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Smart Grids: Getting Personal

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Microsoft Research Director Daniel Reed

How many electronic devices do you own? It is tempting to answer, “Just a handful,” but the truth is much more nuanced. Here’s a simple experiment that will (quite literally) illuminate the truth. Some evening, after darkness has fallen, turn off all the lights in your house, walk from room to room and count the number of lighted power indicators, blinking LEDs and glowing screens. I suspect you will be surprised.

Each of us owns and operates a diverse array of electronic devices, almost all of which draw power whether they are fully active or being used. From your flat screen television and its infrared (IR) sensor, which awaits commands from the remote, to wireless access points, computers and game consoles on standby, and even electronic thermostats,  our wired world consumes an increasing amount of energy.

Isn’t it time we began to make the smart grid personal? Imagine coupling predictive models of individual and family behavior with real-time measurement and control of home and office environments to minimize energy consumption and carbon footprints. Such a vision depends on broad deployment of inexpensive energy sensors and device actuators, intelligent energy adaptation and appropriate regulatory policies, as well as consumer education and awareness. Many companies and groups are exploring the space and many opportunities.

There are challenging cyberphysical systems research issues, complex systems integration challenges, and economic and policy decisions. We can make a difference – and we must.


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