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Finding best available technologies for meeting energy needs today and tomorrow: energy efficiency, demand response,, solar, wind, electric vehicles, biofuels and smart grid. It’s all the innovations that make the energy we use more secure, clean, and affordable. The energy world's best hopes lie in what's happening in the digital realm, especially in data analytics.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Standards for Standards

Interoperability is the capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to share and readily use information securely and effectively with little or no inconvenience to the user. What makes a standard interoperable?
Layered Architecture
The Smart Grid should have a layered architecture. Layering is a winning principle of Internet development: Technologies develop independently at their own layer, at their own speed. Generality: each layer is an occasion for interface design, inviting generality. Standard interfaces and technologies can be developed and interchanged.

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1. Background
2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
6. Next Steps
7. Links


  • It is now hard to imagine ATM cards that only worked at one bank instead of every bank, but that was the case at first. Now, each bank can have its own internal security and proprietary system in place, but with the open standards developed by the banking industry use one ATM card can withdraw or deposit funds from almost anywhere in the world. Similarly, it is hard to imagine cell phone customers who could not speak to any other cell phone company customer or land line. If each cell phone company prevented the free flow of the signals from one cell phone system to the other, the telecom technology boom of the last quarter century would have been seriously impaired.

  • Priority areas for Smart Grid Standards identified by the DOE include:
    1. Demand response
    2. Wide-area situational awareness
    3. Electric storage
    4. Electric transportation
    5. Advanced metering
    6. Distribution grid management
    7. Cyber security
    8. Data networking

2. Acronyms/Definitions

  1. Architecture - Philosoply and structural patterns encompassing technical and business designs, demonstrations, implementations, and standards that, together, convey a common understanding of the Smart Grid. The architecture embodies high-level principles and requirements that designs of Smart Grid Applications must satisfy.
  2. Composition - Building of complex interfaces from simpler ones.
  3. Extensibility - Enables adding new functions or modifying existing ones
  4. Interoperability - The capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to exchange and readily use information - securely, effectively, and with little or no inconvenience to the user. The Smart Grid will be a system of interoperable systems. That is, different systems will be able to exchange meaningful, actionable information. The systems will share a common meaning of the exchanged information, and this information will elicit agreed upon types of response. The reliabilty, fidelity, and security of information exchanges between and among Smart Grid systems much acheive requisite performation levels.
  5. Layers Systems - Separates functions, with each layer providing services to the layer above and receiving services from the layer below.
  6. Loose Coupling - A flexible platform that can support valid bilateral and multilateral transactions without elaborate pre-arrangement
  7. OSI Model - Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model - Sometimes called the seven layer model- An abstract description for layered communications and computer network protocol design. In its most basic form, it divides network architecture into seven layers which, from top to bottom, are the Application, Presentation, Session, Transport, Network, Data-Link, and Physical Layers. A layer is a collection of conceptually similar functions that provide services to the layer above it and receives service from the layer below it. Understanding and applying layering helps avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on one layer because of the implementation of adjacent layers.
    1. The physical layer is the media by which bits are exchanged.
    2. The data link layer (e.g., media access control or MAC) is where the exchange of frames (many bits) is performed.
    3. The network layer is the level where paths are determined and logical addressing is applied for packets (many frames).
    4. The Transport layer forms end-to-end connections and segments (many packets) are exchanged.
    5. The session layer deals with inter-host communication.
    6. The presentation layer deals with data representation and encryption.
    7. The application layer is the level at which interaction with a user is attained
  8. Shallow Integration - Does not require detailed mutual information to interact with other managed or configured components.
  9. Standards - Specifications that establish the fitness of a product for a particular use or that define the function and performance of a device or system. Standards are key facilitators of compatibility and interoperability. They define specification for languages, communication protocols, data formats, linkages within and across systems, interfaces between software applications and between hardware devices. Standards must be robust so that they can be extended to accomodate future applications and technologies..
  10. Symmetry - Bi-directional flows of energy and information
  11. Transparency - Transparent and auditable chain of transactions

3. Business Case

  1. Interoperability - When a new device is added to the system, interoperability will enable it to register itself in the grid upon installation, communicate its capabilities to neighboring systems, and cause the connectivity database and control algorithms to update themselves automatically.
    Evidence from other industries indicates that interoperability generates tangible cost savings and intangible benefits amounting to 0.3%–4% in cost savings or avoided construction. In the electric power industry, that could result in a net benefit of up to $12.6 billion per year. Interoperability has three main stages:
    • Communications - The message “packet” travels through the network correctly…right place/time and is capable of being understood by the application.
    • Applications (aka inter-workability) - The contents of the packet are understood and the correct actions are performed by the application in the required time frame.
    • Scenario - Applications/devices exchange and act upon “metadata” to perform system administration tasks… “plug and work” Emphasizes the pragmatic business and policy aspects of interoperation, especially pertaining to the management of electricity.
  2. Cyber Security is critical and must be managed over the life-cycle of the systems deployed. Cyber security is fundamentally about managing risk. Security must be commensurate with the vulnerabilities and exposures from any given application. Security must be considered at the time the application requirements are being developed since the domain experts are in the best position to understand what is at stake.
  3. Loose Coupling is a design tenet for scalable, high performance architectures, used in enterprise software and device component design today. Loosely coupled standards enable shallow integration of diverse technologies will be required for smart grid interoperability and to support diversity and innovation.
  4. Shallow integration, driven by the requirement for minimum knowledge, extends the reach of each standard, and enhances the value of composition. The market operations and load curtailment for (say) electricity and natural gas might be the same. Management.
  5. Symmetry is the principle that each action can run both ways: buyers of power at one moment can be sellers at the next. Symmetry is a fundamental characteristic of Net Zero Energy buildings. Integrating Distributed Energy Resources need attention to symmetry for energy flow and management.
  6. Transparency goes hand in hand with symmetry and the emergence of options in every market. Do you want to buy a certain class of power as part of a carbon strategy, in a multiparty marketplace? There needs to be a transparent and auditable chain of transactions showing that the markets actually cleared in each class of power.
  7. Seams – The boundaries between adjacent electricity related organizations. Differences in regulatory requirements, operating practices or data definitions may create seams problems.
  8. Decreasing Latency - Since many grid applications cannot tolerate delays between transmission and reception
  9. Upgradability - Making meters remotely upgradeable so they won't go obsolete as quickly
  10. Minimum Standards - For all devices and networks

Enterprise Systems, Communications and Layers in a Smart Grid Deployment

4. Benefits

  • Compatibility - Avoid incompatible systems being fielded that result in costly replacements ahead of projections.
  • Competition - Foster open access, competition and commercial growth of new technologies that offer energy consumers new ways to meet their energy needs while at the same time saving them money.
  • Cost - Standards focus investment to lower costs, to increase value through connectivity.
  • Innovation - Serendipity is encouraged, innovation accelerated.

5. Risks/Issues
  • Testing - Standardization does not always result in interoperability. Unless the scope of a standard includes interoperability tests or guidelines, at best a technology would be in compliance with the standard. A dedicated user’s community needs to be tasked to identify interoperability requirements, write tests to validate products, and certify those results.
  • False Analogy - The Smart Grid is different than the Internet:
    • The network must be absolutely reliable
    • Endpoints must be much lower cost
    • Device hardware can’t be upgraded often
    • Can’t just ignore very rural customers
    • Need security all the time, not just sometimes
  • Maturity - Applications are still being defined. The degree of openness and the balance with security concerns for the smart grid's communication and networking infrastructure still needs to be determined.
  • Complexity - The number of stakeholders, range of considerations and applicable standards are very large and complex. The smart grid implementation has already started, and will be implemented as an “evolution” of successive projects over a decade or more.
  • Monopoly Power - The old AT&T and IBM monopolies tended to move all their proprietary layers in lock step, which is one reason they were left behind.
  • Stranded Asset - Legacy equipment that is rendered obsolete or uneconomical to operate. But it’s possible that we are in the process of stranding many new assets by installing them now, before standards are in place.

