Amazing!

theCHIVE

I love when people are this passionate about their job….

Via National geographic

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SHIFT HAPPENS!

This post is from my Facebook friend, Robbie Lauren. It was so thought provoking I thought I’d repost it (with due credit) in my Life, Connected theme for this blog.

SHIFT HAPPENS especially when you least expect it. You may think you are doing everything right and following a path you feel will bring you to a place of happiness and then — one day – a change happens that turns your world upside down. Sometimes change is brought about by external forces and sometimes it comes from within. Regardless of origin, change is often painful and riddled with paradox. When the moment comes – many people are rarely prepared for what happens and often times they become overwhelmed with fear and get stuck dwelling in the past.

The Shift is the Gift The key to embracing a change is to see it as a gift and to see the value in the present moment – no matter how overwhelming it may feel. Yes, that’s right – the shift is a gift and seeing it from this perspective can present significant opportunity. Life has a way of bringing us significant shifts when we need them most. A shift can present the time to examine what it means to live a life of fulfillment or how to achieve balance. The key is knowing the right questions to ask yourself when shift happens. The answers are inside of you and sometimes they just need a little space, time and help to surface.

Purpose is Powerful Your life belongs to you and no one else and living a fulfilling life is a radical act. Maintaining the status quo is for many both the path of least resistance and the antithesis of fulfillment. Listen to yourself – the answers are always inside of you. It’s often been said the quality of life is driven by the quality of our conversations. When you are going through change -what is your default conversation? Do you automatically listen to others or do you listen to the voice inside of you? When was the last time you sparked a powerful conversation with yourself? If you’re comfortable listening to your inner voice, which voice are you speaking with – the voice of love or the voice of fear?

Powerful Questions The most valuable wisdom I’ve learned is the power of the right question – especially during a transition. Powerful questions can ignite the spark to help you transition from living passively to living actively. Powerful questions help get you unstuck and find purpose and fulfillment.

Key Questions to Spark Personal Growth What do I really want and what am I willing to sacrifice? Who I am is who I say I want to be. Who do I want to be? What story do I need to stop telling myself? And what story do I want to begin? What commitment do I want to make to myself in this moment?

Life is Short and You are Magnificent That’s right- you are magnificent! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You have strengths, experience and a perspective unlike anyone else. Be kind to yourself and celebrate the uniqueness of being you. What’s important is knowing yourself, knowing your purpose and embracing the possibilities of the power of this moment.

Thanx, Robbie!

Credit Card Security

I recently had a miserable experience with credit card fraud and am not looking forward to having more high tech credit cards in my pocket as a result. I was pumping gas at a Chevron station in East Palo Alto. All seemed rather benign and safe. I swiped my credit card in the embedded machine in the pump. It asked me for the usual zip code info, approved and on I went with pumping the gas. I finished, took my receipt and drove off. About an hour later I get an email from Barclays Bank who handles the Virgin America VISA card (really cool looking card) stating that I had possible fraud activity on my card. I checked it online and noticed that there were two charges at that same Chevron station: my first legitimate one and another larger, fraudulent one for $120. I promptly cancelled it and the Barclays Bank folks were really good on the phone.

I asked around with several friends as to how this might possibly have happened. It’s not definitive but it’s theorized that there was someone at the gas station with a wireless device that somehow had activated the embedded chip in my credit card and somehow got access to information that obviously made them capable of a making a fraudulent charge on the card. Another possibility is that the gas pump somehow could have gotten hacked or intruded upon allowing access to be gained to the cards that get swiped through it.

So there are many credit cards with the embedded chips in them for contactless payments with the terminals at several merchants. Are we headed full speed ahead into a brick wall of a security hole with this embedded technology? What else is at risk?

  • Our healthcare with smart tags or cards that carry our health information?
  • Our passports with the new smart chips in them?

Will the move to using our smartphones or cellphones be safer for doing payments and commerce?

