By rights, since we're almost three weeks into 2011, I shouldn't be writing any more predictive sorts of blogs. But I just got through reading one about anticipated smart grid trends published late in December 2010 by analyst firm PikeResearch (Smart Grid: Ten Trends to Watch in 2011 and Beyond), and there are definitely some gems to share out of the 10 different themes that are highlighted. Here are my favorites:
- Smart grid security will take on even more urgency. The big factor here is the emergence of the Stuxnet worm in July 2010, which was focused on the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) features that are part of may applied technologies, including the smart grid. Progress around the security guidelines released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be something we have to keep tabs on during 2011. Pike Research predicts that spending for cybersecurity related to the smart grid will reach 2013 in 2013, compared with $700 million last year.
- Watch for the rise of "distribution automation" applications on the smart grid. These solutions are aimed at protecting the grid against the possible impact of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and distributed generation models. The goal of this software is both to help improve electricity supply reliability and address demand response concerns that could develop as more electric vehicles are added to the grid. I'm not crazy about the term "distribution automation" but then again I'm not a utility executive. This is an area I tend to think of as Demand Respond 2.0 or Intelligent Energy Supply Management, management that doesn't require human intervention. (See my recent post about this issue.)
- Communications standards will catch up with deployments. Let's be real. We are fickle creatures of technology. We all hate the idea of mandated standards, yet we're reluctant to buy technologies using standards that haven't been finalized. In its paper, the Pike Research analysts point out that many of the networking standards that could play a role in the smart grid of the future -- such as the OpenWay system established by Itron, platforms from Echelon, SmartSynch and Ambient, or the new ZigBee Smart Energy Profile -- will finally work with third-party applications. There are a dizzying array of possibilities it is following from broad specifications such as WiMAX and Wi-Fi to proprietary mesh, microwave and land-line based technologies. Maybe 2011 will bring more clarity about what works, and what doesn't.
- Data management becomes hard. Really hard. More smart meters and smart grid deployments means more information to track. That's why so many utilities have been looking really hard at their back-end databases and business intelligence infrastructure. Figuring out which utilities can handle the data elegantly and seamlessly could be a hiccup in the smart grid adoption process.
- Telecos and networking vendors enter the networking fray. We've already heard smart grid strategies from high-tech giants such as IBM, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. This should be the year where more details emerge and more companies become involved in the deployed frenzy. Remember, the one of the biggest infrastructure surrounding smart grid is communications, so you can pretty much expect any IT networking vendor or wireless carrier with money to invest to set its sights on a piece of those rollouts.