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Power Networking Transportation

The Grid, Our Cars, and the Net 222

Wired is running a piece on the big idea of Robin Chase — the founder of Zipcar — that we need to build our smart power grid on open standards and include cars as nodes in a mesh network. "'Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers and tanks and airplanes are running around using mesh networks,' said Chase. 'It works, it's secure, it's robust. If a node or device disappears, the network just reroutes the data.' And, perhaps most important, it's in motion. ... Build a smart electrical grid that uses Internet protocols and puts a mesh network device in every structure that has an electric meter. Sweep out the half dozen networks in our cars and replace them with an open, Internet-based platform. Add a mesh router. A nationwide mesh cloud will form, linking vehicles that can connect with one another and with the rest of the network. It's cooperative gain gone national, gone mobile, gone open."
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The Grid, Our Cars, and the Net

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  • Re:One thing of note (Score:2, Informative)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @09:12PM (#27892993)

    She wants anything connected to the smart power distribution grid to communicate using a mesh network with an open design. She thinks that putting the same sort of mesh nodes into vehicles would allow the overall mesh network to function better and, apparently, that it would be useful for something.

  • I did a lot of tariff programming back in the day and I loved it...

    Electrical demand is not the same as network demand. If your ISP is short on bandwidth, everyone just slows down. But if your power company is short on power, at worst, they have to start throwing people off of the grid, because everyone must have 110VAC 60hz power.

    This reality is reflected in the pricing of electricity, especially for larger customers.

    The kind of an electric bill a refinery gets, for example, shows this. In such bills, you start with the raw data obtained from power recorders - every kwh and kvarh (reactive power), is recorded at either 15 minute or hourly increments, depending on the utility. This data is rolled up to look at peak demand, and bill to date usage, broken out into buckets representing time of use, each of which has its own price. For the most part, the demand portion of the bill is roughly half, and the other half is the cumulative portion.

    So, of all the actionable items in a bill that one could act on, really, instantaneous demand is the most important thing to optimize. If you jack up your demand during the day, for just one hour, by 50%, you've significantly increased your monthly bill... because the utility still has to have equipment to satisfy peak service.

    The thing is, industrial customers have known this now for at least 10 years, if not longer, and there's a whole electrical services industry designed to help them avoid that maximum demand charge. Some companies making ice at night for cooling by day. Others try and have multiple shifts. Still others just put in their own local generation that kicks in when their utility usage gets too high. All of this is controlled by automated SCADA systems that have been field proven for at least a decade, if not longer.

    The point is, I'm wondering how much smarter the electrical world can actually get? What you are really talking about is putting residential customers on industrial style tariffs. But, what would be the benefit? I mean, there's not too much a residential customer could practically do that would cost effectively help them lower their peak demand in such a way as to be cost effective.

    For example, in California, for SCE, the GS-2 tariff specifies a demand charge of less than $10 / kw. SCE GS2 []. If you figure that most homes use less than 2Kw max demand, there's not much room for economical demand shaving. If you lowered your peak demand from 3kw to 2kw, you would be saving $120 a year. There's few, if any devices that could store energy at night, help with peak demand by day, where you could actually recoup that investment economically.

  • by Zero_DgZ ( 1047348 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @11:04PM (#27893565)

    I hate to break it to you, but this far everything everyone's ever penned on this particular subject because... are you following along with this at home? The technology doesn't exist yet. We don't know. It's an unknown, and anything could happen up to and including nothing at all.

    All I'm doing is putting forth a possibility tainted by my own opinion. I'm straightforward enough to be honest about that. Why are you so hell bent on turning speculative opinion into some kind of bullshit personal affront?