Utili-Telcos are Real

According to Greentech Media in their article titled, Green Tech at Midyear: What’s Hot, What’s Not, the union of utilities and service providers is happening and possibly even inevitable. They’ve coined the term “utili-telcos” for the entity that will provide combined services of voice, video, Internet, mobile, electricity and gas. Here is the excerpt from their #8 list of items.

For the past few years, communications giants like Comcast and AT&T have begun to build internal units that will one day manage energy in homes or offices. Some of the early efforts have begun to trickle out. Central Indiana Power merged with a local telco to provide communications services and power and gas. Verizon, meanwhile, unfurled an initiative in February to provide cloud computing to utilities.

At the other end of the spectrum, utilities are going to start to recruit more heavily from telcos and retailers in an effort to build customer-friendly faces and support desks, sources tell us.

I wonder who those “sources” are. Nevertheless, this is an area to keep a close eye on as it has very disruptive possibilities.

Utilities + Telecom = The Really Smart Grid

Last November 2010 I wrote about whether utilities and telecom operators where friends or foes. I opined that there are more things going for them to be friends than otherwise. Recently there was an article in Greentech Media titled The Merger of Telecom and Utilities: Is It the Future? According to the article,

“It’s already happening in Australia, where one utility, ActewAGL, is bundling up to seven services to save customers money. It’s also starting to happen here in the U.S.

Central Indiana Power, a small co-operative in the suburbs of Indianapolis, has merged with a local telecom, Hancock, to offer electricity, phone, broadband and home security services through one company now called NineStar Connect.”

Will utilities of the future sell TV, phone, mobile, electricity and gas? Is this possible given the incredibly slow to move behemoth monopolies that exist in the utility industry today? Does it make sense from a consumer perspective? Is it taking a current monopoly and making it the multi-headed Hydra of a monopoly where they control so much? Or it is just the right recipe to promote competition whereby the distribution infrastructure is managed in a wholesale model whereby multiple Mega Service Providers offer the quintuple play of services competing within a market against other Mega Service Providers?

Another Greentech Media article titled Who Are The Utilities of the Future? makes a few good points, one specifically that can provide the catalyst to these new futuristic utilities.

“The general public perception of utilities is that they are staid, almost immobile, organizations that act more like government agencies than businesses. The power and water business, however, is currently undergoing perhaps the largest transformation it has seen since the dawn of utility commissions.

Consumers and corporations have begun to install solar panels and fuel cells that effectively let them ease off the grid. Native American tribes, real estate investment trusts and others sell power generated from real estate — desert acreage, industrial rooftops, landfills — that once had little market value. Soon, microgrids could lead to autonomous communities. Power to charge your electric car will come from a parking lot.”

Microgrids may very well spawn the age of these new Mega Service Providers where there is more of a market driven approach than just simple peak load management according to demand-response. Microgrids will generate and store energy, as well as consume it. But they may also communicate intelligently among themselves to a services broker or “green exchange” that will facilitate the trading of knowledge and possibly the energy itself of when certain loads will be required as well as when certain lulls will be available. As the Internet did for social networking, it may also do for the ultimate grassroots effort of all mankind, to disrupt the current utility model and create totally new business and operating models.

Is this the future? How else might it look? Do you agree or disagree?

Wireless is for the birds

From my colleague and co-chair of the Wireless Communications Alliance Cognitive Radio Special Interest Group (WCA CR SIG…whew!), Lloyd Nirenberg, I thought this picture was funny and cool, and still somewhat accurate about the “black magic” that is wireless technology. Wireless is for the birds.png

And yet wireless technologies are permeating themselves into EVERY single facet of our lives. Here is a list representative of my Life, Connected (certainly not an exhaustive or representative list of other people but probably close).

