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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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Smartgrid Basics: The Demand Side Problem

Last week the Smartgrid-discuss group opened up within OASIS, introducing power grid technologies to the architects of e-commerce and internet security standards. Some of the latter are trying to understand the problem, and learn the jargon. I wrote this as the second of a series of posts introduce the issues in a simplified, almost cartoon form.

Building systems have traditionally been invisible and uncontrollable. They have been managed to reduce costs with no real focus on the service they are providing. They have grown up in sandboxes, using their own peculiar protocols. These protocols are deep and technology specific, and often without effective interface. These systems are operated, when they are operated by process specialists.

Building occupants rarely have a precise understanding of how these systems affect their business. They may know exactly what a too-hot or too-cold call costs. They know that tenant dissatisfaction may lead to un-renewed leases. They may suspect that under ventilation may lead to sleepy occupants, but can rarely put any exact price tag on that. This makes them conservative about making changes in building operations.

Demand Response (DR) is emerging a critical tool for dealing with peak load management. Peak loads are by far the most expensive and dirtiest electricity we have; their costs, on both bottom lines, swamping others. Demand response is moving from direct control to economic incentives, but underneath, today’s integrations are process centric rather than service oriented. Energy providers order or pay energy customers to turn off things on just a few days a year, to manage the peak. We encourage only the crudest, least effective energy savings, while denying the market the energy signals that would cause better.

At the commodity system level, DR is already moving to services and agents. Agents defend their own mission while responding to the outside world. Washing machines know not to respond to grid signals until they determine that the current laundry is not soaking in bleach. Refrigerators know not to respond if they have just finished a defrost cycle. These systems know and understand what services they provide and so are ready to be responsive. Building systems are not.

We will get larger DR when we talk to the building occupant. We will get better participation when the occupant remains in control. The occupant will not allow DR when the in-laws are coming for the weekend. The occupant knows the family overspent at Christmas and is willing to respond to any and all incentives. The access control system may know that only three people on the fourth floor came to work today. Human resources knows that the sales force is on a retreat. Together, they can choreograph far greater response from the building systems then ever will be permitted as an automatic response from control communications.

Demand Response must be about economic signals to a business entity. When thought of in this way, there is no need for different signals to Industry and to Business (and to home and to vehicle). The business may choose to automate this. The business may benefit from templates for response, whether developed by EPRI or by ASHRAE, which reduce the risk of considering participation. These choices and these templates are not part of the interface.

The interface should not does not concern itself with the underlying technology and control protocols. It should not be based upon BACnet, or OPC, or LON any number of other low level control system protocols. The interface must be one that enables business decisions. Control systems should offer up service interfaces for choreographed response. Whatever offer and counter offer DR requires, whether amount of load shed or maximum load used or time to respond must be in the interface, but no deep process.

The smartgrid to building/industry/home interface is about how the Service Oriented Building can respond to the Service Oriented Grid. Just as in other services, the underlying processes should be hidden.

If you want to join the public discussion at OASIS, send a message to

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Reader Comments (1)

Hi Toby,

Thank you for sharing with us your knowledge and experiences with DR and the "smart grid". My hope is that as this continues to run its coarse with more momentum, that individuals like you are staying ahead of the policy makers on the Hill.

This is a very exciting time, similar to what we witnessed in the early 80's and 90's as the mass proliferation of PCs allowed individuals to add their knowledge to the continuous development of internet protocals and open source programming. We will need to create a single standard in order for us to truly maximize the opportunity in a quick fashion. As Bill Clinton so succintly stated in '07 greentech will be the next big driver of industry and jobs.

- Jae Lee

January 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJae Lee

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