Friday Gadget: The MAB Automated Cleaning System for your house

Gadget - MAB - Automatic Cleaning SystemIn my house, I am the one usually dusting, cleaning, and vacuuming.  It’s not that I like doing the cleaning…it’s just that the other family members never seem to do be interested in having a clean house.   So this Friday’s Gadget post is one that I really like as it paint’s a future where I don’t have to do the cleaning.  

The automated robotic cleaning concept system called MAB, relies on flying mini-robots.   The concept won the 2013 Electrolux Design Lab Competition.  Check out the video below.

The ‘Mab’ automated cleaning system uses hundreds of tiny robots that fly around and collect dust and dirt.   Designer Adrian Perez Zapata says he created the system with the idea that he could  free the human race from the tedious task of cleaning.  In his Mab design, micro-robots do the work to clean every surface of your house while you sit back and relax.   I love that idea. 

Here’s how his Mab concept works.  Think of the Mab core unit as like a beehive and the flying robots as the bees.  In this case, hundreds of tiny flying robots are loaded with drops of water mixed with soap.  The Mab core unit scans the room, identifies dimensions and potential problem areas.  It then releases the flying robots to clean.  As the robots touch surfaces, the cleaning fluid picks up dirt and then the flying robot returns it to the central unit.  Back at the Mab Core unit, the dirt is filtered out from the liquid, which is then then cycled through the Mab core unit for reuse.

 

 

Embedded in Adrian’s design concept is that the Mab could be powered through wireless energy or solar energy.   He also says the wings of each robot could have solar panels to collect energy.

Just think…in the future you may never have to clean again

Internet of Things (IoT) Trend and Prediction Articles for 2014

The Internet of Things (IoT) is made up of physical objects (“things”) that have chips, sensors and actuators embedded in them that allow the sensing, capturing and communication of all types of data. These devices are then linked through both wired and wireless networks to the Internet. The IT challenge is to design IoT enabled systems and then leverage the information collected as a tool to help decision makers make better decisions.

I recently published my trend report Internet of Things: Trends to Watch in 2014 out on slideshare.   The report provides an overview of Internet of Things (IoT) and what to watch in 2014. Below I’ve provided you some articles on this trend that I thought you would want to read.

Source Title
InterSog How wearable technology will change future mobile paradigm [Part 1]
ComputerWorld.IN Internet of Things: 2013 Highlights & Outlook 2014
CNBC Wearable tech: What it needs to be a game-changer
Credit Suisse The Future of Wearable Technology
ZDNet AT&T’s predictions for the enterprise in 2014
Cisco Predictions 2014: Wager on the Internet of Everything
Digital-MR Driving Better Business Decisions With Social Media Research And The Internet Of Things
Forbes Credit Suisse Says Warable Tech The Next Big Thing
InfoTales 5 Things to Look Forward to in the Future of Wearable Technology
MsM News Will the ‘Internet of things’ be a thing in 2014?

 

SteadyServ’s iKeg™ Solution: Leveraging The Third Computing Platform

SteadyServ iKegThe collection of IoT (Internet of Things), Mobile, Cloud, Social, and Data Analytics trends are enabling a whole new era of intelligent solutions for businesses of all sizes.   IDC calls this the Third Platform and Gartner calls it the Nexus of Forces.  Whatever you want to call it, we are experiencing a historical transformation in the computing platform for businesses.  Solution providers must accelerate their ability to develop solutions that leverage these collection of trends.

For an example of a Solution Provider leveraging this new computing platform, have a look at SteadyServ Technologies.  SteadyServ has just launched the iKeg™, a mobile SaaS-based (software as a service) inventory management solution, for the beer industry.   According to  SteadyServ CEO and co-founder Steve Hershberger, “beer sold in retail establishments accounts for a $21bn industry, yet the industry still relies on the inaccurate process of ‘shaking the keg’ – the same method used since the inception of the product.”  SteadyServ has set out to automate beer inventory management.

At the heart of their new solution is a sensor that easily attaches to the bottom of a beer keg.  That sensor can tell a beer distributor or a tavern owner, in real time, exactly how many kegs are in the cooler and how much beer is left in each keg. 

