8 Ways Telecoms Can Help Smart Grids

The smart grid isn’t smart without a two-way advanced communications structure.

Fundamentally, the electric grid system delivers electricity from points of generation to consumers. This grid system both transmits and distributes energy. Adding two-way communications between consumers and utilities transforms the traditional electric grid into a smart grid. This machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, which takes place via devices such as sensors and smartphones, gives utilities and consumers access to real-time, actionable information that positively affects how energy is consumed and delivered.

Here are eight ways telecommunication companies enable the smart grid:

  1. Provide a private communications backbone for carrying sensor data.
  2. Enablesecure two-way communication between consumers and utilities.
  3. Work with various standards boards, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and manufacturer organizations to help create a reliable, secure, and inter-operable network environment for the smart grid, one that emphasizes decisions based on solid science.  All parts of the grid need to communicate and this requires standards.
  4. Manage the uptick in data generated by a smart grid, including itemizing data sent to the consumer.  As smart grids proliferate, electric bills will resemble today’s telephone bill.
  5. Facilitate necessary M2M communication in the home, where a smart meter will enable a two-way exchange of both information and energy (in the case of homes that generate or store energy), essentially turning the home into a node on the electric grid.
  6. Create a home area network (HAN) for the smart meter to communicate with smart appliances capable of reporting usage data and responding to commands. While Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other emerging technologies are possibilities, AT&T Research is focusing on ZigBee, an emerging standard designed to efficiently transport small amounts of data, such as the temperature of a refrigerator or of a room, from the home to the utility.
  7. Continue to research how the smart grid will interact with other home systems such as security, entertainment networks, home automation, and tele-health devices, all of which may compete for control.
  8. Simulate a home environment where multiple systems play together, and test the interactions under a variety of conditions. Better understanding of how these systems inter-operate will lead to more informed decisions.
What else can telecoms do for smart grids? Share your thoughts.
Rita Mix Utility Industry Lead Marketing Manager AT&T About Rita