Using AI, IoT & Biomimicry To Build An Antifragile Power Grid.

Atlanta Airport Power Outage

For 11hrs on Sunday Dec 17th 2018, the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartfield’s Jackson Airport, lost electricity supply. 30k travelers missed ~1100 flights to 100’s of locations across the world. Some friends, on their annual Asian vacation, missed their flight. Georgia Power, the local utility, in their initial statement on the outage, suggested

“a piece of Georgia Power switchgear located in an underground electrical facility could have failed and started a fire.”

If Gretchen Bakke’s ‘The Grid’ did not highlight the problem about the US electricity grid, this outage, at such a scale, from a simple switchgear failure, should tell us that we need a new electric grid system. The impact of the hurricanes that knocked out power in Houston, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Florida were at such a scale that we felt helpless in the face of an ‘Act of God’ (using insurance terms). But not the Atlanta airport outage. A small fire shouldn’t have knocked out power supply for that critical an airport for 11hrs. We absolutely need a new grid system.

How We Now Live

Every day, at exactly 6:30 am, a mother wakes up in central Texas and switches on the lights in the master bathroom of her 4 bedroom home. She brushes her teeth and checks on her 2 kids in their rooms across the hall of her 2300 sq ft home. The kids are still in bed but she knows she has only about 45 mins before the younger of the two kids, the morning kid, wakes up and bounds into the master bedroom. By this time the mother would have boiled some water for her morning tea, packed lunch for both kids and would be dressed for her busy day. The bathroom light would have been the only light switched on by the time the morning kid wakes up.

Luckily the morning kid would have jumped into the bed and woken up his dad who, while not a morning person, would roughhouse a little and also get out of bed. The father would pick up his phone, which would have been fully charged from being plugged in the night before. He’d walk to the pantry, switching on the espresso machine on his way, either using his phone or his voice activated connected home device. Noticing the near emptiness of one of the cereal boxes, the father would open the grocery app and realize that his wife had updated the grocery list for that week. Switching off the security lights from the app on his phone on the way to the bathroom, the father would gamify the experience of brushing teeth thereby ensuring that the two kids got their teeth brushed in time for breakfast. It worked every morning, they were so competitive. It also gave him time to get the kids clothes laid out before he himself headed to the bathroom to get ready to drop off the kids at school. The mother would be done getting ready and take the opportunity to eat with her kids while listening to their favorite songs on the voice activated home device that had, 15 mins earlier, read the news to the father on cue. While the mother ate with the kids, the father took a quick water efficient shower with his smart shower system. With the father working from home, it was easier for him to drop off the kids at their separate schools and the wife would make her way into her office, a short 10 min drive away, getting there before her teammates who wondered how she did it with two kids and a working husband (and no nanny).

 

Our connected and electric lives

In that house, there’d be a mad rush to get the kids fed and ready to go to work. All the electronic devices in the house, the few pulling electricity, would be obtaining their power from the electric grid. This point of the day, between 6:30–7:45, would traditionally have been the highest electric pull from the grid but, due to energy efficient devices installed in the home, this would be a low power draw point on the grid for this family. Especially as the solar panels installed on the home would ensure that, as the sun came up and the a/c powered up to keep the house at the 76C temperature that the Nest thermostat had determined was optimal for the home, the home never pulled more energy than it generated at the end of every day.

The father, like 1 Million other homeowners in the US, had gotten the solar panels installed right before the summer because a friend of his, a solar panel salesman, had run the numbers for him and convinced him that by selling power back to the electric grid, he could recoup the cost of the energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy generation to the home in record time. This was too good an opportunity to pass up and, after only 4 months, the benefits were crystal clear. He was paying $2 on electricity.

 

Yes, that says $2.12! People, like me, with solar panels pay this for electricity in some parts of Texas.

