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There is much talk about the so-called ‘’Smart Grid’’ but sometimes little explanation of what this term actually means and what kinds of technology opportunities exist in its development. The Smart Grid will actually involve several systems including the electrical grid, a communications network, and a hardware and software system to control the distribution of electrical power more efficiently than ever before. A smart grid increases efficiency by monitoring the supply and demand for electricity, and managing the use of it. The smart grid can potentially control smart devices in homes, in order to reduce demand during peak hours and perform other tasks like charging hybrid vehicles.
The US Department of Energy expects this could save $46-$117 billion over 20 years. In order to achieve these savings, a range of embedded products will be necessary. One of these is smart meters. These new meters will communicate information on household use back to the utility company directly, to better monitor power usage and help utilities manage power distribution. Companies like Analog Devices enable Siemens’ smart meters with Analog’s Blackfin embedded processor. The Blackfin computers consumer energy usage and generates powerline modem functions, enabling bi-directional communication with the power line concentrator.
IP processor companies are also aware of the need for smart metering technologies. As the demand for power increases beyond current supply capabilities, smart metering is essential to save energy wherever and whenever possible. ARM sees opportunities for its IP processor technology with the rollout of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which will give homeowners greater control over their power use and the source of their power. ARM’s architecture has reduced power characteristics which make it ideal for energy saving applications such as smart meters.