Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting Smart About the ‘Next Internet’

Cisco Systems has identified more than $20 billion in business opportunities in the smart grid arena. In an interview, smart grid guru Laura Ipsen said the networking giant predicts smart grid will be bigger than the internet. And they are working to avoid many of the missteps we saw during the rapid expansion of the web, including open architectures and standards – and privacy and security issues.

An Edison Foundation brief shows what a huge shot in the arm stimulus funding has been for smart meter deployments, a major part of smart grid development. However, no sooner did the meter hit the wall then the skirmishes began. Pilots including new pricing models for energy shook up customers from California to Texas and also raised questions about who owns (and protects) customer data.

More alarming is talk of hackers not only invading our privacy, but even cutting off our electricity through the 2-way wireless chip. In March, DC-based security consultant InGuardians, Inc. told AP that a study commissioned by three unnamed utilities revealed flaws – yet to be exploited – in the meters’ design that leave customers vulnerable.

With the promise of the smart grid – greater efficiency, customer control, new product innovation, and integration of renewables – let’s hope we can avoid some of pitfalls that stalled and nearly crippled e-commerce during the internet bonanza. We will need to fix the technology, to be sure. More importantly, we need to build confidence among consumers that smart grid benefits are real and the risks are small and getting smaller.

This is a real communications challenge that involves more than consumer education. Many utilities will need to re-think how and where they talk with their customers. Many are already moving in that direction. Watch for the success stories – and stumbles – to come.

- Potomac Communications Group

No comments:

Post a Comment