Taking the temperature of the Smart Grid

If you ever want to get the most out of a industry convention summit, be a moderator, speaker and audience participant.  I had the opportunity of doing this at the Smart Grid Summit in the Miami Beach Convention Center.  With stranded visitors from the north enjoying highs of 81F in Miami Beach, the summit proved to be one of the most informative smart grid discussions I have ever attended.  The smart grid sessions opened with my presentation on smart grid security offering quotes from top industry professionals, some my past articles and some other publications. The opening quotes ended with an INFOSec article, “Scientists Decry Cyberwar as Governments Respondfeaturing quoted grid security warnings from Security Agency, and commander of the new US Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The security presentations and panel discussions, The Smart Grid, How to Build Security with Intelligence and Personal Privacy and Who Left the Fridge Door Open included Session Organizer Jon Arnold Founder -Intelligent Communications Partners, Tony Flick Principal -FYRM Associates, Larry Karisny VP of Business Development -WirelessWall, Christopher Gorog Applications Engineering Manager -Atmel Corporation followed by and an open panel discussion including Cullen Jennings Distinguished Engineer, Voice Technology Group -Cisco and Ward Pyles Senior Security Analyst -Southern Company

Session keynotes included Dr. Massoud Amin Director, Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering -University of Minnesota: Smart Grid: Enable a Stronger and Smarter Energy Infrastructure, Roxy Podlogar Vice President, Product Strategy -Green Energy Corp,  Doug DePeppe Co-Founder -i2IS: Emerging Technologies for the Smart Grid – GreenBus & Platform Based Cybersecurity, Maureen Harris Commissioner -New York State Public Service Commission and Orjiakor Isiogu Chairman -NARUC: The Keys to Consumer Acceptance of the Smart Grid ending with a real world running smart grid application demonstrated by Sandra Manning Utility Marketing Manager -City of Tallahassee: e+ Smart Grid: Plugging Customers into Programs, Tools and Technology.

There was no doubt that smart grid security was going to the main focus of this event.  This subject was came up in every discussion throughout the summit.  The general concession was that we need to start putting security solutions in the smart grid now and continue as the smart grid network and intelligence is added.  The debated question was how this high end security should be added with issues of personal home privacy, breaches, criminal activity and cyber war activity all having documented breaches.  The question was not if we need smart grid security, but how to do it.

When discussing organizations supporting security guidelines, standards and oversight, an amazing list of over 20 participants including NIST, FERC, NERC, IEEE, Wimax Alliance, WiFi Alliance, Zigbee Alliance, Grid Net, GridWise with even NSA, DoD and Homeland Security adding their input to this complex smart grid security issues. Many of the participants and audience members come from the old Telco/Internet deregulation days looking at the smart grid as their new beginning.  Major carriers like Verizon and AT&T view the smart grid as just other product on their network.  There was scarce but very valuable attendance by the power companies who were most beneficial in dealing with the realities of where we are today and where we need to go in the future.

Discussions continued on subject including building a strong grid foundation, power transmission and distribution, the growing voice of the customer, smart home killer apps, rural smart grid opportunities, electric vehicles and public vs. private smart grid networks. The main summit takeaways were:

·   Smart grid security was the main theme and sub-theme of every discussion.

·   Most people do not understand the what the smart grid is for.

·   Social networking will be the best promotion tool to educate people on the smart grid.

·   Communications companies and power companies are just getting to understand each other.

·  Never have there been more organizations pursuing what is considered the last communications gold mine.

·   Communist countries will probably deploy the smart grid first.

·   There is too much oversight in the smart grid and not enough testing.

·   The future needs of electric cars and current smart grid capacity mandates the power grid.

·   We don’t know if we should regulate or deregulate power companies.

·   Rural owned deployments may be the best place to start.

·   We are beginning to see Telco/Power Coops.

·  Many power companies have plenty of fiber optic for a smart grid backbone infrastructure.

·   Smart grid grant money is just now being distributed with jobs soon coming.

All in all, a great conference with specialists in every subject matter and a very limited number of corporate pitches.  The panelist presentations will be posted in two weeks on the Smart Grid Miami Summit website. Point of Interest:  The power went out at the Miami Beach Convention Center during my security panel discussion and as we continued to run on auxiliary power with the lights were dimmed. Never saw so many  people look at each as I made a clear statement to the audience.  “This outage is just an inconvenience.  If you want to know how important electricity is to you and how dangerous it is to be with out it, come to Florida after a hurricane.”

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Larry Karisny is the director of Project Safety.org, consultant, writer and industry speaker focusing on security solutions for public and private wireless broadband networks supporting smart grid, municipal, critical infrastructure, transportation, campus, enterprise and home area network applications.