My Personal Tech

October 20, 2009

When I started at Caster, I was not a techie.  I mean, I liked my gadgets (my iPod, my cell phone, my cute little 12″ Mac iBook, RIP) but I didn’t really have a vested interest in technology.  Once I started, I was sort of overwhelmed with the level of technical information thrown my way on a daily basis but I can say comfortably that I have evolved from just a general consumer with some interest in consumer electronics into someone who really loves the advancements technology has brought us.

Personally, my life isn’t as high tech as it could be.  My computer is a newer Sony Vaio and I will tell you that I’m not terribly impressed with it.  It is just ok and I’m sort of wishing I had taken my client’s advice and invested in a Dell XPS.  Add it to the Christmas list!  Speaking of Christmas, I upgraded to a new iPod Nano last season and so far it has been nothing but awesome.  The graphics are great, I can watch videos and play games and its motion sensor technology is very cool.  That said, I still drool over the iPod Touch.  Sigh.

My TV…well, my TV is still in box form.  I’m almost ashamed to admit I don’t have a flat panel as some of the first accounts I cut my teeth on were display manufacturers, but alas, I am still living with a Phillips 27″ box.  Sniffle.   I hope to change this soon as well – any ideas for a good 37″-42″ LCD, preferably ENERGY STAR rated with decent built in speakers?

Speakers are another story as I haven’t had a good system in….well, ever.  I’ve become more atuned over the past few years to just how incredible music can sound when played over the right speakers as opposed to my iPod or car stereo.  But I just haven’t upgraded yet.  I’m thinking my friends at Paradigm can help me with this eventually.  <winky face emoticon>

More recently, I’ve been more interested with how technology has become the conductor for really pushing the clean energy movement forward.  While the green movement isn’t a new phenomenon, I think the idea that we need to utilize our advancements to help us solve so many of the problems that they created for us in the first place is brilliant.  Sustainability can be an accomplishment if we embrace technology to take us there.  I am inspired on a daily basis by clean and renewable energy innovation and developments in moving towards a smarter grid.

I might not have been when I started, but today, I can proudly say it: I am a techie.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter


IBM Smarter Planet: Efficient Grid Models for a Smarter Planet

October 2, 2009

Kudos to IBM Smarter Planet for a succinct and intelligent way to understand why the Smart Grid will transform power delivery and consumption.


Which Utilties are Leading Smart Grid Development?

September 30, 2009

Rick Nicholson and H. Christine Richards of IDC Energy Insights published an article in the July/August edition of Intelligent Utility detailing their assessment of which utilities are leading the pack towards a Smart Grid.

 Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), Austin Energy, Edison International (NYSE: EIX), Oncor, PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG) and CenterPoint Energy (NYSE: CNP), all of whom are based in either California or Texas, top the list of utilitites leading the way. I personally thinked they missed Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative (who is working with Caster client Control4)who aren’t just at the forefront of grid transformation but also leading the charge in consumer Smart Grid education.

Locally, National Grid (LSE:NG;NYSE:NGG), the nation’s second-largest utility, has applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200 million in stimulus funding to develop an “end-to-end” smart grid deployment that will include approximately 200,000 customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to National Grid, the project will demonstrate the benefits of combining “smart” and “green” technologies from end-to-end (transmission to consumer) including demonstrations of clean energy technologies such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and solar and wind power as well as energy storage technology. The result will be one of the most technologically advanced smart grid deployments in the U.S. This initiative will provide an increased understanding of the interface between the next generation of green energy supply and the smart grid to pave the way for the broader roll out of these technologies in the states where National Grid operates.

Regardless of whether they get the grant money or not, I hope National Grid stays in the game; they have a chance to lead this initiative and really make a difference.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster


PR Can Help Utilities Build Community and Support for Smart Grid Roll Out

September 21, 2009

I believe the Smart Grid is an eventuality. It may come with or without fanfare, it may be accepted begrudgingly or met with whole hearted resistance, it may even be greeted with open arms by some, but of this I am sure, for it succeed as utilities want, the utilities have to step up and educate their communities about what it is, what it means and what it does and doesn’t do.