Even though the father wondered about how much benefit he would gain from the panels in the fall and winter months, he knew that his electricity usage in those months would also be a lot less than it traditionally was. He felt good about having learned more about the benefits he could gain from energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

 

While he did not like having to check up to ten different mobile phone apps to manage each of those devices (“when would the companies come together to develop a shared standard that made the process much easier for him” he wondered), he found himself pretty impressed with the engagement mechanisms (gamification they called it) that the companies had embedded in their app. Being from the technology industry, he knew that there was a trigger, action, variable reward, investment loop that the technologists utilized. He saw through, but could not resist the Nest thermostat trigger that happened as he walked past and the thermostat indicated the temperature of the home and the green leaf which showed him whether he was being energy efficient or not. He always felt compelled to take the action of opening the app and resetting the temperature to the higher 74C on cold days, which was only slightly less comfortable, and getting the satisfaction of knowing that this little investment action he’d taken would lead to less energy usage and probably more money from selling the energy generated from the solar panel back to the grid. At a time and a price that worked better for his pocket and the planet. He felt great about his decisions. Now he just needed to buy the battery to store some excess power for those days when the inevitable outages would happen.

The ubiquity of the mobile phones in the lives of energy consumers (everyone in the world) is only surpassed by our desire to have the electricity required to charge those mobile phones. 93% of Americans have a mobile phone and 77% of those consumers have a smartphone. It is no exaggeration to say 77% of the US population has advanced and powerful computers in their pockets. What these computers enable is the ability to both engage and track these users in as near real time as possible. What the smartest companies in the world have figured out is how to use the capabilities of these almost always on devices to either attention save or attention seize.

With attention saving products and customer experiences, these companies are using the interaction with the consumer to save them time on actions that can achieved automatically and seamlessly using the data they have about these consumers. An example is the Lyft app for hailing a cab; the customer requests and expects (demands) that the cab show up at the point of pick up. Another example of attention saving customer experiences would be from the Digit app which automatically, using artificial intelligence and an understanding of the customer aspirations, automates budgeting and saving. These class of products enable the customer to outsource their thinking to achieve their desired aims.

 

While the attention seizing products are less relevant (currently) to the utility industry, they are worth mentioning. These products and services also combine data, artificial intelligence and awareness of the customer expectations and introduce shocking experiences which then enable the product or service to capture the interest of the customer.

Underlying the two modes above is the realization that the customers/users of mobile phones are now empowered. Exponentially. Never has there been a technology product that democratized information and actuation as well and as easily as the mobile phone. Smartphones enabled digitalization of all experiences that we traditionally achieved with physical products. We now check maps on our mobile phones when, before smartphones, we got lost or asked someone for directions. We now feel empowered to skip the feeling of disorientation with no care for the complexity of the technology behind that blue dot on the map on our phone. Consumers got empowered without having to understand what was going on to grant them that level of empowerment. I will come back to this point later because it underlies how the utility industry can tap into the customer’s day to day to achieve the goals we have in the utility industry.

Exponential digitalization enabled exponential empowerment and, since the power dynamic which existed between the customer and the utility industry has been shifted a lot more towards the customer, these customers have become participants. This level of empowerment is similar to the most natural of energy generation and usage analogs that we experience every day; a tree with leaves. I’ll explain.

How The Electricity Grid Mimics Nature

 

Super simplified representation of the old electric grid.

The first time I truly immersed myself in learning about biomimicry was at SXSWEco 2016. I was giving a talk about the future utility and how emerging markets in Africa are leapfrogging the more centralized western electricity grid. The talk went well and I attended several of the other sessions . I stayed away from the traditional industry presentations instead attending the biomimicry institute sessions. Those sessions sowed the seeds for what would become a full blown realization that our grid, in its current centralized and bundled state, did not have much longer to be relevant.

