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September 08, 2010

The Secure Smart Grid: Smart Grid Summit Speaker Chris King of eMeter Corporation



Trends in the global markets are what makes them exciting. In the utility market, they can present both challenges and opportunities.

According to Chris King, chief strategy and regulatory officer at eMeter Corporation (News - Alert), the most significant trend in the utility market is the deployment of smart meters. King recently took part in a TMCnet interview in anticipation of the upcoming Smart Grid West 2010 event.

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As for regulatory impact, King believes regulators need to promote standards while also allowing utilities and market participants to innovate within these standards. King also believes new and better communications – such as 4G wireless – are helpful, but not transformative.

When asked about security threats within the Smart Grid, King noted that the Smart Grid does not present any new security threats and highlights that technologies today are more secure than ever. As for smart home products, King believes this adoption depends on everyone agreeing on a single home area network standard. He does believe there is a future for electric cars and that 2012 will be the year of the Smart Grid. King’s pick for the winner of the smartphone/tablet wars: Apple (News - Alert).

The communications market overlaps the Smart Grid, especially now that Cisco has made a major entry into the market. As for the most overhyped technology, King points to in-home displays. At the Smart Grid Summit, King will cover the topic of entrepreneurship in the Smart Grid space. He suggests his session is the only one that provides information specific enough to assist in decision-making.

As for his bold technology prediction for 2011: Cisco (News - Alert) will embed ZigBee on Linkys routers and Apple will introduce home energy management that will communicate through ZigBee devices. The entire conversation between King and TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani follows:

Rich Tehrani: What is the most significant trend impacting the utility market? Why?

Chris King: The deployment of smart meters. The data and control capabilities made possible by the meters will transform the customer’s ability to manage energy, including responding to solar and wind needs. This will also transform the utility IT world from one of silo’d applications to fully integrated applications sharing data, messaging, and communications capability from the smart meter network.

RT: How much influence should regulators have over Smart Grid initiatives?

CK: Regulators need to promote standards and allow utilities and market participants to innovate within those standards. The standards need to cover data access, privacy, and security, including allowing consumers to share data with unregulated third parties authorized by the customer. Regulators also need to evaluate business cases and, where cost effective, provide utility cost recovery for Smart Grid investments.

RT: How important is the growth of 4G wireless to the success of Smart Grid initiatives?

CK: New and better communications is incrementally helpful but not transformative. Most of the cost of the Smart Grid is in meters, other devices, and utility IT systems.

RT: Don’t smart grids potentially present a major security threat?

CK: Smart grids don’t present any new security threats. Utilities have controlled millions of customer-owned air conditioners, water heaters, and other devices for decades with no security breaches. In fact, the technologies being deployed today are more secure than ever.

RT: How long do you think the adoption curve will be for smart home products? What will drive adoption?

CK: The adoption curve depends entirely on 1) whether we all agree on a single home area network standard and 2) when we agree. ZigBee has become the de facto standard in California, Texas, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Victoria (Australia), and the U.K. – with over 40 million meters in deployment using ZigBee technology. Yet the industry continues to discuss other “standards.” Appliance manufacturers won’t put in the communications chip unless there is a single standard. It’s time for all industry participants to recognize ZigBee as the standard, stop debating the issue, and get on with deployment (the only place the HAN interface is live is in Texas). N.b.: my company, eMeter, has no economic interest in ZigBee whatsoever.

RT: Is there a future for electric cars?

CK: Yes, there is significant consumer demand, especially in the younger, “Internet Generation.”

RT: Which will be the year of the Smart Grid?

CK: 2012, but only if the industry agrees on ZigBee.

RT: Who will win the smartphone wars? Tablet wars?

CK Apple, because they continue to offer the best user interface. Just as they continue to win the MP3 market. But the other players will have major shares of smartphones and tablets.

RT: How do you see the communications market overlapping with the Smart Grid space if at all?

CK: Cisco has just made a major entry into the market. Smart grids will utilize primarily utility-owned networks to maximize control, security, reliability, and cost effectiveness.

RT: What is the most overhyped technology in your opinion?

CK: In-home displays. Consumers are not interested in another gadget. All of the functionality, and much more, is available in smart phones, tablets, laptops, and even smart appliances.

RT: You are speaking at the upcoming Smart Grid Summit in Los Angeles. What is your session about?

CK: Being a serial entrepreneur in the Smart Grid space.

RT: Why is it a can’t-miss session for attendees?

CK: It’s the only session where attendees will get information that is specific enough to use in decision-making, and the only one where they’ll get the lessons learned from 30 years of deep industry experience.

RT: Please make a bold technology prediction for 2011.

CK: Cisco will start embedding ZigBee in its Linksys (News - Alert) routers, and Apple will introduce a game-changing home energy management application that runs on Windows, Macbooks, iPhone/iPads and that communicates through the router to ZigBee devices.


Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Ed Silverstein
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