6. Success Factors
  • Mature specifications
  • Involved user group
  • Certification process
  • Revision process
  • Marketing, labeling
  • Implementations
  • Tool sets
  • Agreement on:
    • What information is to be exchanged?
    • What is the data to be named?
    • Who is permitted to talk?
    • What frequencies and signals are used?
    • What the connector looks like?

7. Links
  1. Smart Grid: A Beginner's Guide by NIST - A readable and jargon-free rundown on the basics of smart grid and standards. No lengthy descriptions of synchrophasor technology or meter data management, just the nuts and bolts of what smart grid is and why standards are such a key part of it.
  2. Smart Grid News – An Idiot’s Guide to Standards
  3. GridWise Architecture Council Interoperability Checklist

Monday, May 28, 2012

Smart Meter Data Privacy

Utilities must take privacy and security concerns into account when designing AMI and must persuade consumers, regulators and politicians that privacy interests are adequately protected.

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1. Background
2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks
6. Issues
7. Success Criteria
8. Companies/Organizations
9. Links

  • Many people also have privacy concerns if this more detailed energy usage information becomes public. Some say it is a virtual biography of household activity in near real-time. Humidity measurements can disclose private information such as human presence. Hourly power averages such as the ones produced by California's AMI system may also be used to determine presence and sleep cycles, although to a coarser degree.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled need a warrant to use thermal imaging device from outside the home to see marijuana heat lamps because violates sanctity of the home. Utility records business records fall outside the 4th Amendment protection. What will be the protections for real time data?

2. Acronyms/Definitions
  1. AES - Advanced Encryption Standard - A symmetric-key encryption standard adopted by the U.S. government. A Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), specifically, FIPS Publication 197, that specifies a cryptographic algorithm for use by US Government organizations to protect sensitive, unclassified information.

  2. CISPA - Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act - A proposed law in the United States which would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill is to help the U.S government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyberattack.

    CISPA has been criticized by advocates of Internet privacy and civil liberties who argue CISPA contains too few limits on how and when the government may monitor a private individual’s Internet browsing information. Additionally, they fear that such new powers could be used to spy on the general public rather than to pursue malicious hackers.

    What sparked significant privacy worries is the section of CISPA that says "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies may share information "with any other entity, including the federal government." It doesn't, however, require them to do so.

    By including the word "notwithstanding," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) intended to make CISPA trump all existing federal and state civil and criminal laws. (It's so broad that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service once warned that using the term in legislation may "have unforeseen consequences for both existing and future laws.") "Notwithstanding" would trump wiretap laws, Web companies' privacy policies, gun laws, educational record laws, census data, medical records, and other statutes that protect information, warns the ACLU's Richardson: "For cybersecurity purposes, all of those entities can turn over that information to the federal government."

  3. CPNI - Customer Proprietary Network Information - The data collected by telecommunications companies about a consumer'stelephone calls. It includes the time, date, duration and destination number of each call, the type of network a consumer subscribes to, and any other information that appears on the consumer's telephone bill. It may provide a useful model for the development of rules and regulations governing the use and distribution of personal, sensitive information that will be gathered as smart grid technologies are deployed.

    Telemarketers working on behalf of telephone companies, attempting to either win back a customer or upsell a customer with more services, must ask the customer's consent before accessing the billing information or before using that information to offer an upsell or any change of services. Usually this is done at the beginning of a call from the telemarketer to the telephone subscriber.

  4. FIP - Fair Information Practice Principles - Guidelines created by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that represent widely-accepted concepts concerning fair information practice in an electronic marketplace.
    1. Notice/Awareness - Consumers should be given notice of an entity's information practices before any personal information is collected from them This requires that companies explicitly notify of some or all of the following:
      • Identification of the entity collecting the data;
      • Identification of the uses to which the data will be put;
      • Identification of any potential recipients of the data;
      • The nature of the data collected and the means by which it is collected;
      • Whether the provision of the requested data is voluntary or required;
      • The steps taken by the data collector to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and quality of the data.

    2. Choice/Consent - Choice and consent in an online information-gathering sense means giving consumers options to control how their data is used. Specifically, choice relates to secondary uses of information beyond the immediate needs of the information collector to complete the consumer's transaction. The two typical types of choice models are 'opt-in' or 'opt-out.' The 'opt-in' method requires that consumers affirmatively give permission for their information to be used for other purposes; without the consumer taking these affirmative steps in an 'opt-in' system, the information gatherer assumes that it cannot use the information for any other purpose. The 'opt-out' method requires consumers to affirmatively decline permission for other uses.

    3. Access/Participation - Access as defined in the Fair Information Practice Principles includes not only a consumer's ability to view the data collected, but also to verify and contest its accuracy. This access must be inexpensive and timely in order to be useful to the consumer.

    4. Integrity/Security - Information collectors should ensure that the data they collect is accurate and secure. They can improve the integrity of data by cross-referencing it with only reputable databases and by providing access for the consumer to verify it. Information collectors can keep their data secure by protecting against both internal and external security threats. They can limit access within their company to only necessary employees to protect against internal threats, and they can use encryption and other computer-based security systems to stop outside threats.

      The integrity security service addresses prevention of unauthorized modification of data (both stored and communicated). Modification of both stored and communicated data may include changes, insertions, deletions or duplications. Additional potential modifications that may result when data is exposed to communications channels include sequence changes. The integrity service also addresses the problem of ensuring that communicating components can correctly identify those that they are communicating with.

    5. Enforcement/Redress - In order to ensure that companies follow the Fair Information Practice Principles, there must be enforcement measures. The FTC identified three types of enforcement measures: self-regulation by the information collectors or an appointed regulatory body; private remedies that give civil causes of action for individuals whose information has been misused to sue violators; and government enforcement, which can include civil and criminal penalties levied by the government.

  5. NILM - Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring - A process for analyzing changes in the voltage and current going into a house and deducing what appliances are used in the house as well as their individual energy consumption. The system can measure both reactive power and real power. Hence two appliances with the same total power draw can be distinguished by differences in their complex impedance. A refrigerator electric motor and a pure resistive heater can be distinguished in part because the electric motor has significant changes in reactive power when it turns on and off, whereas the heater has almost none.

    NILM can detect what types of appliances people have and their behavioral patterns. Patterns of energy use may indicate behavior patterns, such as routine times that nobody is at home, or embarrassing or illegal behavior of residents, without the homeowner knowing that they are being monitored. An exceptionally large fluorescent light power draw, for example, might be due to an indoor marijuana farm.

  6. SB 1476 - California law, enacted in September 2010, that prohibits an electrical corporation or gas corporation from sharing, disclosing, or otherwise making accessible to any 3rd party a customer’s electrical or gas consumption data, as defined, except as specified, and requires those utilities to use reasonable security procedures and practices to protect a customer’s& unencrypted electrical and gas consumption data from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure. The law also
    • Prohibits an electrical corporation or gas corporation from selling a customer’s electrical or gas consumption data or any other personally identifiable information for any purpose.
    • Prohibits an electrical corporation or gas corporation from providing an incentive or discount to a customer for accessing the customer’s electrical or gas consumption data without the prior consent of the customers.
    • Requires that an electrical or gas corporation that utilizes an advanced metering infrastructure that allows a customer to access the customer’s electrical and gas consumption data to ensure that the customer has an option to access that data without being required to agree to the sharing of his or her personally identifiable information with a 3rd party.
    • FIP Tranparency Principle - Provides that, if the electrical corporation or gas corporation contracts with a 3rd party for a service that allows a customer to monitor his or her electricity or gas usage, and the 3rd party uses the data for a secondary commercial purpose, the contract between the electrical or gas corporation and the 3rd party shall provide that the 3rd party prominently discloses that secondary commercial purpose to the customer.

