On 16th and 17th of September, the EIT ICT Labs Node in Stockholm hosts a workshop on the activity status of the European Virtual Smart Grid Laboratory (EVSGL). The project, which started in 2011 under EIT’s Smart Energy Systems Action Line, aims at creating a pan-European platform for testing both communication infrastructure and potential applications to ensure they meet the requirements and standards imposed for Smart Grids.
This was a good opportunity for us (Jan, Andres, Amirhossein and I) to see what the current developments are in this area, given that the “LTE4SmartEnergy” project is in the works for next year. Although there are several focus areas within EVSGL, today’s discussion and demonstration addressed Demand Response (DR) for Smart Homes, with LTE as a communication infrastructure. Essentially, DR allows end-users to adjust their energy consumption patterns, according to certain parameters, for example energy prices or CO2 emissions. Thus, an application on the consumer side sends data to a demand response management system that, in turn, provides information for scheduling different appliances, based on the user’s preferences. As seen in the picture below (courtesy of Amirhossein) the dishwasher and the washing machine are scheduled based on the lowest energy price, which leads to estimated savings of 88 SEK per month (might not seem much, but the potential is there). Also, beyond cost savings, DR can help promote the use of energy from renewable sources (solar, wind) and also reduce peak loads.
The communication infrastructure is an essential part of Smart Grids, and currently LTE is actively promoted by Ericsson as a viable solution. Indeed, the results presented today support that. However, the latency requirements for DR are quite relaxed (from 500 ms up to several minutes) and some other applications, as substation protection have much stricter constrains (as low as 3-4 ms).
The fact that the DR tests were conducted using a public LTE network certainly consolidates the case for this technology. Still, public LTE networks might not provide the mission critical reliability that utilities companies are looking for. Thus, the analysis of public versus private deployments is an interesting research topic both from a business and also technical perspective.
Finally, the visit to Ericsson Studio provided some insight on the company’s vision for the future and their forecast that “everything that can benefit from a connection will have one“. From the setup of the tour it was clear that it is no longer only about infrastructure, but more about services. In fact, the base stations, RRU’s or MW units where shown much later. Instead, Ericsson’s connected tree was introduced first (you can follow “her” on Twitter) followed by the concept of using the human body as a “connector” (we can go up to 10Mb/s it seems).
On a less sci-fi note, Ericsson’s focus on Service Enablement Platforms was emphasized, along with Managed Services, OSS and BSS. The role of Service Enablement is to decouple devices and applications and to enable horizontal integration of various services. Service Enablement Platforms are becoming highly relevant in the M2M world, since they bridge the gap between connectivity and applications.