Biomimicry, in its simplest definition, is using designs inspired or copied from nature to solve human problems. The thinking is that evolution and nature has had millions of years (depending on your religious or non-religious views) to figure out the solutions to some of the problems that the human race is still struggling with figuring out. Issues relating to energy, healing and resource utilization. While there has always been homeopathic remedies directly borrowed from nature, energy and resource utilization biomimicry has not been as obvious or implementable until now. While there are many ways in which we borrow methods of energy usage in nature for sustainable use, the thinking here is that it’s time to borrow the communication system that nature uses to ensure that energy is neither used excessively nor wasted indiscriminately.

 

According to Janine Benyus in ‘Biomimicry’ most biological systems have a communication system that enables the system to hold in check any waste and reward efficient behavior. She suggests that the most mature and efficient systems are not ones that broadcast the necessary system control messages from the top, but ones that, from the grassroots, disperse messages throughout the system to manage this structure of rewarding efficiency, preventing and punishing waste. This mechanism of information dissemination, which is akin to a rich feedback system, enables the system to adapt quickly when changes happen. This mechanism also enables the system to maintain its integrity despite any attacks. This system adaptation looks a lot like antifragility (discussed below). It’s what we see in how leaves manage to capture, utilize and resource the rest of the plant to which they are attached without becoming burdensome to the whole system. This is why leaves shed from trees when they no longer contribute to the integrity of the whole tree. The shed leaf decomposes and becomes manure for the tree and the other leaves still nourished by and growing on the tree, And when they do not shed, due to a compromised state that impacts the whole tree, the leaves die. But a whole tree does not die because one leaf is compromised unless the compromise spreads to the root, the core. The communication system of the tree lets it know to shed the leaf before it becomes toxic to the whole system.

 

This system of control is what the electricity grid, which is advancing but not where we need it to be, currently needs. You can read more about the past and the present of the utility industry in the post below.

To Understand The Future Of The Utility, Look To its Past.
Ma Bess (not real name) ran a railroad motel in the late 1800's. She had mules to fetch the water for the hotel to…medium.com

Because, due to the advances in our technology, we can now finally replicate for our electricity grid the antifragile control systems of nature. Despite how advanced the systems might seem, they borrow from the simple but effective way in which nature takes care of itself.

Another critical element in where the grid is today is that, despite several spurts and starts, renewable energy is now at the point of grid-parity with the more traditional forms of generation. In 2013, Bloomberg New Energy Finance published research showing that new wind farms in Australia could produce power more cheaply than new coal or gas-fired plants unsubsidized and without a carbon price included in the fossil based generation fuels. This situation has continued since and the expectation is that the power industry will see grid parity for most solar and wind renewables by 2025 (if not sooner in my opinion).

Complex Adaptive Systems

The energy system, like nature, is a complex adaptive system. But the utility industry, before the overlay of connected technology and distributed energy resources, was a complex system. The connectedness is what provides the system with its adaptive nature. Complex adaptive systems are composed of many interacting parts that evolve and adapt over time and organized behavior emerges from the simultaneous interactions of parts without any obvious overarching system plan. According to Code.org some characteristics of complex adaptive systems

  • A complex adaptive system is a system made up of many individual parts or agents.
  • The individual parts, or agents, in a complex adaptive system follow simple rules.
  • There is no leader or individual who is coordinating the action of others.
  • Through the interactions of the agents emergent patterns are generated.
  • If elements of the system are altered, the system adapts or reacts.

It is not hard to deduce from the characteristics described above that the utility, with the information technology layer and distributed energy resources, has become a complex adaptive system. Each part of the utility industry can now be considered an agent; part of the system but separate from the system in its agency. It is the very basic premise of the industry; from the generators/generation sources, transmission and distribution infrastructure, employees at these agents and, of course, the consumer and all the devices they own in their homes. All are agents that are interacting every second of the day as illustrated in the story of the family earlier on. When you switch on your power, turn on the tap or fire up your gas heater the interaction and organization of agents ensures you get the desired result; comfort from electricity, water or gas. From the micro behavior of each agent in this complex adaptive system that is the utility, patterns always emerge that point to the systemic nature of the industry: consumers buying Nest thermostats or Solarcity solar panels, the utility responding by partnering with Nest and Nest or Solarcity working on creating an interaction layer to itself become a utility, are all micro behaviors that lead to macro patterns of change.