    While we're on that topic, though, let's look at the track record of our illustrious elected officials. It is already mandated that all cell phones sold in the US come with GPS chipsets capable of transmitting your phone's location. In most cases this can be disabled excepting 911 calls, but the technology is there. Your position can already be triangulated fairly accurately just via cell towers. This is a proven fact. Warrantless wiretapping and general spying on US citizens without cause by the Federal government is so well documented that there's already been massive outcry and a million and one headlines about it. This is a proven fact. OBD2 compliant automobiles sold in the USA are required by the DOT to have black boxes (for lack of a better term) that record vehicle speed, brake status, RPM's, and the other assortment of telemetry available in a modern engine for the sole purpose of the police using it against you in post-crash investigations. This is a proven fact. Traffic cameras are already in place in many locations throughout the country and are not only used to hand out speeding tickets as well as track individual vehicle movement when the police so desire, as has made headlines more than once. This is a proven fact.

    None of the above is speculation. People who live off your tax dollars want to know where you are and what you're doing at all times, and the demonstration of this desire is made clear again and again and again. How many stories are posted to Slashdot to the effect of "company developing X technology to recognize faces/scan fingerprints/track crowd movements/snoop on cell or internet conversations?" Count them. How many of them go on to say they're doing it with government funding or for homeland security purposes, and all those other buzzwords? There's a reason Slashdot has a "Your Rights Online" section. There's a reason stories like these are of so much interest.

    What is speculation is what will happen if a widespread vehicle based network of no concrete design or aim is put into service. My speculation is that bad things will happen if it is, especially given the track record of the US government both Federal and local in passing mandates involving automotive technology. If you don't agree with my speculation, that's fine. But if you want to blow it out of proportion and turn it into some kind of affront that's all you.

  • It is true. Phones are NEVER off, they are in sleep mode.

    If by "sleep mode" you mean:

    • Radio turned off (send and receive)
    • CPU turned off
    • GPS turned off
    • Camera turned off
    • DRAM refresh turned off (RAM state decays to garbage)
    • Tiny trickle of power through the power button and the set of relays within the CPU that sense the powerup signal.

    The most important bit there, of course, is "radio turned off". If the radio weren't off, your battery would go dead in a matter of days even when the phone is off, just as it does when the phone is on. It might last a couple days longer off than on, but that's all.

    Since that doesn't happen -- turn the phone off with a full battery and turn it on a month later and you'll still have most of a full charge -- that means the radio is off. And if the radio is off, then the FBI can't send your phone any signals telling it to turn anything on.

    The CPU being off and the RAM refresh off, by the way, are the reasons that when you turn your phone on it takes anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds to become functional. It's gotta boot.

  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Informative)

    by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @11:08PM (#27893587)

    Basically, it's single-use public transportation for people in cities who don't own cars. I use one two or three times a month to make runs to the big suburban shopping centers and such. Occasionally I take one for a few days and visit my parents. Otherwise I'm on foot, bike, train, or bus.

    It works very well in my opinion.

  • Re:One thing of note (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @12:40AM (#27894041)

    "It seems either she, or the person who wrote the article, is confusing mesh networking with power distribution."

    It's easy... The car tells the grid. I'm low on power, but parked and my owner will need to drive me at 5:00pm (in 6 hours) Please send me XX amount of power befor this deadline.

    This is 100 times better then every car drawing power at the same tie of the day.

  • Re:Sure, but (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ashriel ( 1457949 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:52AM (#27895943)

    Uh, most people don't travel around by military march. The individual, taking his time, walks at 3 mph. A fit individual walking briskly moves at about 4 mph. A power-walker covers ground at 5-6 mph. I know these things because I used to cover around 100 miles on foot every week, for exercise and exploratory purposes.

  • Re:Sure, but (Score:3, Informative)

    by init100 ( 915886 ) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @01:35PM (#27897949)

    Contrast that with trains which have inconvenient stops located miles-apart, only serve a few people within walking distance of those stops

    Maybe you would consider walking distance to a train station an advantage when looking for a new home? People certainly do here, which has stimulated dense development close to train, subway and tram stops.

  • Re:Sure, but (Score:2, Informative)

    by mi11house ( 978673 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:38AM (#27904923)

    "Failed" implies the scheme has been abandoned. That is most certainly not the case - it's still operating and has been expanding [].

    You might have been hearing the propaganda being spread around by JCDecaux (the commercial arm) that was being used as a bargaining tool [].

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats