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February 23, 2010

Smart Grid Policy Forum: Have Your Say Today, Especially about Data Privacy



A public forum was launched last week seeking input from all of us on how Smart Grid should evolve in the home. This forum is a joint effort by OSTP – Office of Science and Technology Policy and NIST – National Institute of Science and Technology.
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Word is just getting out now about this, and since the U.S. government is targeting lots of stimulus funding at Smart Grid, it only makes sense they would engage the public in some dialog.
 
The public input process is being staged in three phases, with the first one beginning today. Each phase runs a week, and focuses on a specific aspect of home-related issues around Smart Grid.
 
Here’s the basic schedule, as per their Web site:
 
·         February 23-March 1: architectural questions.
·         March 2-7: questions concerning data access and ownership.
·         March 8-12: questions regarding data communications standards for consumer appliances and other devices that will communicate with the Smart Grid.
 
As with any public process, they are seeking input from all corners, so you can do so wearing your professional hat or your energy consumer/taxpayer hat. For those of us in the IP world, it’s nice to see the principals of openness being applied here, especially since so much about what we’re talking about is in fact, driven by IP – Internet Protocol.
 
All three subjects are vital to the success of Smart Grid in the home, but I think the middle section – data access and ownership – will be the most vocal. The other topics are essentially industry-related, and won’t be of much interest to the home audience. However, data access and ownership is very much about the home audience, and if I had to leave you with one takeaway here, this would be it.
 
We’ve touched on this topic a bit in terms of data privacy, and if you haven’t seen it by now, there’s an informative white paper about this you can download from our home page. Smart Grid is in its early days, but important decisions are being made now, and I highly doubt consumers have given much thought to how their personal data comes into play here.
 
For those of you who have followed VoIP from the beginning, you’ll recognize a similar pattern here. VoIP was and remains attractive for its cost savings, but a largely overlooked tradeoff in the bargain was giving up some personal privacy we take for granted with the PSTN. It’s too late now, and VoIP is here to stay – and I’m pretty certain the same thing is going to happen in the home with Smart Grid.
 
Enough fear-mongering. The main message is to be aware of this public input process, and the topic schedule as outlined above. To participate – as I will be doing – I need to steer you to a few Web sites. First is the OSTP/NIST home page that explains things in detail – including their rules of participation - along with several links that will give you a deeper understanding of these issues, especially around standards and interoperability. Next would be a link to follow the thread of comments posted so far. As you’ll see, comments are moderated, and being a government agency, they won’t go live right away. Finally, you need to register to participate – which is only fair.
 
That’s it. In my books, democracy is becoming an endangered species, and when you have a chance to be part of the public discourse – especially something that will impact your world – you really should take it. Politics aside, this is a great way to dig deeper on the core issues driving Smart Grid and we’ll be following things here closely.

Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is co-founder of Intelligent Communications Partners (ICP), a strategic advisory consultancy focused on the emerging Smart Grid opportunity. To read more of his Smart Grid articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan
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