I’ve talked to a number of homeowners and I’d like to offer three very different perspectives on what they think the Smart Grid is and what it means to them and offer my view on why utilites need a PR firm.

Laura, John and Family

With three kids, this affluent family runs a lot of electricity. TV, lights, video games, hot water and appliances not to mention the array of mobile devices and laptops are always being charged. When I asked them if they had heard of the Smart Grid they said they had not, when I explained what it was and what it could do and how it could even help them manage their electricity consumption to save money, they thought it sounded great that they could be “green”. LOL

My Parents

This is a tough one. My parents are die-hard Rhode Islanders, and they’re republicans. My dad is a blue collar guys who feels the sun sets based on what Rush Limbaugh says. My mom is an MBA with a high profile job. They simply do not get that there is a problem and a need for energy conservation; my dad thinks he’ll be dead by the time it matters. Either way there is no way he is going to let the government control how much electricity he can and can’t use. No way no how, not going to happen. SIGH

Craig and Kelli

An engaged couple living in their first house, they are trying to save enough money to pay for half their wedding and honeymoon. Constantly worried about their monthly bills, the economy has taken a toll on both their incomes. They realize that spending less means doing without or cutting back. Neither had heard of the Smart Grid, but knows about the local wind power project. When I asked if they use a device that helped that understand how they could save money by reducing their electricity they loved the idea.

So of all three homeowners, none of them had heard of the Smart Grid. None of them know about the efforts and grant money National Grid has applied for to bring two-way meters to New England. If National Grid wants this deployment to succeed, they and utilities like them, have to look to driving awareness around this project. If people in neighborhoods think that this about government control, people will not cooperate and the project will fail. If homeowners are not excited about using energy management devices then they simply won’t use them. And if they don’t use them than this was for nothing.

Utilities should look at three approaches to building community support for Smart Grid roll outs:

Social Media: Using Twitter and Facebook, utilities should look to top utility heavyweights like Duke and Nashville Electric Service both of whom have active grassroots campaigns designed to build followers, engage their customers and communicate everything from outages to demand response events.
Town Hall Events: Just like the Presidential campaign, utilities can invite key stakeholders like government officials, industry experts and community members to question and answer events designed to educate and enthuse the public for the coming Smart Grid deployment.
Demo Center: National Grid (and others) should create a demo center where the public is invited to come see what the meters will look like, how they will work and again, educate the users on how this will function in their home when a conservation event occurs or if they want to reduce their energy bills.
These are just some early suggestion, there are obviously other options such as trade shows, literature, a solid grassroots PR campaign and of course advertising, but education will be the key to public awareness and acceptance of the Smart grid and must be done at a local level not by the federal government.

Hmmm, I wonder if Caster can help National Grid with its PR plan?

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster


Texas Utility Chooses Control4 for Smart Grid Deployment

September 1, 2009

Control4, a leading developer of Home Area Network (“HAN”) and consumer energy management solutions, today announced that it has been selected as the HAN provider for Texas-based utility Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. Serving more than 65,000 members in 14 counties between Austin and Houston, Bluebonnet plans to begin integrating smart grid technology in its members’ homes and businesses by April 2010. Control4 will provide Bluebonnet members with its Energy Management System, which includes a powerful yet intuitive in-home display with a programmable smart thermostat that will give users the usage data and device control necessary to manage energy use and expenses.

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is a progressive utility looking to maximize member satisfaction and encourage efficient energy use through its Smart Grid investments,” said Will West,Chief Executive Officer of Control4. “Control4 is proud to support this important initiative by providing user friendly home energy management and usage data to empower Bluebonnet members to become active in the utility’s progressive energy conservation programs.”

Bluebonnet recently announced its application for a Department of Energy stimulus grant to fund a transformation of its entire business to a Smart Grid. To assist in that transformation, Bluebonnet sought a HAN partner to help provide engaging information and advice to the consumer that facilitates energy conservation and efficiency. Bluebonnet selected Control4 based on the platform’s functionality, expandability and capabilities as both an energy management and control system.   The company’s proven technology leadership (with over one million ZigBee devices shipped) and its established network of over 1,550 dealers for distribution and support were added factors in the utility’s decision.

