Archive for June 21st, 2011


“The Role of the Cloud in the Smart Grid”

June 21st, 2011

Our current energy grid, as illustrated by the use of nighttime lights visible from outer space [image courtesy the National Science Foundation].Today I attended a panel discussion on “The Role of the Cloud in the Smart Grid”, sponsored by Microsoft’s Innovation & Policy Center and the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC). The discussion — which featured leading government and industry officials — ranged widely from privacy implications to efficiency benefits, but there were a few key takeaway points that impressed me:

  • Smart grids will empower consumers with real-time feedback about the services for which they are paying. Wired Magazine ran an article over the weekend discussing how feedback about our electricity habits (among other things) can help reshape behavior, conserve energy, and improve efficiency. As high-consumption items like electric cars become more widespread, it will be more important to spread electric demand evenly across the day. Retraining consumers is tricky, but a smart grid can help alleviate demand fluctuations by both better informing the utility company about consumer habits and helping consumers use off-peak electricity.
  • By storing electrical data in a standard and accessible way in a cloud service, a platform for new software, services, and products can emerge. It looks like a great new space for innovators: imagine if services like could exist for your home power consumption, providing real-time information about individual devices’ consumption rate, advice on how to save money, and more.
  • The smart grid is a lot more than a quicker end to a power outage — though it’s that, too. It’s another platform for the next generation of innovation, just like the iPhone, DOS, or punch card machines from days of yore.

What are your thoughts? Share them below! (And read more about today’s panel here — and a recent White House report describing ways to speed smart grid development here.)

(Contributed by Max Cho, Eben Tisdale Fellow, CRA)

DARPA Soliciting Innovative Research Proposals

June 21st, 2011

DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals.Late last month, DARPA’s Information Innovation Office (I2O) issued a solicitation calling for research proposals that “investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems.” Among the focus areas (emphasis added):

Understand: Change is pervasive and accelerating throughout all aspects of human, world and military affairs, bringing with it both opportunities and threats. Examples of threats include emerging regional peer rivals, rogue and failed nation-states, insurgent groups, militant/radicalized populations, transnational terrorist organizations and criminal enterprises, and new classes of cyber-human-physical threats. Military success requires understanding threat capabilities, intentions, and activities as well as local human, social, cultural, and behavioral factors. I2O seeks to enable this understanding through the development of computational and analytic techniques that can process and assimilate the huge volumes of data generated by modern sensor, information, and communication systems, and by incorporating these techniques and new enabling sensor technologies in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) exploitation and language processing systems that can classify behaviors, correlate events, identify trends, detect anomalies, and generate alerts.

» Read more: DARPA Soliciting Innovative Research Proposals