3. Business Case
  • On July 28, 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved rules to protect the privacy and security of customer usage data generated by Smart Meters. The decision requires utilities to provide pricing, usage, and cost data to customers online and updated at least on a daily basis. Each day's usage data, along with applicable price and cost details, and with hourly or 15-minute granularity (matching the time granularity programmed into a Smart Meter), must be available by the next day. The rules require require the three utilities to: 
    • Provide customers with detailed energy usage, bill-to-date, month-end bill forecast, and projected month-end energy price on their websites – updated daily 
    • Provide "tier alerts" via some form of rapid communication (email, tweets, etc.) when customers move from one price tier to the next 
    •  Provide a website calculator to help consumers determine if they would save money by switching to a time-of-use rate 
    • Allow consumers to authorize third parties to receive their backhauled smart meter data directly from the utility · Set up a program to roll out home area networking devices to be directly connected with smart meters.
  • These CPUC rules empower consumers by ensuring they get the data they need - and protect them by ensuring that NO data is released to Anyone outside the utility without the consumer's knowledge and permission. The rules protect utilities by laying out clear rules of the road - and clarifying that utilities are not liable for a third party misusing the data when the consumer has authorized the third party to receive the data. The CPUC considered all of the issues very thoughtfully and came down with a balanced approach that promotes innovation while providing strong consumer protections.The proposal voted on is available at
  • The above rule is based on the policy the CPUC adopted in May 2010 that utilities must give access to energy consumption data to individual consumers and their appointed third-party providers by the end of 2010 and then provide the data in a somewhat real-time manner by the end of 2011. To do that, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are all rolling out their own web portals or partnering with third parties to provide that information Up until now, the problem has been that the data has not been available.
  • In May 2011, The CPUC came out with a proposed ruling aimed at clearing up all the questions about who owns and controls data that passes through smart meters, utility back-office platforms and customers’ in-home devices. It also sets out to define who’s responsible for all that data.
    • The proposed privacy rules are based on the Fair Information Practice (FIP) Principles, which originated in 1973 and have subsequently become the basis of many privacy laws in the US and many other countries. Descriptions of these principles and additional information about data privacy can be found at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) website.
    • The CPUC assessed how the FIP principles map to provisions in the Public Utility Code and a California law passed in 2010 – SB1376 – that specifically addressed energy use data. Analysis determined that there is clear alignment with five principles – Transparency, Individual Participation, Purpose Specification, Use Limitation and Data Security. The principles that did not have direct linkages are still considered to be “consistent with California law and policy objectives” .
    • Each utility must provide pricing, usage and cost data to customers in a customer-friendly manners.. Specifically, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E must offer residential customers bill-to-date, bill forecast data, projected month-end tiered rate, a rate calculator, and notifications to customers as they cross rate tiers. They are directed to work with the California Independent System Operator to improve customer access to wholesale electricity prices. PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E each must file an advice letter within six months that provides customers with access to usage, price, and billing data. Each must also commence a pilot study within six months on how to provide real-time or near real-time pricing information to customers.
    • Because the CPUC can’t directly control the interested companies that want to leverage that data -- Google, EnerNOC and Control4 all participated in the rule making-- it created rules for devices that will access the data from the smart meter. Regardless of how the data is obtained – from smart meters or from third party devices, the CPUC stated it will ensure equal regulatory treatment for third parties who acquire usage data from the utility via a smart meter or through an internet-connected
    • For consumers who want to share their information with an outside company, a utility tariff will require that any home area network device that is “locked” to a certain third party, which will start transferring information from the smart meter, must be in compliance with the CPUC requirements. The utilities have six months to create those tariffs.
    • For devices that aren’t locked into a particular third party, the utility will be charged with making consumers aware of “the potential uses and abuses of usage data should the customer forward or otherwise provide the data to another entity.”
    • The decision also adopts a framework to allow customers to authorize third parties who agree to comply with the adopted privacy and security rules to receive usage data from utilities via the “backhaul.
    • SDG&E must continue to provide third parties access to customer usage data and PG&E and SCE must initiate such a service. PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E must each file an advice letter within six months that creates a tariff to provide third parties, with customer authorization, with usage and billing information consistent with the polices and rules adopted to protect the privacy of customers.
    • The decision orders the three utilities to commence pilot studies within six months to connect Home Area Network-enabled devices to Smart Meters to provide real-time or near-real-time pricing information to their customers.
    • The decision also adopts reporting and audit requirements regarding the utilities’ customer data privacy and security practices, third-party access to customer usage information, and any security breaches of customer usage information.
    • The decision does not answer the question about whether or not it has the authority to regulate either the customer or other entities that acquire any energy usage data that bypasses the utility. A separate phase of this proceeding will address whether or not these rules apply to gas corporations, community choice aggregators, energy service providers, and other electric utilities outside of the IOUs.
    • The full Commission has to act on this proposal, and has the options to enact some or all of it; modify some or all of it; or ignore it and prepare its own decision. Comments may be filed on this proposed decision, and I’m sure we’ll see a number of parties offering reactions

4. Benefits
CPUC Order

  • Transparency (Notice) - Covered entities shall provide customers with meaningful, clear, accurate, specific, and comprehensive notice regarding the collection, storage, use, and disclosure of covered information. Covered entities shall provide notice in their first paper or electronic correspondence with the customer, if any, and shall provide conspicuous posting of the notice or link to the notice on the home page of their website.
  • Data Minimization - Covered entities shall collect, store, use, and disclose only as much covered information as is reasonably necessary or as authorized by the Commission to accomplish a specific primary purpose or for a specific secondary purpose authorized by the customer.
    • (b) Data Retention. Covered entities shall maintain covered information only for as long as reasonably necessary or as authorized by the Commission to accomplish a specific primary purpose identified in the notice required under section 2 or for a specific secondary purpose authorized by the customer.
    • (c) Data Disclosure. Covered entities shall not disclose to any third party more covered information than is reasonably necessary or as authorized by the Commission to carry out on behalf of the covered entity a specific primary purpose identified in the notice required under section 2 or for a specific secondary purpose authorized by the customer.
  • Use and Disclosure Limitation - Covered information shall be used solely for the purposes specified by the covered entity. An electrical corporation may collect, store and use covered information for primary purposes without customer consent. Other covered entities may collect, store and use covered information only with prior customer consent, except as otherwise provided here.
  • Data Quality and Integrity - Covered entities shall ensure that covered information they collect, store, use, and disclose is reasonably accurate and complete or otherwise compliant with applicable rules and tariffs regarding the quality of energy usage data.
  • Data Security - Covered entities shall implement reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect covered information from unauthorized access, destruction, use,
    modification, or disclosure
  • Accountability and Auditing - Covered entities shall be accountable for complying with the requirements herein, and must make available to the Commission upon request or audit—
    1. The privacy notices that they provide to customers,
    2. Their internal privacy and data security policies,
    3. The identities of agents, contractors and other third parties to which they disclose covered information, the purposes for which that information is disclosed, indicating for each category of disclosure whether it is for a primary purpose or a secondary purpose,
    4. Copies of any secondary-use authorization forms by which the covered party secures customer authorization for secondary uses of covered data.