“After an extensive search process that included several product demonstrations, Bluebonnet chose the Control4® Energy Management System for its ability to provide up-to-the-minute information about energy usage and price that our members can use to manage their monthly electric bill,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet CEO. “Control4’s EMS-100 combines an easy-to-use touch screen with a flexible and expandable system at a reasonable price. These features will enable Bluebonnet’s members to be better consumers of energy and help us achieve our cooperative goal of a 20 percent reduction in system load by 2020.”

The Control4 EMS-100 system will work in concert with Silver Spring smart meters and eMeter software, feeding vital information back to the utility and providing customers with up-to-the-minute information on outages, conservation events and price spikes. The Control4® system delivers energy usage data from various loads in the home, allowing homeowners to take action and manually turn off devices or program the system to do so during peak times and demand response. The entry-level system is composed of the EC100 Energy Controller, a five-inch intuitive in-home touch screen device that supplies consumers with updates on energy usage and costs, tips for saving money on energy bills, power alerts from the utility, and information on various loads and activity within the home. The system also includes a programmable thermostat that communicates with the Energy Controller for heating and cooling control of homes and businesses. In addition to energy management and control, the EMS-100 offers engaging lifestyle applications and features such as weather reports, traffic updates, stock quotes and podcasts. With the EMS-100, Bluebonnet members can be active participants in managing their energy usage and reducing their utility bills. From powering down lights to controlling shades, utility customers have access to additional ways to further reduce their energy costs.

Control4 recently announced $17.3 million in financing to fund a new business unit, Control4 Energy Systems, based in Silicon Valley, California. The company’s proven home operating system and HAN management technologies can improve operational efficiency for utilities while delivering exceptional features and benefits for the consumer. Control4 Energy Systems works with utilities, AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) Partners, dealers and retailers to bring easy-to-use energy management systems to homes and small businesses. 

For more information on Control4 Energy Systems, please visit www.control4.com.  For more information on Bluebonnet Electric, please visit www.bluebonnetelectric.coop.


The Smart Grid in 2010: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

July 28, 2009

One of the biggest challenges to understanding new technologies can be the lack of centralized and credible information readily available. Such is the problem with the Smart Grid – that buzz word concept being tossed around by cleantech companies in the Bay area to policy analysts in Washington. But what does it mean?

Last week, I stumbled upon a report from David Leeds of GTM Research entitled “The Smart Grid in 2010: Market Segments, Applications and Industry Players.” The report, a cool 145 pages, provides an in depth analysis of the smart grid end-to-end, identifying the key players, the overall technology, the market drivers and barriers to adoption. Being an information junkie like I am, I downloaded it and read almost half over the weekend. Mr. Leeds does an excellent job of providing a type of clarity not often found in research papers and I found it not only extremely readable, but interesting.

Some highlights:

  • About $1.3 billion in venture capital was invested in the Smart Grid sector in the last 4 years and $105 million just in the last 2 quarters of 2009
  • The electric grid remains one of the last networks not transformed by information technology (IT) and is arguably one of the furthest reaching and most extensive networks in existence.
  • The three biggest challenges facing the Smart Grid are: interoperability standards, utility business models that promote energy efficiency and proper development of systems architecture that can support enterprise-wide current and future applications.
  • Without a Smart Grid, renewable technologies will remain niche at best. The hopes for widespread adoption of renewables is non-existent without a smart grid to faciliate and integrate these variable generation sources.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that it will cost $165 billion over two decades to complete the evolution to a smart grid worldwide.

The report also details the major players in the various markets within the smart grid industry and includes our client, Control4 as a company to watch in the consumer energy management systems space. Control4 just announced $17.3 million in funding to develop its AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) business.

If you are involved or interested in this new intelligent utility system that promises to be a challenging and revolutionizing new infrastructure, this report is a must read.

Download here – kudos to Mr. Leeds and GTM Research for an excellent piece.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter