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« Bidding for Schedules—VPOLL and VAVAILABILITY | Making New Homes ready for Smart Energy »
Friday
May232014

The Right Time at the Right Place

Smart Energy uses schedule negotiation and schedule coordination to operate systems and equipment at the right time to take maximum advantage of variable energy supplies. As the internet of things grows up, it will move from gathering data from sensors to coordinating things to enhance our lives. The future of business breaks down into smaller entities with stronger missions that coordinate activities over time to support customers as if by a single business, only better. We all took steps closer to these seemingly simple coordination results, at a meeting at AOL headquarters.

For the last decade, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium (CalConnect) has worked to improve the interoperation of tools that coordinate schedules. We use their standards to run our personal and business lives, every time we accept a meeting request by email. Their work is critical to smart buildings and smart grids. This week, they demonstrated how to extend this work to support live machine to machine (M2M) schedule negotiations, including schedule auctions. My mind is buzzing with the implications.

Representatives of the US Veterans Administration (VA) were at CalConnect this week. The VA is in the news and under fire this week for failures related to scheduling and appointments. One can look to procedures and people and motivation, but under all is a cumbersome system that makes it difficult to accomplish some essential scheduling functions. These problems encourage employees to augment the system with a variety of out-of-system manual processes. These manual processes present opportunities both for mistakes and for gaming. Tragically, there was some of both.

VA management recognized the problems with scheduling systems well before the current scandals. It takes time to change anything so big. Last year, the VA held a competition to demonstrate standards-based approaches that could not only address the problems they have now, but can also prepare for more powerful stresses on their systems in the future. But knowing they had problems was not the same as knowing where and who the problems were. We have all found that out publicly in the last few weeks.

The story of the VA and open standards and how they hope to transform their monolithic systems in agile systems able to embrace outsourcing, insourcing, and distributed operations, is too long to fit here. I will write of it soon. I had the privilege of contributing to one of the competitors (my team came in third).  This week, the VA and those who hope to work with the VA were at CalConnect.  

CalConnect, now a decade old, ebbs and flows as does any organization. CalConnect was founded in a flurry of activity to address minimum capability cell phones, and worked through such problems as coordinating recurring meetings on a device too limited to compute once-a-week meetings. Today’s phones are more capable than personal computers then, and CalConnect has moved on to the problems of personal calendars in the age of social media. Calendar federation and social coordination bring new challenges.

Five years ago, CalConnect led the refresh of the aging standards for calendar information. iCalendar (RFC5545) is flexible and extensible, and describes key semantics and essential structure for everything you might see in your personal calendar. ITIP (RFC 5546) describes how to negotiate information between calendar-aware systems. You use it not only when you accept an email invitation, but also when that meeting is moved or cancelled.

Three years ago, CalConnect produced vAvailability, now moving to a standard in the IETF. (The Internet Engineering Task Force is the organization that manages the key specifications and communications of the internet.) . VAvailability is used in smart energy to advertise changing schedules for energy supply and for demand response. EMIX (Energy Market Information Exchange) defines contracts for Energy Reserves as financial options linked to vAvailability. OASIS developed WS-Calendar in close coordination with CalConnect.

But that is in the past. This week was exciting for the demonstration of new work that expands the tools for schedule coordination.

This week at CalConnect, multiple organizations demonstrated working interchanges of live schedule negotiations and schedule auctions. I will write more about the new standards such vPoll, CardDAV, and iSchedule later. The news is that this week CalConnect demonstrated three-server three-organization demonstration of standards-based schedule polling and auctions. The essential interactions for resource advertising and exchange were front and center. Direct server-to-server communications of schedules without the usual email were demonstrated, along with specific hooks for authorized interactions between web sites and personal calendars, and between trusted business partners.

Distributed schedule-based auctions are at the core of smart energy, including the budding efforts for interoperable transactive energy agents.

Standards-based scheduling engines will expand the reach and availability of specialized veteran’s services for today’s more mobile population. Open specifications for schedule negotiation can support more efficient and auditable queuing of complex scheduling requirements to be performed by multiple clinics. Distributed schedule-abased auctions will enable the VA to expand services and schedules to incorporate community resources far from the big VA Hospitals.

The next step of computer service is schedules for systems big and small to interact with our lives. The next step of business is improved provision of services across multiple businesses acting a single personal concierge, in medicine and in other personal services.

The tools for this were demonstrated at CalConnect this week. This work has powerful implications for smart energy, for medical scheduling, academic scheduling, and for social media. More later.

CalConnect invites interested organizations and companies to join CalConnect in moving the work
forward. www.calconnect.org

 

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