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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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Sunday
Mar012009

Why do we need all these smart meters?

Why do we need all these smart meters – so someone asked over at GreenTechMedia. We can run the grid with far fewer, and it will cost less. Why do we need these complicated protocols when we only need a price and a use? This perspective is correct; it is good engineering unencumbered with vision. This perspective is wrong; we cannot build tomorrow by doing what we day just a little bit better. Without pervasive metering, LEEDs and Green Buildings will remain a sham. Smart utility meters are only the first step.

Peter Drucker is still the most important and most visionary of thinkers about business and organizations. Drucker’s work ranged from identifying the long term sources of GM’s problems in 1942 to coining the term knowledge worker in the 1980’s. There are very few writers in this field whose work is more than a fad or a fashion. Few are worth re-reading. Drucker’s work is still relevant – even in the post DotCom world.. (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Peter+Drucker).

Drucker fans are prone to invoking the pithy statements that sprinkled his work. My favorite Druckerism is "There is nothing quite so meaningless as doing well that which need not be done at all." There are many opportunities to invoke it at a state university where process often trumps any actual goals.

If we are creating a smart grid merely to meet the needs of the existing regulated market structures, much metering is not worthwhile. There are some limited benefits in peak management that accrue to the traditional utilities. There are few incentives for energy users to change, because benefits come to the diligent and free riders equally.  It is not worthwhile to have well-implemented smart meters everywhere if their interfaces are only for the power provider.

The real opportunity of the smart grid is its ability to work with more business models then the current top down reliable far-away power for dumb buildings and homes. The smart grid will support a network of power, with a network of new business opportunities for technology to insert itself into the energy chain.

Alternative Energy changes the grid because it is unreliable. If any significant amount of power on the grid comes from unreliable sources, we will have more peak energy events, when demand exceeds supply, per day than we now have per year. Distributed energy means that the neighborhood wind farm is now a full peer on the grid. Net Zero Energy means your dishwasher might bid against the grid for the output of your solar panel.

The smart grid offers choice. Homes and business will choose what power they buy, and they will want the smart grid to leave audit trails that they actually are getting it. A decade ago, supermarkets laughed at the idea that a significant number of consumers would choose more expensive groceries. Today, Whole Foods has transformed that industry and nearly every chain offers an organic produce section.

Why, you may even buy conventional reliable power to run your business but tell the fountain out front to run only when it can buy wave power. You may agree to pay a slight premium for your neighbors wind power when he is on vacation to keep his system working. We, or our software agents, will be active market participants in the national smart grid, in regional smart grids, in neighborhood smart grids, and even in in-building grids.

More metering, and more functional metering is worthwhile. Minimally functional metering is merely a way to reduce meter reading, not a step to the smart grid. And so, a final Druckerism: “We need to Measure, not Count.”

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Reader Comments (2)

toby: my favorite drucker is: "The trouble with all these great thoughts is that they degenerate into work"

March 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterglobal province

I used to be all for this but as Ive reserched into this great tech Iv noticed how much privacy you really will loose. Id rather pay little more to keep my privacy. With these meters the gov/company can regulate your fridge and heat/ac for you. Right now it will be for emergencies only but soon it will be you cant have you heat/ac above 65, under 65. California has already started down this path. I think this has started on good intentions but theres no telling when/where the mission creep comes in. The part that worries me is anyone able to access the info in real time will know if you have a light on, fridge or computer. Google has a new program that can tell what you have on by the pulses it puts off. Then someone will be able to see when you come home or leave just by the electricity you use. How much tv you watch or how long your on the computer. The smart grid will be tied into RFID tags in you packageing of everything you put in the fridge, thereby knowing what you eat and how fast its gone. over time this can only get worse. At best it will be used for marketing to sell you more crap, at worst....? I dont need a smart meter to tell me to turn my lights off or heat down. Im tired of big brother and this is just another nail in the coffen of freedom. Although this might push me to do off grid and save myself the monthly bill which has gone up about 40% in the last 5 years.

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames

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