5. Risks
  • Marketers can’t buy information from your utility company, but hope to access your data by getting you to sign an authorization form for release of your smart meter information. And there aren’t rules regarding third-parties, such as websites, software, mobile apps or electronic displays that help monitor energy usage.
    • Imagine getting a call from your computer’s manufacturer informing you that your use voided your warranty.
    • Imagine getting on-screen advertising for new dryers from Samsung and Whirlpool when energy use showed you had to run your dryer longer than usual.
    • Imagine your health insurance going up because you never use your treadmill or your home insurance going up because you don’t actually set that fancy alarm that got you a discount
  • Law Enforcement traditionally must get a search warrant to access meter data from your utility company, just like they would to search anywhere else in your home. Those protections don’t apply to data revealed to third parties—such as a company that helps you monitor your energy use online or from a smart phone, or a company that makes a counter-top device to monitor energy use.
  • Criminals - Such as burglars, vandals or abusive partners could monitor real-time data and patterns to see when your house is vacant—or not.
  • Abusive Partners may be able to track and monitor victims who have gone into hiding by using personal information transmitted through the Smart Grid.
  • Identity Thieves and computer hackers could gain access to your unique data from the smart grid, and either match it to other financial data, or use it to fraudulently impersonate you as a utility customer, ruining your credit.

6. Issues
  • Jurisdiction Over Third Parties
    • What authority does the Commission have over entities that receive information on a consumer's energy usage from the utility? What actions, if any, can the Commission take in response to misuse of data by such an entity?
    • What authority, if any, does the Commission have over entities that receive information on a consumer's energy usage from sources other than the utility (from a HAN device or from the customer, for example)? What actions, if any, can the Commission take in response to misuse of data by such an entity?
    • What authority the Commission has over those entities not involved in utility operations that have obtained customer approval to access their usage data?
  • Closed Markets for Information - As long as the utilities hold onto meter data and don’t share it with everybody, the market will be very constrained on what can be done without spending a lot of money.
  • Usage Privacy - A major concern is that folks don't want to be inundated with telemarketing calls associated with their usage behavior," he says. "There's also some concern about what they're doing being known minute by minute. The average utility customer does not understand why a utility would want to know how often she opens her refrigerator door, how many loads of laundry she does on what days -- yet that data and more will be available to utilities. ;A person can drop their cell phone and walk away or choose to use cash rather than a traceable credit card -- but people can’t just choose not to use power in their home, thus they are locked into the decisions about privacy that will be made as the smart grid develops.
  • Data Ownership - When does the customer “own” the data? That’s a tricky question. Utilities in most states are considered to be custodians, rather than owners, of the energy data that comes from their customers. Still, they own the smart meters that deliver the data, and the back-office IT that calculates bills — and they’ve got to protect that data from misuse.
  • FIP Weaknesses - The FIPs are criticized by some scholars for being less comprehensive in scope than privacy regimes in other countries, in particular in European Union and other OECD countries. Additionally, the FTC's formulation of the principles has been criticized in comparison to those issued by other agencies. The FTC's 2000 version of FIPs is shorter and less complete than the privacy protection principles issued by the Privacy Office of the Department of Homeland Security in 2008, which include eight principles closely aligned with the OECD principles.

    Some in the privacy community criticize the FIPs for being too weak, allowing too many exemptions, failing to require a privacy agency, failing to account for the weaknesses of self-regulation, and not keeping pace with information technology. Many privacy experts have called for omnibus privacy protection legislation in the US in lieu of the current blend of self-regulation and selective codification in certain sectors.

    Critics from a business perspective often prefer to limit FIPs to reduced elements of notice, consent, and accountability. They complain that other elements are unworkable, expensive, or inconsistent with openness or free speech principles.

7. Success Criteria
  • Communicate Benefits - Consumers will have to be shown the benefits of Smart Energy outweigh its privacy risks.
  • Make Data Security a Priority - Chief privacy officers should be a fixture at every utility and they should perform a thorough privacy check-up on any supplier or partner firm.
  • Harden data handling procedures - While there may be dubious benefit to stealing the private data from individual citizen's smart meters, it is naive to think that privacy concerns will not find their way into regulation. That means data will have to be partitioned when needed longer term, destroyed when transient, and never left in an unknown state.
  • Involve Stakeholders- For example, providing infrastructure to communicate wide-area measurement data across the grid requires agreement by the stakeholders on the information network architecture, the supported functions, data exchange interface definitions, and legal conditions for granting use of the data.

8. Companies/Organizations
  1. CPUC - California Public Utility Commission - Smart Grid Privacy Ruling, Comments, Responses and Motions are included in Proceeding R0812009 - Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Smart Grid Technologies Pursuant to Federal Legislation and on the Commission's own Motion to Actively Guide Policy in California's Development of a Smart Grid System.
  2. EPIC - Electronic Privacy Information Center - Washington, DC - a public interest research center established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values
  3. NAESB - North American Energy Standards Board - Has created a task force on data privacy. That task force will hold a series of conference calls beginning March 2011, so that guidance is available for consideration when the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) meets in Los Angeles in July 2011. The NAESB task force will engage in an open, transparent process to identify standard business practices with regard to consumer energy use data and is co-chaired by Christine Wright, a member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Robin Lunt, assistant general counsel for NARUC. (Click on the NAESB link for information on the conference calls.)
  4. The task force will not reinvent the wheel, but will include a review of existing laws and standards, including California's efforts and the guidelines on cyber security and privacy set forth last year by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  5. TURN - The Utility Reform Network, San Francisco, CA - Utility watchdog that stand up for consumer rights, affordable rates and a more livable California. Smart Meter data privacy is one of their current issues. Smart meters tell utilities how much energy you use, when you use it, what you use it for and even what appliances you use it with. All of this information leaves you at risk for identity theft, surveillance, physical danger and other misuse of your information. Learn what you can do to protect yourself, and what needs to be done to insure your right to privacy.

8. Links
  1. Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity - Congressional Research Service Feb 3, 2012
  2. California Public Utilities Commission - Documents for ASmart Meter Data Privacy Proceedings (R0812009)
  3. CPUC - Smart Grid Homepage
  4. Elias Leake Quinn - A Report for the Colorado PUC Spring 2009 Smart Metering & Privacy: Existing Law and Competing Policies (PDF)- Demonstrates how the frequency and quality of SG load readings can be used to identify which appliances -- and therefore which activities -- are taking place behind the meter, and when.
  5. Computational Disclosure Control A Primer on Data Privacy Protection (PDF)- A 2000 study by Carnegie Mellon University researcher Latanya Sweeney, who obtained publicly available health insurance information on Massachusetts state workers that was stripped of names, addresses, social security numbers and other identifying information. Sweeney then purchased state voter rolls for Cambridge, including the name, ZIP code, address, sex and birth date of every registrant.

    The insurance data showed that there were six people in Cambridge born on the same day as the governor: half were men. The voter data allowed Sweeney to pinpoint the state's governor as the only one of those residing in a particular ZIP code in Cambridge. The corresponding health-insurance data included the governor's medical diagnoses and prescriptions. Thus, Latanya managed to use two data sources to obtain personal information that couldn't be learned from either one alone.
  6. Lerner, J. I., Mulligan, D. K., Taking the 'Long View' on the Fourth Amendment: Stored Records and the Sanctity of the Home Stanford Technology Law Review (STLR), Vol. 3, 2008.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Real Time Feedback

People can’t see their impact at the point of use unless feedback is in their face. Ubiquitous information to consumers can reduce peak energy use by 5-20%, depending on pricing and market design and the availability of end-use enabling technology.

Google PowerMeter could integrate real-time energy usage as part of a user's homepage, however, the market is a tough nut to crack.  Google will retire its PowerMeter on Sep 16 2011, two-and-a-half years after its launch, the company said in June.

