Saturday, 3 November 2012

A little local difficulty

Locality matters in electricity markets, but it matters to some of the participants more than it does to others.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

4G for the UK: frictionless competition acts against network innovation

Ofcom announced this week that it will allow mobile operator Everything Everywhere (the company behind UK GSM networks Orange and T-mobile) to use some of its allotted radio spectrum for new ‘4G’ services. The decision provoked a predictable round of grumbling from the otherUK mobile operators, who won’t have practical 4G spectrum until Ofcom has auctioned some in 2013. For a while, the playing field won’t be quite so flat as usual.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Smart Energy: Information Explosives

We’re beginning, indirectly, to get a view of the volumes of data that smart energy systems may generate or consume. Already, even the data requirements of the functionally simple smart metering programme in the UK appear to be massive. There may well be an awful lot of smart energy data around.Some people talk a lot about an ‘information explosion’, and this might sound like one, but I’m not so sure. There are certainly a lot of ones and noughts being generated. But information is what they perhaps aren’t.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

4th generation now!

LTE, the 4th generation mobile technology, looks as if it will meet a number of nationally important needs. An example from our current work is in the business of controlling sustainable electricity generation and storage from remote locations. But like any new wireless technology, we won’t know until we’ve tried it.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Experiments or Austerity?

I spent the day sitting at the feet of some consistently bright and generally young things at the leading edge of smart grid research, at the Dublin Electricity Research Centre’s research symposium ‘Shaping the Grid’. It was a great event, and the ERC chaps are doing great work. But something was wrong.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Smart energy in the Anticloud

Most commercial IT applications execute in places connected by optical fibre, and so a sufficiency of data communication capacity and reliability can usually be assumed. For that reason, the location of information or of processing seems not to matter any more: it may as well be in the clouds. Cloud computing, where users give up on knowing where their software is executing, is both very fashionable and mildly successful.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Energy storage data: Market Opportunity and Public Menace

Today, energy storage seems valuable, costly and challenging. In comparison, the value, cost and challenges of the associated data may seem negligible. A similar view informed the development of telecoms networks in the 1980s: connectivity was valuable, costly and challenging, and the network operators took little interest in the information carried. Then as connectivity prices came down, the telcos discovered, too late, that the sustained value was in the information; the tweets, the postings and the Google adverts.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The killer phone architecture

With most users changing their phone every couple of years, it’s exceptional now for a phone design to be in use, or even remembered, ten years after it was designed. Superficially, that can be attributed to the marvellous and rapid evolution in the services that phones deliver. But there are also deeper and less attractive reasons.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Technology Strategy Board backs Local Energy Markets vision

Our vision for Local Energy Markets in the UK came a bit closer to realization on 11th April, when the Technology Strategy Board announced substantial financial support for an in-depth feasibility study. The study consortium will be led by the smart energy specialists Swanbarton, with industrial IT expertise from the high-integrity software house IPL. Net Trajectory's Clive Tomlinson brokered the IPL-Swanbarton partnership, articulated the Local Energy Markets vision in the consortium's winning submission to the government-backed Technology Strategy Board, and will be contributing to the study in the Swanbarton team.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Does Apple condemn itself to second place in the smartphone race?

March’s analysis of ‘the future of mobile’, from the enterprising Henry Blodget of Business Insider, paints a picture of smartphone operating systems rapidly outstripping all other software platforms, and of iOS growing more strongly than Android. But today’s reports from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech (What a mouthful! And what a web site!) suggest that iOS is heading for second place in the smartphone Olympics.
There’s good reason for that.

LTE tax

The UK government budget document for 2012-13 purports to reveal how we'll be taxed in the coming year, but it makes no mention of its planned LTE spectrum auction. I've seen several predictions of how much money the auction may raise for the Exchequer; the smallest that I've seen (in the Financial Times) is £2bn. While that 2bn will be paid directly by the businesses that will be bidding, ultimately it will be paid by UK mobile communications users: the businesses have no other source of funds.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Caught between the Duracell™ and the Dinorwig

This week’s IMechE conference on Energy Storage for Electricity Networks was a dramatic tragedy of fine engineering thwarted by red tape. The anagnorisis: the tragic turn of fate, was when Prof David Mackay’s keynote address reckoned up the UK’s energy storage needs in terms of Dinorwigs. The Dinorwig is a loosely defined unit of energy capacity and delivery power, somewhere in the region of 1.8 GW and 11 GWh. That’s a lot.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Solar panels vs. solar flares

Last week’s solar flare was no more than an interesting novelty for most of us, but we were lucky. The next one, perhaps in the cyclical peak next year, could knock out our National Grid, as it did for Quebec’s power grid in 1989.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A fair tale of New York

The Home Office is preparing to go to tender for a replacement for the TETRA wireless network service that our emergency services use. While TETRA offers very high availability, mobile-to-mobile direct calling and a few other handy features, its data transmission capability is hopelessly small for today’s needs; let alone for the future’s.
The prospects are not terribly good.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

First installations, but no second sight

Listening to the talks at today’s ‘new energy economy’ conference, I began to fret. There were talks from both technology suppliers and energy businesses, many of them justifiably proud of their achievements in early smart energy implementations. Only a cynic would have been amused by the speaker who boasted of his company’s ‘electricity solution’ and (better still) its ‘water solution’.