December  2007

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Grid-Interop was great!

  Toby Considine

It was a solid group of attendees, in tracks ranging from Building/Grid interactions, Enterprise/Grid Interactions, Architectures, Security, and probably several more.

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This effort has really come a long way in the two years since the GridWise Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The effort has move from agreement on principles (then) to broad agreement on approaches, deep discussion of approaches. It was encouraging to have Matt Smith, Director of Duke Power’s Utility of the Future. All that good work that Cinergy was doing just keeps bubbling to the top. You might remember Cinergy as the Utility that did NOT melt down in central Ohio, stopping the blackout of 2003 from heading South and West as well as North and East.

One big change was that Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is on every sketch and PowerPoint. Web services are being driven deep into every aspect of the architecture. While it would be too much to expect that those who have control of the largest robot ever built (the power grid) would abandon process entirely, there is a real and concerted effort to define service interactions that are free from underlying process. And as one speaker observed, “Everything gets architecture, not just software.

In a meeting pre-conference, someone stated what has to be the catch phrase of the conference: “Remember your system is someone else’s component”. A speaker from Cisco acknowledged the tension between real-time interrupt architecture. He introduced the term SOA 2.0, defined as the combination of SOA and EDA (Event Driven Architecture).

One new focus this time was Agents. No longer was everyone talking about distributed agents. Now they were talking about interactions with independent agents. One speaker observed “Agents are Objects that can say no.” Even the appliances group, in the person of Whirlpool’s Gale Horst, said “If we have a load of bleach in the washer, we won’t shut down until the clothes are rinsed.” Agents will be everywhere. Regular readers know that I wish we had been able to push more agent behavior into the building nodes of UNC’s Enterprise Building Management System (EBMS).

With agents come behaviors, and with many agents, come emergent behaviors. The award for best technical paper at the conference went to Apperson Johnson for his paper on agent-based systems. Apperson's talk included discussions of emergent behaviors, a particular interest of mine. One of his references was to a paper entitled “Implementation of a Belief-Desire-Joint-Intention Architecture” – I will have to track it down.

I left with two items on my plate. First, I was asked to come up with a list of major groups of building owners, and with a plan to engage them with the intelligent grid. I’m thinking NACUBO, APPA, BOMA to start. USGBC, CABA, and maybe even the BiQ (Building intelligence Quotient) project may want a finger on this. Please let me know if you think of others.

The other one is more intriguing because of the powerful short-term opportunity it offers.. There are now multiple competing specifications for Demand/Response XML to the building. Lawrence Labs and the California DOE have DRAS. Constellation Energy is about to roll out a standard to much of the mid-Atlantic. ASHRAE and NIST have proposed a BACnet DR object. Gridpoint is deploying DR systems across multiple utilities. The Green Grid has requested a set of information from the local power system components, as I have written before, that is very much like the DR packages. If we can align these standards early, while they are essentially in early pilot, we can save years on their eventual alignment.



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