Navigate this Report
Back to Consumer Index
1. Background
2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
6. Success Criteria
7. Next Steps
8. Companies
9. Links

  • Today most people have little idea how much electricity they are using until they are presented with a bill. It’s like going to the grocery store and getting a consolidated bill at the end of the month with very little information about the prices of the items you bought.
  • People also don’t know what proportion of their power was generated by nuclear, coal, gas or some form of renewable energy, or what emissions were produced in the process.
  • Educating consumers about the time varying value of energy and how consumers can respond to manage their costs. We need to get to a place to where consumers understand load management and demand response like they understand energy efficiency today. The old adage stands true; if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it
  • There is a debate whether a next day report on a utility web site is good enough to enable behavior change or whether real time feedback is required.
  • Throughout 2009 and 2010, Internet companies like Microsoft, Google and even router giant Cisco launched experimental software and hardware to help building managers and home owners monitor and control their energy consumption. While Microsoft and Google focused on consumer-facing software, Cisco decided it would build a home-energy dashboard and also sell building-energy-management products.  But now, 12 to 24 months later, all three of these players have ultimately made the decision to abandon those projects.

2. Acronyms/Definitions
  • AMI –Automated Meter Infrastructure - Systems that measure collect and analyze energy usage, from advanced devices such as electricity meters, gas meters, and/or water meters, through various communication media on request or on a pre-defined schedule. This infrastructure includes hardware, software, communications, customer associated systems and MDM software. Traditional systems which were only capable of meter readings don't qualify as AMI systems; the primary difference being two-way open communication capabilities.
  • Green Button - a feature that allows residential and commercial customers to download detailed energy-use information in a standardized format to better manage electricity consumption and cost.

    Green Button is an industry-led effort that responds to a White House call-to-action: provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy usage data in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format via a "Green Button" on electric utilities' website. Green Button is based on a common technical standard developed in collaboration with a public-private partnership supported by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Voluntary adoption of a consensus standard by utilities across the Nation allows software developers and other entrepreneurs to leverage a sufficiently large market to support the creation of innovative applications that can help consumers make the most of their energy usage information.

    Initially launched in January, utilities committed to provide Green Button capability to nearly 12 million households in 2012. Two utilities - Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric - have implemented live functionality on their websites.

    Numerous companies are already developing Web and smartphone applications and services for businesses and consumers that can use Green Button data to help consumers choose the most economical rate plan for their use patterns; deliver customized energy-efficiency tips; provide easy-to-use tools to size and finance rooftop solar panels; and conduct virtual energy audits that can cut costs for building owners and speed the initiation of retrofits. 
  • MDM – Meter Data Management. Automatic metering will create terabytes of consumer usage data
  • Vampire Load – Electricity used even though an appliance is off.

Widgets on Internet TV Might be a Very Easy Way for Consumers to Get Energy Usage Information

3. Business Case
  • Research has shown that people respond to real time feedback while a report on a previous day's activity doesn't lead to action. According to, the more real-time the better; behavioral science shows there is a real difference on how consumer responds to data that is seconds old is different than data that is minutes old. To be actionable, it is much better to get data down to seconds.
  • Consumers should be given real time access to usage data generated from AMI. It may not be necessary for all the data to go back to a central storage location.
  • A Smart Grid is a key enabler in communicating real time information including usage and prices to consumers with the goal of peak reduction. Successful smart grid implementation requires that electricity customers—residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional—have the information and the tools needed to participate in the market. Clear and consistent information, e.g., when the grid experiences peak demand, and effective tools, e.g., switches and smart appliances, enables informed and active customer participation in the smart grid. Service providers and others need to be encouraged to develop interoperable devices, programs, and other services on a timely basis to enable customers to participate in smart grid programs.
  • Past attempts of SCE to notify people of their energy use with emails or text messages were not effective. What worked was to give people an Ambient Orb , a little ball that glows red when a customer is using lot of energy, but green when energy use is modest. In a period of weeks, users of the Orb reduced their use of energy in peak period by 40%. That flashing red ball really gets peoples’ attention and makes them want to use less energy. The underlying problem is that energy is invisible so people do not know when they are using a lot of it. The genius of the Orb is that it makes energy use visible.

4. Benefits
When people do get feedback on how they use energy, they tend to reduce their use about 5% - 15%. When you add on real-time information, the opportunities for energy savings are even greater
  • Identify and Reduce Vampire Loads
    "I put the sound system, DVD player and VCR on power strips. I learned that my computer wasn't sleeping properly, and started putting it on Standby when not in use. I cleaned the coils in my refrigerator (which hadn't been cleaned in 15 years! Yikes!). Before I made these changes, my baseline load was around 360 W; afterwards, it was slightly under 200 W - this will save me about $150 / year.”
  • Identify and Reduce Energy Hogs
    "The dishwasher turned out to be a big energy hog. We now wait to load it fully before starting it. Or, if it's just a couple of dishes, we wash them by hand. When we turned on our space heater, we were amazed by its power consumption. It definitely gives one a perspective on a true cost of using a $20 space heater."
  • Identify When and How Often to Run Appliances
    "I saw the huge spikes caused by washer/dryer use, so now I make sure each wash load is full. I also noticed spikes when the home heater would turn on even when we weren't home, so I made slight adjustments to the timer to better align with our schedule. It's amazing that taking such simple steps has reduced our energy consumption by more than 10%."

5. Risks/Issues
  • Consumer Disinterest - At the end of the day, there’s no economic reason a regular person would want to spend time monitoring their energy consumption. There’s not an opportunity to save much and the steps you would take to save money are obvious (turn the heat down a bit, turn off lights, run dishwasher when full, etc). I don’t need a real time energy monitor to know about those things. Often more information is just more noise.

  • Interoperability - Many utilities are proposing “silo” systems that inherently do not permit reasonable interoperability Interoperability means data and analytics are exposed across the network. It means that new tools and services to help customers actively manage their energy usage can be integrated fast with minimal resources. Technology will evolve rapidly, so what we invest in today, should be open to what we need tomorrow.
  • Data Management – Consumers should be given real time access to usage data generated from AMI. It may not be necessary for all the data to go back to a central storage location.
  • Data Control – Will utilities provide access to real time information to entrepreneurial third parties? A group of companies and nonprofits led by Google sent a letter to President Obama asking the White House to open up energy data so that every consumer can take control of their energy use. Right now, applications such as Microsoft's Hohm provide information on power consumption and electricity rates, but they generally do not provide real-time data. Live data would greatly enhance these services. Generally, utilities closely guard this sort of data, worrying about what would happen if the data were misused, and as such, they will likely oppose or at least closely scrutinize attempts to force them to disgorge it.

6. Success Criteria
  • Information Quality - Giving consumers information about energy usage is fundamental to building a smarter grid. Present data in a way that is easily understandable. For example, extrapolating to end of the month bill.
  • Information Options - People should have a lot of different options to get this information (Computer, Phone, Refrigerator)
  • Open Standards - Ensure openness and interoperability to encourage innovation and consumer choice. Rapidly deploy technology to speed standards development, rate design and regulatory changes
  • Privacy and Security need to be maintained unless a consumer grants a third party access.

7. Next Steps
  • Will utilities deploy rich energy management functions for customers or cede role to 3rd parties?

8. Companies
  1. Alert - London and Cambridge, England - A web-enabled consumer Smart Home Energy Management service in Europe that combines an easy to self install kit, with an in home display and an online interface that can deliver detailed and relevant information to the user via their computer or their mobile phone. "Control your energy use on the move, what a brilliant idea, just £49.99.

  2. Aztech Associates - Kingston Ontario - Makes wireless in-home display devices and time-of-use clocks that tell homeowners how much power they're using and when it's most expensive. Its products are in use in pilot projects including Louisville Gas and Electric and Canada's Hydro-Quebec.

  3. EnergyHub - Brooklyn, NY - Develops software and hardware solutions that help consumers and utilities reduce energy consumption. Their solutions allow homeowners to understand and control energy use in real time and encourage people to take actionable steps to reduce consumption. EnergyHub technology enables utilities to identify and manage peak loads, implement effective demand response programs, and improve operating efficiency.

    In August 2011, EnergyHub announced its new Mercury™ smart thermostat service, a software platform designed to reduce residential energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. The cloud-based service, now available to cable and television service providers, home security companies, utilities, and device manufacturers, uses advanced analytics and engaging user interfaces to optimize thermostats and increase energy efficiency.