The iKeg™ system actually consists of three parts – the hardware, software and a mobile app.  The hardware combines the aforementioned removable sensor ring and a RFID tag.  Once the RFID tag is scanned, the cloud-based software receives the data from the sensor, tracking how much beer remains, type of beer, age and when it was delivered.  Analytics in the iKeg™ solution measures and reports the real-time inventory of draft kegs, which is all accessible via a mobile app. 

The iKeg™ mobile app allows you to send customizable automatic social alerts to Facebook and Twitter every time a new beer goes on tap. It also provides a number of fully-integrated tools to help promote your establishment, special event or a unique beer that you might want to highlight. Have a look at the mobile app in the video below.

SteadyServ’s new iKeg Mobile App

Pretty neat, isn’t it?

The iKeg™ solution also automates the order and fulfillment process for the entire inventory of draft, bottled and canned beers.   All this information is then tallied with the stock, the next delivery date, previous order information, event information, and past and future beer consumption trends.  In addition, the iKeg™ solution uses advanced machine-to-machine communication technologies to ensure that the system is secure, reliable and highly scalable.  

It seems to me SteadyServ has a bright future ahead.  It’s a perfect example of an innovative solution provider leveraging the IoT (Internet of Things), Mobile, Cloud, Social, and Data Analytics trends.   I see the a whole new era of similar cloud-based solutions that will be developed and implemented as part of this new computing platform.

For more on iKeg™ or SteadyServ, check out their website at http://www.steadyserv.com.  You can also follow SteadyServ on Twitter at @steadyserv or via the hashtag #ikeg.

Internet of Things: A 2013 HorizonWatching Trend Report

My Internet of Things: A 2013 HorizonWatching Trend Report is available for you to download out on Slideshare.  I’ve embedded it below.

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to everyday physical objects that have embedded sensors, actuators and chips in them that allow the capture and communication of data.  These devices are then linked through both wired and wireless networks to the Internet.  The IoT trend is all about enabling these devices and then using the information collected as a result as a tool to make our lives better and help us make better decisions.  The IoT is therefore seen by many as an ultimate solution for automating business processes — in the real-world and in real-time.

If you look around your own home,  you will see that sensors are being embedded in all sorts of ‘things’ from fitness monitors, to cars, to appliances.   There are forecasts from industry analysts that say there will be up to 100 billion uniquely identifiable objects connected to the Internet by 2020.  Many of these devices will be able to talk to other devices and computers without any human intervention.  Enterprises can deploy their own sensor networks, building sense and respond systems that can work autonomously.  Some say that the IoT will be the most disruptive technological revolution since the advent of the World Wide Web.

Trends to Watch in 2013 for the Internet of Things

  1. Thank you IPv6!: Connectivity and Communications of IoT is enabled by IPv6, which is replacing IPv4.
  2. It’s About Sensors: They are getting smaller, smarter, and cheaper….and there are billions of them.
  3. Machine to Machine: Sensor and systems of sensors talking to each other and data centers via wireless communications
  4. Like A Nervous System: IoT can enable an automated sense and respond system for any business process or application.
  5. Big Data to get Bigger: All these ‘things’ (sensors) will produce even more data than we have now, taxing our already complex enterprise Information Management systems.
  6. IoT Analytics: Advanced analytics and dashboards will be needed to provide insights from all the ‘things’.
  7. Clouds that Scale: Some IoT systems and networks may have to scale quickly and autonomously.
  8. CIOs Need to Prepare: CIO Leaders and Innovators will begin strategizing how to best make use of IoT for their organizations.
  9. Education Needed: Expect increased demand for education and skills training related to Sensor Networks and what to do with the data collected.
  10. Product Design: Consumers and Customers will increasingly expect products to come with embedded sensors.

The IoT Trend Report

28 Internet of Things (IoT) Trends and Prediction Articles for 2013

Internet of Things For the last 10 posts I’ve been sharing my research with you around top trends for 2013. I’ve covered everything from Social Business to Big Data to Cloud Computing.   Today I am sharing a list of 28 articles and blog posts that discuss the developments we might see in 2013 around the trend called “Internet of Things” or IoT for short.

