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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Friday
Apr272007

Intelligent Grids need Intelligent Buildings

Two weeks ago I participated in a symposium sponsored by the Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) for the GridWise Architectural Council (GridWise AC). It is a fascinating conference, and one with more chance of meeting green and environmental and conservation goals than just many other initiatives hosted by folks who wear their hearts on their sleeves. It was also grounded in good economic theory and humble enough that it might just succeed.

GridWise AC is trying to create the structures to enable rapid innovation in the power grid. The first principle of GridWise is that while the folks in the room are smart (and they were – this was no small part of the fun), they are not the only smart folks in the world. To actually address the needs of the future grid while moving to new models of energy production, we must create structures that encourage innovation. To encourage innovation, we must create means of realizing value propositions for new energy usage patterns and for non-traditional power sources.

Current market structures are a boat anchor on innovation. If you invent a gizmo that talks to the power grid and somehow saves energy in the house, today, you can only sell it to around 30 customers – all big power companies. Each of them will be required to run an extensive pilot before they can get anything through their local Utilities Commission. This means your initial sale will have to be, say, 50,000 units warranted for 10 years. Then after a year installing those units, the power company can propose a rate structure for them The Utilities Commission may nix the whole project, or ask for more research.

GridWise AC makes no assumptions about the structure of the future markets for power. It does not assume that consumers will interact with monolithic power companies. It hopes to enable power users to adopt their own technologies, to let innovators sell product directly, and to attain a higher quality power while it does this.

If we pull this off correctly, there will be whole new industries around the now nimble market. As each home or business can buy from whatever power generator they please, different power sources will get different prices based upon what consumers want. You may have an in-home agent running on your PC, and talking to your home systems. You may have someone else, talking to your home over your internet connection and buying power for you. In either case, you will be buying the power which meets your wants, whether they be driven by economy, or reliability or a whole range of green concerns that might range far beyond the simple “Zero Carbon”.

I am fascinated by the technologies and markets this will engender. Somehow there will have to be a continent-wide NASDAQ of power. Instead of balance sheets, there will be an ontology of power generation to enable our computerized agents to execute our will. Who will audit these systems, both the transactions and the greenliness. Who will develop the interfaces that make playing in this area safe for the non-technical?

As an intelligent building guy, I feel that all of this is helped along by abstract discoverable interfaces to the home and office embedded systems. By policy, I must say that oBIX is the way. Whether that is true or not, I know that it will be a protocol that is able to talk to the building systems, but is itself higher up, where human interactions can occur.

It should be fun.

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