    The Mercury platform unlocks the potential of off-the-shelf wireless thermostats by analyzing the consumer’s comfort preferences and the home’s unique characteristics to arrive at a customized heating and cooling plan. Over time, the system provides personalized coaching based on the home’s historical performance and provides comparisons to other households to encourage even greater efficiency. As the price of wireless thermostats drops (you can buy them for as cheap as $100 at Home Depot and utilities often give them away to entice customers into demand response programs), there is a growing need for sophisticated software to go along with the devices.

    For utilities, the platform will help homeowners enroll and stick with demand response programs. Not only will it provide two-way visibility, it will also allow customers to easily see how long a demand response event is going to last, or if they need to, to override the event. A service like this would have come in handy during the recent heat wave when Baltimore Gas & Electric was flooded with angry phone calls when customers in the PeakSavers program had their air conditioning shut off during the hottest hours of the day.

    Mercury is delivered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that can be customized to match any brand so that established home security, cable, and telecommunications service providers can bundle thermostat optimization and remote monitoring and control services with existing subscription offerings

  4. Google Power MeterGoogle retired its PowerMeter in Sep 2011, two-and-a-half years after its launch, the company announced after the application failed to bring in enough users.  It was an iGoogle formatted gadget that could be added as part of a homepage,

    In 2009 Google unveiled its PowerMeter Web tool that allows homeowners to monitor their energy consumption. But the PowerMeter required a utility-installed smart meter to work. While the intelligent meters capable of providing frequent and detailed energy use information are being rolled out by the millions, relatively few American homes now have them.

    Example Report from Google Power Meter

    Both Google and Microsoft counted on third party companies to develop a customer base for their portals via hardware/software interface to their Powermeter and HOHM platforms. Their focus was in ad generation and the potential revenues from paid advertisers to Google or Microsoft.

    Here are some of the reasons whyPowerMeter didn’t take off:

    1. It’s early. The market for energy management tools is still in a really early stage. Consumers are largely unaware of the tools and technologies available to monitor and manage their own energy.

    2. Opt-in, not opt-out. In this early stage of the market, it seems like programs that are opt-out (sent unless the customer says they don’t want it), not opt-in (only sent if the customer wants it), are the ones working. OPower has been successful largely because it connected with utilities early on, and OPower’s detailed energy bills and energy savings recommendations, are delivered to utility customers automatically.

    3. Utility friend or foe? Since Google first launched PowerMeter, some utilities saw the tool as a threat to the relationship they have with their customers. Google’s brand is a whole lot bigger and more consumer-friendly than utilities, and Google has often jumped into industries and sought to disrupt them. When Google first launched PowerMeter, it focused on connecting with data from smart meters, then later opened its API and connected with gadget makers to circumvent smart meters. Google was originally dependent on utility relationships, but weren’t all that good at securing those relationships.

    4. Google isn’t an energy company. Google didn’t ever really market PowerMeter, and PowerMeter came out of its philanthropic arm It was an experiment, and one that didn’t pan out.

  5. Navetas - Oxford, England - Navetas says its “energy disaggregation” technology can figure out exactly how much power your household appliances are using, without installing expensive networks or sensors in the home, and in April 2012 it landed a £5 million investment from big meter maker Sensus, along with an exclusive licensing agreement to try it out in the United States.

    The University of Oxford spinout is taking a unique approach to a complex challenge: to identify and track different household power loads, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, washer/dryers, TVs, computers, water heaters, lights, and the like, by sampling electric voltage and current data from a single point. Today's smart meters only measure total power usage, leaving people to guess what's causing spikes and sags in that number over time.

    Navetas, which has previously raised £7 million from Swarraton Partners, Naxos Capital and the University of Oxford, says its technology can “learn” a typical home’s mix of energy loads over the course of a week or two, depending on how often the homeowner happens to use different appliances. That information can then be presented to homeowners via in-home displays or web and mobile platforms, as well as going back to the utility to help it understand how its customers are using their energy.

  6. Powerzoa - Developed in a Presidio School of Management class on Sustainable Products and Services - A smart plug that connects to wall outlets. Unlike other smart plugs that display energy on an attached display, the Powerzoa sends energy usage data to a Web site, where appliances can be scheduled to automatically turn on or off. Powerzoa is very early stage, "entering into beta trials with customers and utilities," and "soon looking for angel funding." The startup is aiming for a price point of $25 per plug. Check out this cool video demo.

  7. Silver Spring Networks - Acquired home energy monitoring startup Greenbox Technology in September 2009. It integrated Greenbox's web-based energy management platform into its series of deployments under under its new name, CustomerIQ.

    Greenbox created an integrated Internet service that lets a residential customer view, interpret, and act on their everyday utility service consumption and distributed generation behaviors. While other companies have presented residential electricity awareness interfaces, they rarely demonstrate the ability to span non-electric utility services, distributed generation, and remote appliance control from a single unified interface.

    Customers can get energy information from CustomerIQ via:
    • Web portal - The online portal provides a rich, interactive, and engaging experience through any standard Web browser;
    • Email - CustomerIQ can deliver a weekly energy report to customers via e-mail;
    • Mobile - The full CustomerIQ portal experience is available on smartphones and other mobile devices;
    • Telephone - Utility customer service representatives (CSRs) have access to a specialized CSR portal and can leverage this tool when handling customer calls; and
    • In-home devices - Silver Spring also supports a wide range of ZigBee Smart Energy Profile devices that display usage and pricing information relayed via the customer’s smart meter.

  8. Itron Cellular Solutions (Fomerly SmartSynch) - Jackson, MS - In May 2012, Itron (NASDAQ: ITRI) announced  that it has completed its previously announced acquisition of privately held SmartSynch for $100 million. The acquisition strengthens Itron's cellular communications offering and brings greater choice to utility customers across the spectrum of smart metering deployments.

    SmartSynch, a leading provider of point-to-point smart grid solutions that utilize a cellular network for communications, has more than 130 customers, including nine of the top ten utilities in North America. Most recently, SmartSynch’s technology was selected by Consumers Energy to meet the needs of a full cellular smart grid network deployment for 1.9 million electric residential and commercial & industrial customers.

    In December 2009, SmartSynch launched the SmartSynch GridRouter -- a universal smart grid communications solution designed to enable utilities to seamlessly and easily communicate with every possible device on the smart grid regardless of make, model or communication protocol. Designed on the principles of openness and interoperability, the IP-enabled GridRouter is a universal, interchangeable and remotely upgradeable solution engineered to revolutionize the smart grid. Specifically, the GridRouter is engineered to:

    • Provide a point-to-point smart grid communications platform that can facilitate data transfer to any smart grid device on any network (public or private)
    • Be managed by standard commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) network IT management tools that most utilities already implement
    • Function like any other network appliance on an IP network, such as a PC or copy machine
    • Offer a standard, open platform that allows multiple companies to provide value to the customer as part of an 'ecosystem of innovation'
    • Allow utilities to add multiple communication technologies to their smart grid communications infrastructure based on future needs without having to replace an entire system backbone.

  9. TED - The Energy Detective - Charleston, SC - The Energy Detective (TED) is a home electricity monitor that provides real-time feedback on electricity usage. TED's best selling series, the 5000 series has the following components:

    • Measuring Transmitting Unit (MTU) - This device is installed in the breaker panel and transmits the signal from the Current Transformers to the Gateway using a power line carrier signal that travels on your exisiting power lines throughout your home.
    • Current Transformers (CT) - These one inch diameter clamps connect to the two main incoming conductors in the breaker panel. They are sensitive to one watt and accurate to within 2%.
    • Gateway - This device is known as the "heart of TED". The Gateway is embedded with Footprints Software, stores up to 10 years worth of data, and can plug into any outlet in the home. When connected with an exisiting router and internet service, data can be viewed remotely.
    • Wireless Display - This optional handheld wireless device receives data from the Gateway via ZigBee wireless radio signal. The wireless display allows you to view up to 10 screens of detailed electricity data updated every second.
    • Footprints Software - This HTML Web-based software is embedded on the Gateway and includes features such as a utility rate set up, monthly bill projector, load profile wizard to monitor up to five individual devices, charts, graphs, and up to 10 years worth of exportable historical data.