The IoT refers to the explosion of embedded sensors and intelligent devices that are flooding our every day lives.  Sensors are being embedded in all sorts of ‘things’ from fitness monitors, to cars, to water main valves.   There are forecasts from industry analysts that say there will be up to 100 billion uniquely identifiable objects connected to the Internet by 2020.  Many of these devices will be able to talk to other devices and computers without any human intervention.  Enterprises can deploy their own sensor networks, building sense and respond systems that can work autonomously.  Some say that the IoT will be the most disruptive technological revolution since the advent of the World Wide Web. 

Below you will find a list of 28 articles that discuss the IoT and what developments we might expect to see in 2013. 

Source Title of Article / Blog Post
AlertMe CES 2013 and The Internet of Things
BusinessWeek CES 2013: Connected Devices and the Internet of Things
Connect.innovateuk.org 2013 likely to be a big year for IoT
Elizabeth Presson 2013 Forecast: The Internet of Things is Changing Your World, So Pay Attention
Elizabeth Presson The Internet of Things at CES 2013
Fierce Wireless Europe 2013 M2M predictions
Forbes CES 2013: The Break-Out Year For The Internet Of Things
Forbes CES 2013: The Four-Sentence Summary
Forbes How The Internet Of Things Will Change Almost Everything
formtek.com The Internet of Things: Engine of Economic Growth?
Frost & Sullivan Global Increase in Adoption of Real-Time Location Systems Depends on Technological Innovations
IT Watch Dogs In 2013, expect the ‘Internet of Things’ to take off
M2MWorldNews Deutsche Telekom M2M predictions for 2013
MediaPost The Internet Of Things And The Data It Will Produce
MIT Technology Review 2013: The year of the Internet of Things
newelectronics.co.uk Outlook 2013: Are you ready for the ‘Internet of Things’?
RCR Wireless 2013 Predictions: M2M and the ‘Internet of things’ in 2013
SemanticWeb How the Internet of Things Will Reshape the World in 2013
SemanticWeb.com 2013: The Year of the Internet of Things
Solid State Technology 2013: Building the internet of things with MEMS and 3D advances
sourcedigit.com Why 2013 is going to be the year of the Internet of Things
TechRepublic 2013’s hot topic: The Internet of Things (and our new way of covering it)
The Next Web Quantified Self and the Internet of Things: Everyone is collecting your data, so why shouldn’t you?
The Next Web Why 2013 will be the year of the Internet of Things
ThreeWill Predictions – Internet of Things
VentureBeat 2013: The Internet of things, delivered via smartphone
Venturebeat.com 2013 will be the year of ‘the Internet of things’ as more than 5B wireless chips ship
Wired 2013 and the Internet of Things

A Primer On Water Management Issues

IBM Water Mgmnt Icon Today is Blog Action day at water.org.  It's a good time to get the word out to everyone on water management issues. Read more about water.org's blog action day at Blog Action Day – Working Together To Solve The Water Crisis.  This post is my contribution to the Blog Action Day.

Most of us reading this post take our access to water for granted.  However, I would imagine that we all realize that water is critical to sustaining life on our planet.  Water makes up 60 to 70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.  If the Earth’s water supply vanished, there would be no plants, no animals, and no people. 

While the Earth’s water is not vanishing, many scientists believe that our global water supply is in crisis.  We may or may not be at the crisis stage, but we definitely need to take action to solve our water management issues.

Some Quick Facts About WaterWater Wasted

  • Water covers 75% of the earth's surface.  Nearly 98% of the earth's water is in the oceans.  Fresh water makes up less than 3% of water on earth, over two thirds of this is tied up in polar ice caps and glaciers.  Fresh water lakes and rivers make up only 0.009% of water on Earth and ground water makes up 0.28%.
  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt, 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk, and 39,000 gallons to make a car.
  • Global agriculture wastes an estimated 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year. 
  • Municipalities lose as much as 50% of their water supply through leaky infrastructure.  
  • More than one trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks.
  • 1 in 5 of the word’s population still lacks access to clean, safe drinking water. 
  • The United Nations predicts that nearly half the world’s population will experience critical water shortages by the year 2080.
  • There are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the United States alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs. 
  • In the last 100 years global water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth.

For those of us living in developed nations, our water infrastructure is many decades old.  In fact, in some places it is centuries old.  As our demand for water is increasing, we need to modernize the existing infrastructure.  One way to do that is to apply information technology.

