, another category that has been big-hat-no-cattle.

Third, it’s important that smart grid startups begin to achieve the exits that their investors demand. That’s the only hope for bringing venture investors back to the sector, which they have been avoiding in recent months. The more money spent by outsiders on electric power innovation, the sooner we all get the breakthroughs we need. Indeed, Forbes believes the IPO gives hope to the entire cleantech / green tech community.

What next?

Finally, the IPO is important because it may point the way to (and help raise the money for) the next stage in our industry’s evolution.

Adrian Tuck, head of Opower competitor Tendril, believes that the IPO is a signal to start moving to the next level. Writing in a company blog, he asks “Did Tendril and Opower really get into business to simply execute paper-based energy efficiency programs? Quite simply, no…at least we didn’t. So, what’s next?”

More here.

Smart Grid Program Supports More than 2,800 Jobs in 2013

ComEd announced that work related to its sweeping Smart Grid initiative supported 2,871 full-time equivalent positions in 2013. The positions included nearly 1,000 direct full-time equivalent jobs at the utility and its contractors as well as more than 1,800 indirect positions created by the program. The data was submitted this week in the company’s 2013 grid modernization progress report to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

The report showed that the grid modernization program – a comprehensive effort to modernize and build a smart grid, improve system reliability and reduce outages, and deploy 4 million smart meters – produced 978 full-time equivalent positions, including 314 at the utility and 664 contractor positions. In addition, ComEd estimates that 1,893 indirect jobs were generated over the course of the year at a variety of businesses that benefit from the ripple effect of approximately $253 million in capital spending. ComEd works with the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory (REAL) at the University of Illinois to calculate the number of indirect positions resulting from the smart grid investment.

“From the very beginning of this program, one of our main objectives has been to create good-paying jobs across our service area, and we’re very excited to report that we’re exceeding the goals established by the Illinois General Assembly when it passed this important legislation,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. “We also have submitted a plan to accelerate the installation of smart meters this summer so we anticipate that this significant investment and expansive work under the Smart Grid program will remain a strong driver of economic growth for some time to come.”

If approved by the ICC, the new plan will enable the utility to complete the installation of more than 4 million smart meters by 2018, ahead of the currently scheduled 2021. The acceleration is expected to save customers an additional $170 million compared to the current schedule. By allowing for two-way communications with the utility and real-time data, digital smart meters provide customers with greater control over energy consumption and costs and will make it easier to take advantage of new pricing programs.

More here.

Data Center Trends: Monitoring Data Centers

For data center facility managers (fms), having pertinent and extensive information about what is happening with their on-site power and distribution system is important. Data centers rely on uninterrupted power to conduct “business as usual” even when utility power fails. Today’s critical power systems designed to provide continuity of power at a data center should normal power fail are complex. Therefore, facility management (FM) and IT departments alike would benefit from a sophisticated monitoring and control system that aims to ensure reliable operation when called for.

There are various solutions on the market that offer different levels of capabilities for gathering, monitoring, analyzing, and acting on data from building systems, critical power generation, and distribution components and systems.

Fms can evaluate which type of system could work best for their data centers, and one way to do this is looking at four types of sophisticated power monitoring and control systems. There are two legacy systems: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and Building Management Systems (BMS), along with two newer system types: Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and Critical Power Management System (CPMS).

These four technologies have similarities and differences worth highlighting. Though each of the four systems can improve efficiency and operational reliability and enhance worker safety, because of their differences one technology may be more suitable for a specific installation than another.

Evaluating The Best Match

BMS and DCIM systems are designed to monitor and control both utility power and critical power for an entire facility but these do not operate at the speeds required to process large volumes of data in real time. A CPMS—which does have that speed—is dedicated to monitor, control, and analyze critical power generation and distribution systems for the entire data center and have that information available to managers. Choosing a system is not exclusionary. A CPMS will work alongside a BMS, a DCIM, or a SCADA.

A CPMS for a data center has the ability to monitor and report on the condition, operation, and status of automatic transfer switches, static transfer switches, generator paralleling switchgear, circuit breakers, load banks, paralleling bus, UPS, and other equipment using the display terminal. A CPMS also encompasses technical service and support—essential to ensuring emergency power reliability and availability. It can also interact with a data center BMS, helping fms make sure these are maintained in tiptop condition. Lack of proper maintenance is the leading cause of on-site power failure to start.

Power quality analytics is another component of CPMS systems that ensures continued operation and helps with what-if analysis or in preventing potential power problems.

More here.

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