  10. Watts Up? - Denver, CO - Initially test marketed in 1992, Electronic Educational Devices was incorporated in Denver, Colorado in April of 1997. Watts up? was first introduced to the education market, however, it wasn't long before several utility and energy services companies began to take notice. Hundreds of utility companies across the country now utilize Watts up?. Soon consumers found out about it, and that became a bigger market than the schools. More than ten years since it's inception, EED in addition now manufactures the Smart Circuit line of electricity controllers that actively reduce electricity consumption. Watts up? and Smart Circuits are now primarily sold for commercial applications.

9. Links
  • During a one-year pilot study carried out by PNNL, for example, consumers reduced their electricity bills by an average of 10% compared with the previous year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Building Automation Protocols

In the early 90’s an effort to standardize and open up building automation systems was started. Two efforts gained the most traction and momentum: BACnet and LonWorks.
Interoperable Building Automation Networks

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Back to Network/ Interoperability Index

1. Background

2. Acronyms/Definitions
3. Business Case
4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
6. Next Steps
7. Companies
8. Links

  • In the early 90’s an effort to “standardize or open up” building automation systems was started. Two efforts gained the most traction and momentum.
    1. BACnet- Started as a committee within ASHRAE to create standards for system to system communication.
    2. LonWorks- Started as a technology created by Echelon to provide an open standard for device to device communication.

2. Acronyms/Definitions
  1. BACNet - a Data Communications Protocol for Building Automation and Control Networks. It is an ASHRAE, ANSI, and ISO standard protocol. BACNet was developed within ASHRAE and therefore started as an HVAC standard though it now also covers lighting control, access control, and fire detection systems and their associated equipment.

  2. C-Bus - A proprietary communications protocol for home and building automation that can handle cable lengths up to 1000 meter using Cat.5 cable. C-Bus was created by Clipsal for use with its brand of home automation and building lighting control system. C-Bus is used in the control of home automation systems, as well as commercial building lighting control systems. Unlike the more common X10 protocol which uses a signal imposed upon the AC power line, C-Bus uses a dedicated low-voltage cable or two-way wireless network to carry command and control signals. This improves the reliability of command transmission and makes C-Bus far more suitable for large, commercial applications than X10.

  3. DALI – Digital Addressable Lighting Interface – An open standard protocol for the controlling of lighting in buildings, such as electrical ballasts and dimmers. DALI was established as a successor for the still market dominating 1-10v and an open standard rival to Digital Signal Interface (DSI), on which it is based. DALI is standardized in accordance with IEC 60929, standard for fluorescent lamp ballasts. Each piece of operating equipment with a DALI interface can be communicated with over DALI individually. Using a bi-directional data exchange, a DALI controller can query and set the status of each light. The maximum number of devices on a DALI loop is 64.

  4. DeviceNet - A communication protocol used in the automation industry to interconnect control devices for data exchange. It uses Controller Area Network as the backbone technology and defines an application layer to cover a range of device profiles. Typical applications include information exchange, safety devices, and large I/O control networks.

  5. EnOcean - a German wireless, energy harvesting technology used primarily in building automation systems. It is not set out for international, European or national standardization; however, EnOcean GmbH is offering its technology and licenses for the patented features under license within the EnOcean Alliance framework.

    The concept was developed to enable batteryless sensors and switches for building automation. A spin-off company of Siemens AG founded in 2001, that is venture funded. It is a technology supplier of self-powered modules (transmitters, receivers, transceivers, and energy converters. The company has developed a technology that is based on the efficient exploitation of slight changes in the environmental energy using the principles of energy harvesting. The company’s products (such as sensors and radio switches) have no battery and are engineered to operate maintenance-free. The signals of these sensors and switches can be transmitted over a distance of up to 300 meters. The most pervasive example of a product stemming from the proprietary RF protocol is the battery-free wireless light switch. EnOcean is a wireless partner of Lonmark. 80% of the Wireless Lighting Solutions at Lightfair 2009 were EnOcean-based.

  6. Fieldbus (Wikipedia)- A family of industrial computer network protocols used for real-time distributed control, now standardized as IEC 61158. A complex automated industrial system usually needs an organized hierarchy of controller systems to function. In this hierarchy there is usually a Human Machine Interface (HMI) at the top, where an operator can monitor or operate the system. This is typically linked to a middle layer of programmable logic controllers (PLC) via a non time critical communications system (e.g. Ethernet). At the bottom of the control chain is the fieldbus which links the PLCs to the components which actually do the work such as sensors, actuators, electric motors, console lights, switches, valves and contactors. Fieldbus works on a network structure which typically allows daisy-chain, star, ring, branch, and tree network topologies. Previously computers were connected using RS-232 (serial connections) by which only two devices could communicate.

  7. Gateways – A network node equipped for interfacing with another network that uses different protocols with translation tables. The job of a gateway is much more complex than that of a router or switch. Typically, a gateway must convert one protocol stack into another. A gateway may contain devices such as protocol translators, impedance matching devices, rate converters, fault isolators, or signal translators as necessary to provide system interoperability. It also requires the establishment of mutually acceptable administrative procedures between both networks. Gateways may take several forms: embedded in routers, software solutions or other control devices. A gateway gives you a limited view into a system. A very common transition point between the different protocols is between the building controls level and the IP level.

  8. KNX (Wikipedia)– Pronounced Konnex , European Installation Bus (EIB) – now the mainstay of KNX– originally developed by Siemens. The bulk of the products originate from German manufacturers and are used within Germany and its close geographical neighbors. However, within that area, there is a high degree of penetration within the commercial building sector, less so in the residential sector, and this is due, in large part, to the successful inclusion of EIB technology in the education and training programs for professional electrical installers.

  9. LonWorks (Wikipedia) – A networking platform specifically created to address the unique performance, reliability, installation, and maintenance needs of control applications. The platform is built on a protocol created by Echelon Corporation for networking devices over media such as twisted pair, power lines, fiber optics, and RF. It is popular for the automation of various functions within buildings such as lighting and HVAC; LonWorks refers to the entire technology
    • Has database standard (LNS) while BACNet does not
    • Started as an HVAC standard

  10. LonTalk – LonWorks Protocol
  11. LonMark – LonWorks Standards Group

  12. Modbus – Modbus Standard in the electrical world. A serial communications protocol published by Modicon in 1979 for use with its programmable logic controllers (PLCs). It has become a de facto standard communications protocol in industry, and is now the most commonly available means of connecting industrial electronic devices. Modbus filled some of the needs of the building-automation community prior to BACnet but, coming from the industrial world, it was not originally designed for the needs of buildings data. Modbus may be used to integrate with switch gear in a building. The main reasons for the extensive use of Modbus over other communications protocols are:
    • It is openly published and royalty-free
    • Relatively easy industrial network to deploy
    • It moves raw bits or words without placing many restrictions on vendors

  13. Niagara – A software platform invented by Tridium, that helps manufacturers develop Internet-enabled equipment systems and device-to-enterprise applications. Niagara resolves the challenges associated with open systems, integration and interoperability by integrating diverse systems and devices - regardless of manufacturer, or communication protocol - into a unified platform that can be easily managed and controlled in real-time over the Internet.

