AT&T, whose network already connects some 13 million smart electric metres on its wireless network, has teamed up with grid application developer, Digi, to enable more advanced applications on smart grids.
According to AT&T, it is now working with Digi to jointly offer Digi X-Grid Solutions, a suite of products and services designed to connect energy-oriented devices to smart meters. The solution will effectively add application level support for smart meters, such as allowing consumers to remotely monitor and control their thermostat, or using Digi X-Grid Solutions’ “smart plugs,” control individual appliances such as air conditioning units, lights and refrigerators.
The partnership highlights an oft-neglect aspect of smart meter and smart grid implementations – actual applications. While many initial projects have focused on adding connectivity to meters, and then getting that data back to software systems at the utility, the actual applications for smart energy management, such as intelligent home networks, power meters, have sometimes been left in the background.
That’s not to say there are no industry initiatives in the area. Home networking platforms such as ZigBee, HomePlug, Wi-Fi, and HomeGrid Forum, have been busy promoting what they called the Smart Energy Profile for developing energy management applications across different networking technologies.
Yet, many smart grid and smart meter projects today still focus primarily on the connectivity and utility control of the grid, and not the consumer level control. Additionally, the consumer component of energy management seems to be losing momentum. In the past year, consumer energy management initiatives from Google, Microsoft, and more recently, Cisco, have been shut down. Without consumers’ participation in managing energy use, it’s hard to imagine how to achieve the full extent of energy efficiency for the home.
Consumers aside, the AT&T and Digi solution will also allow utility companies to develop monitoring and control capabilities for their customers’ appliances.
“When energy providers notice major spikes in consumption, they can take advantage of Digi X-Grid Solutions’ load control features to take the strain off of the power grid,” AT&T said. “Consumers that give their utility company permission to remotely turn off discretionary devices such as pool heaters can receive credits and savings on their bills, while the service providers can route energy to where it’s needed most.”
“Digi X-Grid Solutions, powered by AT&T’s wireless network, move beyond the smart meter to provide innovative applications and devices for real-time insight into power consumption,” said Chris Hill, vice president, Advanced Mobility Solutions, AT&T Business Solutions. “These services can help both utilities and their customers use energy more efficiently.”