  • iPhone (3G, Bluetooth, WiFi)
  • iPad (3G, Bluetooth, WiFi)
  • Laptop (Bluetooth, WiFi)
  • Mobile broadband card (3G)
  • Smart meter (Zigbee)
  • Toyota SUV (Bluetooth)
  • Playstation3 (WiFi)
  • Nintendo Wii (WiFi)
  • Apple TV (WiFi)
  • Cordless home phone (900MHz DECT)
  • Canon camera (WiFi with internal EyeFi SD card)
  • iMac (WiFi)
  • Scuba integrated air computer (some wireless tech between tank transceiver and wristmount computer
  • Samsung TV (WiFi)

And I think that’s just the beginning. There will be appliances that will be connected to networks to manage their energy consumption. Lighting control systems that will be connected and controlled over IP networks to manage energy consumption based on thousands and millions of sensors also connected telling the lighting control system where the people are. People themselves will be connected everywhere they go (home, work, everywhere in-between) when they go running, go out to eat (READ: foursquare++ :), sit at home watching a show on Netflix, wondering what they’re kids are doing, checking up on elderly parents, on and on.

Where do you think this whole wireless thing is going? And hopefully not the birds… 🙂

What’s Next on the Grid (Healthcare Edition)

There is a lot of activity in the Smart Grid space these days, particularly in the buildout of the infrastructure necessary to get going on at the least the initial vision of the Smart Grid whereby utilities will monitor home and commercial building energy consumption to optimize the generation and distribution of energy during times less stressful on the same generation sources, distribution networks, and ultimately pocketbooks of those purchasing the energy. However what is beyond the infrastructure and what are truly new services that can overlay or be completely new experiences for the end users and monetization opportunities for the service providers, which may include the utilities but not be exclusive to them? I argue that these new services need to be thought of in terms of the target “consumers” of the services and new lifestyle attributes created from these services. As the first in the What’s Next on the Grid series, this article will discuss at a high level how Healthcare is one of these many new services and lifestyle impacts that the Smart Grid++ will create.

What do Healthcare and the Smart Grid have in relation to each other, apart from the fact that the same end consumers of the Smart Grid services are all human beings (Ed.: machine-to-machine applications on the grid notwithstanding) that need to lead healthy lives? At first glance, pretty much nothing in common. However let’s look at a few characteristics that the two have in common.

  1. Both use wireless technologies. In Smart Grid, AMI is implementing Zigbee and Home Area Networks (HANs) are implementing several wireless technologies such as WiFi. In Healthcare, hospitals and clinics are implementing WiFi for voice and data communications (and other proprietary wireless) and the Healthcare vertical has been an early adopter of wireless technologies due to complexities with running wired infrastructure for connected devices.
  2. Both are connecting their devices. Meters, appliances, thermostats and TVs connected to a network is the first step to monitoring their energy consumption. Similarly connecting X-ray machines, home dialysis machines, medicine carts, patient tracking badges and in-home heartrate monitors are the first steps to creating anywhere, anytime patient monitoring.
  3. Both see mobile devices and technologies as game changers. Whether it is iPhones, iPads or other mobile Internet devices and displays, remote and on-the-go manageability is an absolute need for doctors, nurses, building managers, or utility operations personnel. We’re seeing the traditional closed NOC center become more and more distributed as mobile becomes pervasive.
  4. Both are seeing significant innovations in the cloud. This dimension is more of a When and not If it will happen. But also How it will happen. Scalability and reliability of the cloud has been proven time and time again. However both Smart Grid and Healthcare have requirements for privacy of consumer/patient information, massive data management of petabytes and exabytes of detailed data (real-time energy consumption data from dozens of devices in a home to large MRI and other diagnostic imaging data from radiology departments), and strict regulations of who can access this data.

Rather than looking at each of the above dimensions individually and in a vacuum of minutiae, let’s look at them from a couple of fictional usage scenarios centered around how they benefit the lifestyles and livelihoods of the users. Fictional only in that I’ve not heard they’ve been actually implemented but technically very feasible.

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Babyboomers are the largest new segment of the population entering their “golden years” but with both financial capability and a desire for wellness not just visit their doctors when they catch a bug. Many are staying proactively healthy with exercise, activities and good dietary habits. Imagine their stationary bicycles and Stairmasters connected to a converged wellness management system that also gives them suggestions or implements automated rules that reduce their energy spending. The stationary bicycles send their physicians and dietitians real-time and historical information of how they’re exercise program is going, their heartrate range from at-rest to peak performance, weight, etc. If the users also included some anaerobic cardio such as swimming in their programs, wouldn’t it be nice if the pool heater and pool pump energy consumption were activated according to the people’s schedules? If there were changes to the schedule, they can enter the new schedule via their mobile smartphones or simply via their locations the schedules can be altered.

