SAN JOSE, Calif. Uncle Sam wants to know how Joe Consumer wants to interact with the smart electric grid. So government policy makers are launching a blog for comment on a range of questions including issues about gateways and networks that speak to systems engineers.
The blog is in part an effort by government planners to break through competitive logjams among OEMs by soliciting input directly from end users. Whether it will be effective remains to be seen.
"There is concern that the large number of competing standards in the home-to-smart-grid interface will impede or even undermine progress toward realizing the significant benefits that the smart grid can deliver to consumers," writes George Arnold, national coordinator for smart grid interoperability at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the blog's first post.
In addition Arnold underscored concerns about "the ownership and privacy of energy-consumption data; the pathways and gateways for routing and exchanging energy-related information among consumers, utilities, and third-party service providers; and the standard data communication interfaces that manufacturers need to cost-effectively produce smart devices, appliances, and systems for homes."
The concerns were first outlined in a document in the Federal Register.
Late last year, Arnold told a group of engineers developing consumer networking products for the smart grid if they cannot define an interoperability standard, the government will issue a call for proposals to set one. He said such an effort could parallel NIST's success in setting the AES encryption standard.
The new blog officially kicks off Tuesday, Feb. 23 with a week-long discussion of architectural issues. Questions include:
* Should the smart meter serve as the primary gateway for residential energy usage data?
* Should a separate gateway—an Energy Services Interface--be the primary gateway for all or a subset of this data?
* What real-time or near-real-time architectures could support live exchange of electricity usage and price data?
From March 2-7 the blog will seek input on the issue of data access and ownership. From March 8-12 it will seek feedback on data communications standards for consumer appliances and other devices that will communicate with the smart grid.
"We welcome comments about the consumer-to-smart-grid interface that may go beyond the scope of our questions," wrote Arnold.
A team will review and synthesize the main comments, themes, and recommendations. The government may host on-line discussions of other critical smart grid issues, such as cyber-security or policy and regulatory hurdles in the future.
NIST maintains an overarching smart grid Web site where it announced plans for the blog. The blog is supported by NIST and the White House Office of Science and Technology.