Today’s water management systems are operating without enough data and insights.   The planet needs new water management systems, based on smart technology that can collect and analyze real-time data.  These new systems will provide water authorities with the insights they need to supply more water to more people with lower energy-use and cost. 

How Can Technology Help?

What is needed are water management systems that can provide real time collection and analysis of all sources of data.  This includes integrating disparate sensor technologies that produce disparate data formats along with other data from an array of partners.  Information technology solutions are needed that can take data that’s coming in fast and turn it into intelligence that augments the ability to improve decision making about water distribution.  These solutions need to connect the folks in the central control room with those working in the field building bridges, dams, dykes to the sensor experts and sophisticated modelers.

  • Technology can monitor, measure and analyze entire water ecosystems, from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes.
  • The latest water meters, combined with appropriate Water Management solutions can provide a single, reliable, up-to-the minute and actionable view of water use for a government, a business, or a home.   These ‘smart’ water meters can provide real-time insight into water use, raising awareness, locating inefficiencies and decreasing demand.
  • Advanced sensors can help us collect all sorts of new data on water usage.  For example, sensors on levees can monitor changing flood conditions and respond accordingly.  Sensor based systems can provide the agriculture industry with detailed information on air quality, soil moisture content and temperature to calculate optimal irrigation schedules.
  • Advanced computing, analytics, and simulations can help us all move beyond “real time” to prediction, supporting better-informed policy and management decisions.
  • Technology can also be applied to our oceans to gather data on water temperature, currents, wave strength, salinity and marine life, and applying algorithms that can forecast everything from wave patterns over 24 hours to the right time to harvest mussels.

IBM Water Management Solution Areas

IBM is taking a leadership role among technology vendors in researching, piloting and developing a whole suite of water management solutions.  Taking a look at what IBM is doing can help us see the areas where technology can be applied to solve water management issues

  • Natural Water Resources – Provides sensor data integration, analysis and visualization to enable the measurement, modeling and management of water levels, usage and quality in natural water resources.
  • Water Utilities – Enables water providers to make rapid decisions regarding business processes and operational efficiency to maximize their return on investments as well as foresee and quickly respond to contamination issues and emergencies.
  • Water Infrastructure – Provides sensing systems for managing water infrastructure, such as levee oversight management and flood control.
  • Water Metering – Improves management of water supply and demand by integrating data between the dozens of stakeholders involved. Provides all stakeholders with consistent, real-time information to help them work together to make critical decisions about water supply in a geographic region.
  • Green Sigma for Water™ – is a business consulting service that identifies where water is being used, measures and monitors usage, and creates process improvements to reduce water use. IBM pilots have achieved reductions in water usage of 30%.
  • SmartBay Sensor System – Monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels.  Provide real-time information to stakeholders in the Irish maritime economy, runs on a cloud computing platform, and is able to predict water conditions critical to those stakeholders.

Innovative Water Management Vendors

The Artemis Project held its second annual Artemis Project Top 50 Water Companies Competition during the spring of 2010.   These vendors are all coming up with some very innovative and creative solutions to Water Management issues.  Check out the winners:  A list of the 50 is here.   View a poster show of this year’s winners here.

What Is Needed

More work is needed as we transform the water infrastructure to digital technology:

  • Continue to Build Awareness for Water Issues.  Many in leadership positions are not aware of the critical need for water management information technology solutions.
  • Continue Market Testing & Solutions Platform Development.  Technology vendors need to continue to build assets and test solution platforms.  Stronger linkages are needed across the growing ecosystem.
  • Continue to Build Thought Leadership Deliverables.  Tech vendors need to develop content highlighting case studies, references, demonstrations, and white papers.

For More Information

There is a bunch of more reading material available.  Here some links…

New Transportation Study Says Urban Sprawl Causes Congestion

Driven Apart For years now, The Urban Mobility Report, issued every two years by the Texas Transportation Institute, has been regarded by many transportation and urban planning experts as the ‘bible’ on traffic congestion issues.   The report has been used to justify large road improvement projects throughout the country in an attempt to solve major metropolitan traffic congestion problems.

However, a new report from CEOs for Cities offers a dramatic critique of the 25 year old industry standard created by the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (UMR).  The report provides a new look at traffic congestion and suggests there are additional reasons why  Americans spend so much time in traffic.  The report

The new report titled Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse says the solution to the congestion problem has much more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads.  The report says that we need new metrics like 'total trip distance’ and ‘total travel time’, metrics that are not currently in the The Urban Mobility Report.