Code Blue in Room 305

There are many critical systems within a hospital environment such as the intensive care wards, radiology departments, patient and asset tracking systems, access to medical records and so forth. Some, but not all, hospitals have backup generators to weather through power outages but the rise of renewables such as solar and other alternatives could make the hospital environment its own micro-grid with these various power source subsystems that can be tapped and utilized in optimal times and conditions. However a holistic view of all the critical systems WITH the available alternate power subsystems implemented in a Critical Intelligence and Rules service ensures that all of the patient care and hospital management systems are available at all times in the most efficient manner. The MRI machines draw a lot of power so they wouldn’t necessarily be switched to a battery bank while the 900 MHz Asset HAN can easily operate on duty cycles conducive to drawing from the batteries during peak tariff periods.

Check On Grandma

Many of us having aging parents and grandparents who we’d like to be able to check on from time to time, given our very active lives with traveling, taking care of kids or running companies. In comes the mobile phone as the portal to many of these personal facets of our lives. I can see to ensure the temperature is comfy for Grandma in Miami because there happens to be a major cold chill sweeping through the area and she doesn’t know how to work that new programmable thermostat the utility installed. At the same time I can see that she’s up to date on her heart medication because she’s been taking the pills at the same times every day (RFID on the pill container with an integrated alert) and her in-home heart check monitor is giving me a green indication stating all is well. I’m on vacation in Europe with the kids so I sleep much better knowing this. We’ll give her a call tomorrow after the gondola ride.

Summary

There are no lack of opportunities where the Smart Grid is more than just a grid for distributing energy at the right time of day. The ultimate uptake by consumers will be in the many layered ways they perceive these services touch and improve their lives. Some parts will be slower than others but beyond the infrastructure, the services need to be developed in a very user and customer-centric manner if they are to make good business sense as well.

Smart Appliances: Star Trek or Stars of the Smart Grid?

Recently there was a Park Associate white paper titled, Consumer Attitudes and the Benefits of Smart Grid Technologies (you can download the paper at the link), talks about the plight of smart appliances and their slow evolution and adoption. Some of the reasons are:

  • Consumers are unlikely to replace existing appliances with smart appliances until existing appliances fail or become too expensive to maintain.
  • The premium most consumers are willing to pay for smart appliances is unlikely to cover additional material costs.
  • Public utility commissions (PUCs) will have to approve rate structures that accommodate smart appliances, a potentially time-consuming process.
  • Many consumers balk at allowing utilities to control their appliances.

Yes, there will be additional costs. Yes, PUCs and utilities operate slowly (or at least slower than Internet pace). Yes, consumers are finicky at best and these days are not willing to part ways with their cash unless they are either emotionally attached (READ: iPhone et al) or see a great benefit for themselves and livelihoods (READ: save lot’s of money). And kinda yes, consumers aren’t terribly crazy about having utilities, or anyone for that matter, control stuff inside their homes.

With all this stated, there are STILL great opportunities to bring really cool services and savings to consumers related to Smart Grid technologies, even if they’re not initially offered by the utilities.

  1. Replace existing appliances? Not necessarily. There are existing and emerging plug load management devices with wireless connectivity (OSIAN from People Power, ZigBee, ZWave, etc.) that may give consumers all they need to know for the time being…how much is this appliance costing me per month, year, or right now.
  2. Smart appliance premiums? Not necessarily. There are some CE manufacturers that are using “smarts” in upcoming devices and appliances for creating new upsell services and reasons to reach back out to their customer base. And the manufacturers are not passing the cost of the embedded smarts to their customers but rather they see it as a new sales and marketing vector which didn’t exist before.
  3. PUCs need to approve smart appliance rate structures? Maybe. Recently at the OpenSG conference I attended in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, there was great dialogue and action being taken by the various industry consortia and standards development organizations (UCAIug, NIST for example) driving various specifications and recommendations which will undoubtedly create tension to the regulators for needing to “think outside the box”. Jury is still out, but I’m hopeful.
  4. Consumers reluctant to allow control of their appliances? Maybe. Control on day 1, unlikely. But visibility and enabling the consumer to monitor, very likely. Control or “proactive management” will come after the consumer sees value in modifying behavior and someone else (utilities, ISPs, Google, whoever) can do it for them inexpensively, securely and reliably.

