LTE and Smart Grids: A huge opportunity for Telecoms and the Cloud but with caveats for privacy

Smart grids - LTE - femtocells - privacy.jpg

LTE and Smart Grids are a huge opportunity for Telecoms and the Cloud (but with caveats for privacy)

While Telcos have historically rebelled against ‘opening up’, the US administration’s emphasis on Open is creating huge opportunities for Telecoms and the Cloud

Broadband stimulus grants are tied to net neutrality rules, which means networks have to allow users to connect any device to the network

But this also leads to a huge opportunity because now Telecoms can extend their reach into the Smart Grid through MTM (machine to machine) applications which will generate a much higher number of network connections. These may have less ARPU (i.e. average revenue per user) but a greater number of actual connections with no need to subsidise devices. Hence, they could be profitable.

A smart grid starts with a ‘smart meter’ which is capable of two way communications and lets the user and provider manage electricity consumption in a more granular way. If the customer’s power consumption can be captured in a granular manner, the provider can offer specials/ discounts to the customer. The added potential of smart grids arises from knowing data trends and also extend power management to other devices. These synergies fit well into LTE and home gateways and this explains with LTE and also explains Verizon’s emphasis on Ipv6

The Verizon Itron partnership is an example of such a service and this service will be a part of Verizon’s LTE deployment in the 700 MHz band for M2M apps.

The Zigbe alliance is also gaining traction as a result of this move by building wireless intelligence and capabilities into everyday devices and all this will lead to the 50 billion devices mark which suddenly does not sound so far away

On the services side, initiatives like Microsoft Hohm are being deployed and even if a utility isn’t a part of Hohm, users can enter data directly which means that they can get more benefits the more they contribute to it.

Google power meter is a similar initiative from Google.

The wider potential of this trend is discussed in an excellent article from Andrew Gesmer

Energy Conservation From Zero to Sixty

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One way to grasp what a transition to a Smart Grid can do for energy is by way of analogy: In many ways, the Smart Grid would be to the existing utility network what the Internet and the Web have become to the traditional telecommunications system. Before the Internet, that system was a privately owned, government regulated technology backbone that delivered and accepted a limited range of transmissions (largely voice and fax data) from homes and businesses that could create and accept those signals, and nothing more. In other words, although the network was smart, the nodes (us) were dumb.

Today, of course, the telecommunications backbone comprises the connective tissue between that links an exploding cloud of very smart nodes that feed many data formats (voice, graphic, video) into the system in order to serve virtually all of society’s needs, from supporting financial transactions to delivering content of all kinds to supporting global supply chains. Even a humble laptop can play a vital role in creating, managing and utilizing many of the most complex functions that the Internet now supports. The result is that the telecommunications system has become a vastly more valuable network than it ever was before — not one, but several orders of magnitude more valuable and essential to the moment by moment existence and operation of society, commerce, science, education and

government.

To close the analogy, as every home WiFi enabled network can become an intelligent node in the global telecommunications network, so can the electrical system of every home or business become an intelligent, interactive node in the national electric grid network. Much as a home or business router can tie a host of two-way services and capabilities into the telephone and cable system, so can a home or business electrical network become an interactive part of the power grid in ways that can dramatically lower costs to the user and demand on utilities, thereby helping achieve all of the environmental, social, and national benefits noted above.

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Thus, Smart grids, LTE and the Cloud are a huge opportunity for the industry - but the privacy concerns with sensor networks and the Cloud will play an important part here.

Smartgrid news says ..

Google’s reasons for launching PowerMeter are neither as altruistic as the company will imply, nor as nefarious as their competitors will claim.

In the early days, Google will try to position this as a consumer benefit with slogans such as “consumers should own their own energy information.” But Google will get push back from several groups. Consumer watchdogs will sound the alarm on privacy concerns and on Google as Big Brother.

In other words, if the Electricity grid becomes a ‘platform’ then we have the same issues and opportunities as the ‘web as a platform’. The opportunity lies in creating new services through information technology – the risk lies in preventing an organization from harnessing our collective intelligence!

PS: Privacy, sensor networks and mobility are related to my PhD research and I am happy to work with companies and providers in this space.

Image source: http://www.usyscom.com/Portals/0/smartgrids.jpg