The report ranks how long residents in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas spend in peak hour traffic, and in some cases the rankings are almost the opposite of those listed in the 2009
Urban Mobility Report.  Here’s a list from the report of the 10 cities (out of the 51 studied) where commuters spend the most time getting to work every day. 

Cities Avg. hours per year in traffic
Detroit – Warren – Livonia 179
Indianapolis – Carmel 166
Louisville / Jefferson County 165
Raleigh – Cary 161
Birmingham – Hoover 159
Oklahoma City 154
St. Louis 153
Memphis 152
Richmond 147
Kansas City 142

The report says that compact cities are the real answer to reducing traffic delays.  The key is to have land use patterns and transportation systems that enable their residents to take
shorter trips and minimize the burden of peak hour travel.   These conclusions are very different than those of the UMR, which has long been used to measure traffic congestion and has been used to justify road improvement projects costing millions of dollars.

It’s nice to have a fresh look at the traffic congestion issue.  Thanks CEO for Cities!

For more information, you can access the report (exec summary AND the detailed report) and supporting press release, graphics, etc. by heading over to http://www.ceosforcities.org/work/driven-apart

Intelligent Transportation Scenario: Advanced Traveler Information Systems

LONDN023 I’m wondering when in the future will we arrive at a place where there will be open standards for traffic information that will allow us to have Advanced Traveler Information Systems.  

Traffic information is certainly needed by everyone.  That means we need to have it available on all sorts of devices using all sorts of applications.   So why not open standards so the information can be available and used to help us all get from point A to point B in less time and with less frustration/hassle?

I see a future where Advanced Traveler Information Systems are capable of advising travelers of suggested travel route changes due to traffic congestion changes…all in real time.  An integrated system would need to be able to draw real-time information from any type of transportation in the region, then process that information against the traveler’s requests/needs,  then provide that information back to the traveler in the format needed for the traveler’s device and application.

Here is a scenario….

Monday evening

1. Jack receives an email from his global head of marketing that an important client will be visiting London to discuss a new deal. Jack is to host dinner for the global client on Friday evening at Nobu in London.

2. Jack books a table over the Internet for 1900 on Friday and puts the details into his Lotus Calendar.

Friday

10:00 – The day has not started well: Jack is in back-to-back meetings the entire day with some client issues.

17:30 – Jack’s online calendar reminds him of the dinner and alerts him of his travel options based on reaching the restaurant by 1900:

  1. Taxi: due to ongoing road works on the route, there is a bad traffic jam along the route – he would need to leave the office by 1800. The estimated cost was £25.
  2. Bus: as there were bus lanes throughout the route, the road works would not impact the journey too significantly – he would need to leave the office by 1810. The cost would be £2.
  3. Tube & walking: the Piccadilly line was currently on schedule; he would need to start walking to the Tube by 1815. The cost would be £3.

The application on Jack’s smartphone recommends that Jack go with option 4:  Tube and walking.

18:20  -  On Jack’s walk to the Tube, his smartphone alerts him of a security incident on the Bakerloo Tube line. If he were to continue with the planned route, he would arrive at the restaurant only at 1945. It advises him to change his route by walking to the nearest bus stop. The bus route would get him to the restaurant at 1910.

19:10 – Jack arrives at the restaurant slightly late but thankfully his guest has not yet arrived – the guest took a taxi and was caught in a traffic jam!

The successful outcome in the scenario above is dependent on open transportation information standards and Advanced Traveler Information Systems, including

  • An extensive sensor-based transportation system operating in the region where real-time information is collected on every type of transportation available to the traveler
  • An back office analytics-rich system capable of analyzing the millions of transactions coming into the system for each mode of transportation
  • Applications available on personal mobile handheld devices capable of interacting with the regional Advanced Traveler Information System.  The mobile application needs to be able to become an agent for the person, acting on stored personal preferences, the calendar for the day, and the real-time information available from the regional system.