It is possible Park Associates is looking at the consumer sentiments with an overly utility-centric lens but it is my belief that consumers will modify their behavior if they see direct benefits to themselves and their lifestyles. When the price of gas shoots up to $4 or $5 per gallon (in the US), cars are driven less, people work at home more, take more public transportation and other non-standard behaviors. The same can happen with a good plan, novel solutions and no-brainer benefits to the wallet holders.

Smart Grid and Telecom Carriers…Friends or Foes?

I’m attending the OpenSG conference in Ft Lauderdale this week hosted by Florida Power and Light. The event is chock full of smart people, smart discussion and debate (as industry consortia go, there appears to be sparce rhetoric among the participants…although this is my first OpenSG event). I’ve had several sidebar conversations with utilities, consultants, vendors, and standards bodies or industry forum coordinators thus far. The conversations have ranged from smart grid security to OpenADR conformity and verification to more general smart grid topics and trends. It’s relatively impressive the pace at which the various working groups and committees are developing their specifications and recommendations that may ultimately become standards through more formal standards development organizations (SDOs) like IETF, IEEE, and so forth.

One category of participants which I’m not surprised is not in attendance though have high hopes this will change soon are the telecom operators or network operators in general. At least I’ve not noticed them in attendance. So the likes of AT&T, Sprint (and I know they have a Smart Grid initiative) or Verizon are persona non grata. I’m not surprised because I believe the evolution of the smart grid is such that it’s pretty early in the business model critical mass curves of the telecom operators. Simply put, I don’t believe they know how to make money on the smart grid at this point. This is fine but will need to be reconciled soon. There are many many parallels between the smart grid and telecom as far as how each will or has evolved to the Internet model, as well as their opportunities to collaborate. I had this exact discussion with a colleague from EnerNex. And not surprisingly both he and I had significant telecom backgrounds both from service provider and vendor perspectives (he was at Verizon and I was at Cisco and Motorola). That also appears to be a big gap in terms of smart grid/utility industry engaging the telecom players…if you don’t know who and how, it’s a harrowing experience just showing up on the lobby and saying “who do I talk to about your smart grid business?” An example I derived from the Smart Grid Security bootcamp I attended on Monday proved this point or at least just provided a useful datapoint. When the speaker took an adhoc poll of the years in the power industry among all the audience participants, the average was roughly 10-15 years! This ranged from 2 years (myself and another participant) to as high as 25 years.

Some of the parallels among smart grid and telecom that the EnerNex gentleman and I briefly discussed were:

  • both had to overcome major legacy from business models to operations to adoption of new radically different technologies (e.g., IP)
  • both suffered from extremely vertically integrated businesses and operations infrastructures
  • both see themselves as service providers with unique offerings
  • both are beholden to the whims of regulators and regulatory pressures
  • both are actually VERY good at customer service from the perspective of customer care and billing relationships are core to their businesses
  • both look at industry and standards for making decisions on adoption of new technologies and practices
  • IMPORTANT: both certainly can benefit from the guidance of people who’ve “done it before” for softening their respective migration to the New World

This last point is a key one. For example (and a gratuitous infomercial of my company) at People Power we have a significant presence of engineering, sales and executives that came from the computing and mobile industries. In other words we have experience dealing in complex value chains and ecosystems, embedded technologies, lengthy certification cycles, painful standards processes, and migration from legacy to new connected technologies. Hmm, looks like the same script being played out with a new stage and cast! What do you think? Should smart grid and telecom become BFFs or hate each other?