  14. oBIX– Open Building Information Exchange - (Wikipedia)– An OASIS XML standard for Web Services-based interfaces to building control systems

  15. Profibus - Process Field Bus - A standard for field bus communication in automation technology and was first promoted (1989) by BMBF (German department of education and research). The goal was to implement and spread the use of a bit-serial field bus based on the basic requirements of the field device interfaces.

  16. Protocol - The language of communication. In a protocol, data is transmitted using specific: formats, transmission speeds and media. For two devices to communicate with each other, all three of these elements must match.

  17. SOAP – Originally Simple Object Access Protocol - A protocol specification for exchanging structured information in the implementation of Web Services in computer networks. It relies on Extensible Markup Language (XML) as its message format, and usually relies on other Application Layer protocols (most notably Remote Procedure Call (RPC) and HTTP) for message negotiation and transmission. SOAP can form the foundation layer of a web services protocol stack, providing a basic messaging framework upon which web services can be built. As an example, SOAP message could be sent to a web service enabled web site (for example, a house price database) with the parameters needed for a search. The site would then return an XML-formatted document with the resulting data (prices, location, features, etc). Because the data is returned in a standardized machine-readable format, it could then be integrated directly into a third-party site

3. Business Case
  • NIST has recognized BACnet ANSI ASHRAE 135-2008/ISO 16484-5 in initial list of 16 Smart Grid standards.

  • True building integration means finding commonalities between building systems and using the appropriate communication protocols to program them. This provides cooperative sequences of operations that offer increased value to the building owner. Before open architecture communications protocols, building automation was controlled by proprietary control solutions. Solution providers manufactured the building control systems, developed the application software, and charted product development, deployment and product line diversity

  • BACNet, LONWorks and Modbus are similar in that their primary purpose is to facilitate communication between devices in a building. Another common thread is that they all conform to European Open System Interconnection standards and provide a migration path for data to be communicated to higher level devices.

  • The fundamental difference between the protocols is that BACnet was developed as a system-to-system interoperable protocol originally designed for HVAC systems to communicate with each other, while LonWorks was developed as an interoperable protocol at the product and device level.
  • Another primary difference between BACnet and LonWorks is that the BACnet standard does not include hardware, while the LonWorks protocol is embedded in its neuron chip.

  • BACnet, LonWorks and Modbus all differ in their approach to how their target customer base might choose to implement integrated systems and devices.
    1. Modbus supports a more industrial methodology. One of Modbus’ primary strengths is that it is a master/slave protocol which means one device is set up to gather data, and the other devices provide the data. While Modbus is simpler to implement, it is not as sophisticated a protocol and does not address scheduling, alarming and trending issues as BACnet and LonWorks do.
    2. BACnet focuses on the integration of multiple buildings that are, for the most part, stand-alone
    3. LonWorks is used to integrate many small, intelligent devices arranged into groups that represent functions, buildings or even geographic areas.

4. Benefits
5. Risks/Issues
  • Unfamiliarity - Enterprise IT staff are seldom familiar enough with building controls to know how to integrate them and whether those systems could compromise the network. Only through training and experience will they have the skills to securely bring together such dissimilar systems as Internet protocol and LonTalk, for example.
  • Incompatibility - Even for skilled IT professionals, some systems simply are challenging to integrate. Many protocols are not up to enterprise IT security standards, or force integration at a level too high (excessively abstract) or too low (causing data overload) to capture the benefits of the synergy.
  • Energy Requirements - LonWorks designed around neuron, too energy intensive for wireless
  • Interoperability - Common Standards continue to evolve (BACnet, LonWorks, Modbus) Many technology subsets may exist beneath one “head end”, making interoperability difficult
  • Sole-Source Lock - Prevents competitive bidding and best-in-breed product selection
  • Merging Power and Industry. As more customer-centric applications like real-time pricing, distributed generation and micro-grids are deployed; utilities must take more of an interest in the industrial automation world. What was previously a one-way relationship must become a partnership as customers become active contributors to the operation of the power system.

6. Next Steps
  • Encapsulate LonWorks over IP
  • ASHRAE is also working to extend BACnet to support wireless Zigbee networks
  • Another future area to explore is cost-effective, small device networking. The market is moving toward lower cost, smaller device communication. The area that offers the best opportunity is deploying low-cost wireless and powerline communications for cost-effectively integrating simpler devices.

7. Companies
  1. Cimetrics, Boston, MA, A pioneer in open system communication for building automation for more than 10 years. By developing and promoting BACnet, the world’s standard building automation protocol, Cimetrics established itself as the premier supplier of communication technology to the building automation industry.

  2. Echelon (NASDAQ: ELON), San Jose, CA - Designs control networks to connect machines and other electronic devices, for the purposes of sensing, monitoring and control.

    Echelon's LonWorks platform for control networking was released in 1990 for use in the building, industrial, transportation, and home automation markets. Launched in 2003, Echelon's Networked Energy Services system is an open metering infrastructure.

    Echelon provides the underlying network technology for the world's largest Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in Italy (See my case study xxx) with over 27 million connected electricity meters and more recently it won tenders to provide the NES System to several hundred thousand customers of utilities in Sweden and The Netherlands.

    On May 8, 2012, Echelon introduced a new Control Operating System (COS)-enabled control module that, when coupled with Echelon's data concentrator and system software, enables electricity meter manufacturers to quickly and cost-effectively offer a comprehensive solution for automated metering and low voltage grid optimization. The new CPM 0600 control point module implements the Open Smart Grid Protocol (OSGP) and transforms the manufacturer's electronic meter into a smart meter plus grid sensor that leverages Echelon's proven, open standard, and multi-application energy control networking platform. The company also announced that leading meter makers in Asia, including Mitsubishi Electric Automation (Thailand) Co., Ltd., Korea's VIDCOM, Malaysia's Comintel, and China's Holley Metering, will offer solutions based on Echelon's platform.
    Source: PR Newswire (

    In the U.S., Echelon's powerline technology has been a liability. (It now has an RF option as well.) In some other parts of the world, powerline has cost, reliability and simplicity advantages.

    Echelon makes an Edge Control Node that attaches to transformers. It acts as a communications hub (supporting multiple connectivity options) and as a concentrator. It collects data from the meters that are attached to that transformer. But it does two other important things. First, it can also collect data from other sensors. Second, it has enough intelligence to aggregate and preprocess the data. The node then sends along only what's needed – aggregated totals, exceptions, alerts, etc. This approach minimizes communications congestion.

  3. Echoflex Solutions - Squamish, British Columbia, Canada- Incorporated in 2005, Echoflex became one of the first companies in North America to begin developing products based on a  new wireless technology from Europe called EnOcean. EnOcean is a unique technology; integrating innovations in harvesting and storing energy with low-power radio technologies

    Echoflex develops automation solutions with energy conservation as a primary focus. To save energy, power that is being consumed today must be turned off when it is not needed. To achieve this goal efficiently and eliminate human intervention, automation must take a role in the process. The automation solutions that Echoflex develops are based on a distributed control model. Through distributing the control elements room by room or circuit by circuit, the density of the control mesh created increases making it more efficient in its goal and improving energy savings.

7. Links
  1. LonWorks
  3. LonMark – LonWorks Standards Group
  4. - Myths of LonWorks and BACnet Building owners and facility managers have long awaited the means to break the proprietary lock of the building control manufacturers. BACnet and. LonWorks are two protocols that arecompeting to be the key that unlocks the lock.
  5. Echelon - LonWorks Technology Overview
  6. Echelon's LonWorks Technology Internet Demo The purpose of this demo is to provide an interactive vehicle for you to experience the power of LonWorks control technology
  7. DALI Action Group -A working group set up by leading manufacturers and institutions in the field of digital lamp/luminaire control to promote DALI technology and applications
  8. David Fisher, Member ASHRAE - SeeingThe LightWith BACnet - Describes some features of BACnet for lighting applications that, as of November 2008, were not yet part of the standard, but are expected to be published soon. - BACnet Today