Friday Gadget: Rotundus Robot

The GroundBot has been around a few years, but I thought I’d feature it this Friday. Groundbot is a spherical shaped robot that can roll up to 6 mph through indoor and outdoor spaces with relative ease.  In fact, outside it can roll through mud, sand, snow and even water.   Inside the ‘ball’ two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras along with a bunch of sensors provides people monitoring the cameras with a real-time, 360-degree view of wherever the GroundBot happens to be.  Remote operators can use the cameras to zoom in on anything they may see.  Sensors also can detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards.

To get rolling, the robot simply shifts its weight. Its center of mass is suspended from a pendulum inside the sphere, so motors just push the pendulum to the front, to the back, or to the side.   Lithium-ion batteries provide up to 16 hours of spy time.  GroundBot can be remote controlled by hand or programmed to navigate by GPS. 

GroundBot can effectively increase security and cuts costs at places such as airports, factories, warehouses, etc.   Check out this video from Popular Science and you’ll the Groundbot actually rolling through water.

For more on the GroundBot, see the website:  http://www.rotundus.se/video.html  and there are more videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/RotundusRobotics

Friday Gadget: Yotaro the baby robot

Yotaro is another interesting robot idea coming out of Japan.  This robot is designed to be a baby. 

It has baby blue eyes and it makes cute baby sounds.  It also cries, sneezes, smiles, has runny noses, and even sleeps.  It reacts to touch. Facial expressions change. In fact it shows all the emotions of a typical baby and communicates those emotions pretty effectively. 

The researchers behind Yotaro are hoping that the robot can be used to help young parents learn parenting skills before the real baby arrives.  For more on Yotaro and the researchers at Tsukuba University who created it, check out this article I found at Physorg http://www.physorg.com/news187419450.html

A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

IDC Insights: 2010 Predictions for Manufacturing Supply Chains

IDC Today I attended the IDC Manufacturing Insights conference call where IDC outlined its 2010 Predictions for Manufacturing Supply Chains.  On the call Simon Ellis, IDC Mfg Insights Practice Director, Supply Chain and Kimberly Knickle, IDC Mfg Insights Practice Director, Emerging Agenda outlined the firm’s recommendations for manufacturer supply chains in 2010

The call started with a overall look at economic trends affecting supply chains disciplines such as procurement, planning, manufacturing and logistics and then moved into the top 10 predictions.  The overall theme from IDC is that manufacturing companies need to rethink their supply chain structures and begin to evolve to a variable-cost-driven value network.

Here is a summary of the top ten trends.

  1. Optimization Focus: “Dynamic Optimization” dominates Capability Investment to Support Redefining of the Supply Chain
  2. Sales & Operation Planning:  S&OP Will Re-emerge as the Synchronizing Process for Reconciling Supply and Demand
  3. Redesigning Supply Chains:  Balancing Supply and Demand Across the Value Chain Will Prompt a Strategic Redesign of the Supply Network
  4. SCM and PLM Convergence:  Supply Chain and Product Life-Cycle Management Applications Will Increasingly Converge as Manufacturing Companies Focus on Innovation Delivery
  5. Intelligent Supply Chains:  Intelligent Supply Chains Will Put Broader Visibility Burden on Supply Chain Organizations, Both Owned and Outsourced
  6. Globalization:   Supply Chain Organizations Will Invest in Capabilities That Facilitate Global Operations
  7. Rethinking Fulfillment:  Transportation Capacity Will Tighten, Causing Supply Chain Organizations to Rethink Fulfillment Strategies
  8. Risk Management:  The Increasing Pace of Supply Chain Outsourcing/Offshoring Will Keep Risk Management High on the Strategic Agenda, But Investment Will Remain Focused on Building Risk Awareness
  9. Time to Get Smarter?  Smart Services and the Need for Persistent Assets Create the Inflection Point for RFID, Sensors, and M2M
  10. Metrics Drive Intelligence:  Armed with Metrics, Manufacturers Move from Sustainability Reporting to Intelligence

As the IDC team summarized the call, it was stated that 2010 will be the year of the intelligent supply chain.  There will be a focus on developing smarter processes, products, plants, people, and partners.   This thought confirms IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign.

You can register for access to the conference call webinar and slides by going to IDC Insights Predictions 2010: Manufacturing Supply Chain.  There is also a detailed research report on the topic:  Worldwide Supply Chain 2010 Top 10 Predictions

For more information…