Intel to Usher in Smart Grid Standard Discussion

Sometimes the development of technology standards is a smooth, unified process — and sometimes, well, it can cause more catfights than at a Zac Efron DVD-signing. Remember VHS/betamax, HD-DVD/Blu-ray, and the short-range wireless standard called UWB? Well, now that funds from the stimulus package have put the buildout of the smart grid in fast motion, federal agencies, nonprofits and standards bodies are starting the diligent work of plotting out the appropriate standards. How smoothly will it go?

The computing industry certainly wants to play a leading role in the discussion. This morning Intel says it will be hosting the first meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the group of engineers that hash out technical standards issues, to work on the interoperability standards for the smart grid. The event will be held at Intel’s campus in Santa Clara, Calif., next month, from June 3-5. The project, dubbed IEEE P2030, will use the IEEE’s traditional open method of development, which led to the creation of standards for the wireless industry, like 802.11 (WiFi), or 802.15.4 (Zigbee).

Of course the smart grid doesn’t have just one technology behind it. Building it out will require adding a variety of information technology to the grid, so standards for networking, wireless, and electricity distribution and generation will all need to be factored in. The IEEE says that its experience developing standards across industries — among them “power engineering, communications and information technology” — will help unify that process.

Intel has been very active in developing a variety of computing, consumer electronics, wireless and networking standards, like USB, HDMI, WiMAX, so it’s not too unusual for the chipmaker to want to play a major role in the smart grid, too. Intel’s chips can also directly be used in smart meters, like the ones Grid Net started selling in March.

This month the federal standards body the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will be hard at work developing the Interim SmartGrid Roadmap, which is supposed to come available in June. They, too, will be working at a breakneck pace trying to develop sufficient standards so that the smart grid stimulus funds can be allocated in the most efficient and timely manner.

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