 

Image: Complex Adaptive system https://www.evogeneao.com/

As the grid gets modified with new technology, and consumer expectations change as they become more empowered, we start to see the move towards adaptive behavior since there is a two/multi way interaction between the agents/system as a whole. The industry is starting to understand this change but, unsurprisingly, the view of what is required is that we should build resilience into the system as a result of more agents (DER, Connected Devices etc) coming on-board. Counter to public perception, what is required in the system is for us to build in Antifragility, not resilience. What we need is to start building an Antifragile Grid. To build resilience would be to build a backup power station to serve Atlanta when a fire happens, when what we need is to use renewable energy and software to ensure that the Atlanta Airport (and other facilities like it) help make the grid stronger, instead of shutting things down, in the event that a switchgear failure happens.

A Broken System.

Similar to the Atlanta outage, on the morning of December 2nd 2014 the power went out for ~100 buildings in downtown Detroit. People were stuck in elevators and railcars. Flights were grounded as the city airport also suffered from the outage. Traffic lights stopped working. A few hospitals were without electricity leaving patients plugged to devices that weren’t functioning as required. All city fire stations were without power. The Wayne county jail (with its own backup power) kept running as usual. A spokesman for the Mayor said the outage was ‘caused by extreme heat, cable failure and routine maintenance — all combining causing system overload. System shock starting in one location leading to total system failure. Almost exactly like the Atlanta situation.

On August 14th 2003, about 100 power plants across Northeast US and Canada stopped functioning, resulting in a blackout that affected ~50M Americans and Canadians. 21 power plants providing power to ~10M people went down in 3 minutes. 3 minutes. People stuck in elevators, subway systems and without water due to non-functioning water pumps starved of electricity. All caused by a downed power line that was not reported because of a software bug that was not noticed by a control room engineer who couldn’t see there was a surge on the system. I take that back. All caused by our reliance on an electric grid with archaic machines, systems and processes unfit for the modern day requirements and capabilities of a power dependent populace. A non-adaptive system with one point of failure. System shock starting in one location leading to total system failure.

As evidenced in the two examples above, our grid is more fragile than we realize. This became even more apparent to me after reading Gretchen Bakke’s ‘The Grid’ (get the book). As fragile as the grid is, we already have the technology required to make it antifragile. But what is Antifragility?

Why Do We Need An Antifragile Grid?

 

Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

All credit to the concept of Antifragility goes to Nassim Nicholas Taleb from his book ‘Antifragile’. Nassim Taleb gave the world a new way to frame systems that get stronger and benefit from chaos and volatility. He gave us a word for the opposite of ‘fragile’; Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustnessThe resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. Even with this simple understanding of antifragility it’s easy to see that the electric grid system I’ve described in the three examples above is fragile. A problem with the approaches being taken to fix our fragile grid is that we are focused on building a resilient grid, on building a grid that is capable of recovering quickly from difficulties or failure. This is the wrong approach. We need to build a grid that is antifragile, one that grows stronger with the stresses and the chaos. We need to build a grid that borrows from an experiment the Tesla’s/Waymo’s of the world are currently running with their autonomous cars.

What autonomous vehicles brought us which Tesla will bring to it’s home system of solar panels connected to battery packs connected to smart thermostats, is the antifragile system capability that comes as a result of many autonomous vehicles, not centrally located, operating for a common purpose. That probably sounds familiar? That’s because it is the same complex adaptive system that we identified when we looked at biomimicry earlier. For technology this concept is called swarming. But before we dive into the concept of swarming, we need to meet Samantha and the future utility, to see how swarming benefits the average customer in a future antifragile utility scenario:

Meet Samantha

  • Samantha lives in Chicago and owns an electric car. One of those fancy ones. We’ll say she owns a Tesla.
  • Sam is considered as a ‘node’ on the future electricity grid (with a card and a mobile app to measure how much energy she uses or produces).
  • Her energy consumption (from anywhere) is considered a — on the grid.
  • When Sam puts power on the grid it’s considered a + on the grid.
  • Sam’s home is powered by a rooftop solar panel.
  • She also owns a home battery manufactured by Tesla and financed through Solarcity.
  • 40 miles from Sam’s home is a nuclear power plant. Sometimes she ‘gets’ her power from the nuclear plant. Sometimes she just ‘gets’ the power from her home battery.
  • Sam’s local Walgreens also has solar panels on it’s roof and puts some power on the grid. Another energy conscious company, Whole Foods, is one block away They’ve also also commissioned some solar panels.
  • There also happens to be a wind farm 25 miles from Sam’s home
  • And a coal plant 43 miles from Sam’s office.
  • Sam’s electric car charge comes from plugging in at home/work/Walgreens and because of Power-over-ethernet functionality Sam’s usage can be ‘read’ in the form of her ‘energy IP address’.
  • All of Sam’s production and consumption from any one of these points is measured by a ‘minisculemeter’ (phrase coined by me for an energy measuring sensor the size of a coin), every minisculemeter in Sam’s home or on Sam’s appliances is ascribed to Sam’s account/card.
  • Even when Sam charges her laptop at the Starbucks, while she’s working, her ‘account’ is adjusted accordingly (debited).
  • Sam moves to Arizona to be with the love of her life and she maintains the same account, all she has to do is change her address…
  • And, just like her credit score, any move to a more energy efficient home or purchase of a home energy management device will register as a plus or minus on her ‘score.
  • Sam also has a neighbor, Jo (with his own + or -), who doesn’t drive, doesn’t own a solar panel but trades stocks for a living, using a lot more electricity than Sam running his servers at home. Some days Jo (conceptually) ‘gets’ electricity from Sam’s ‘home battery’ or the Walgreens or the nuclear plant or the wind farm depending on whether Jo ‘wants’ renewable energy. Because Jo is a node on the grid…

 

The entity in the middle of these transactions

  1. measuring how much is used or produced (monitoring),
  2. Using technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence ensuring that all the Sam’s and the Jo’s do not use more electricity than all the solar panels and generating plants can produce (all through software and these minisculemeters) (systems balancing) and
  3. making sure the payments are made and collected correctly (payments service provider)
  4. through a simple and customer friendly interface

is the utility of the future. Allowing Sam to do the things she needs to do to live a normal regular existence. That’s all we really ask of our utility. What’s interesting about this is that this distributed, or more aptly termed local, structure is very similar to the first ‘grid’ when, in 1882, Edison flipped the switch on a few steam generators powering 1200 bulbs in Lower Manhattan. Very rapidly the grid grew to what we know it to be today; a complex non-adaptive system. But with new technology and increasing customer expectations of what service looks like the grid has to shift to Sam’s world. It’s the nature of complex systems to revert to their simplest form. It’s biomimicry again. Biomimicry with a business model attached to it.

Welcome to the Future Utility. It’s really just the ‘first grid’ with fancy devices on the end…the devices (and nodes) get even fancier when they can learn and improve the operation of the whole system.

Swarming

Every autonomous vehicle, be it Tesla or Waymo/Google, that is driving thousands of the miles on the road is gaining knowledge, through machine learning, that improves the collective knowledge of every other autonomous vehicle out there. When one autonomous vehicle experiences a shock, say an accident on the roads, even though the vehicle might have a little damage, the collective whole (the autonomous driving knowledge database) learns and improves. One vehicle, a node in the system, might have failed, but the whole system (adaptive system) has grown stronger from the shock to that node. Now replace ‘autonomous vehicle’ node in the transport system with a ‘Tesla Roadster or a Tesla Powerwall or a Solarcity panel or a Nest Thermostat’ node on an antifragile grid. The same antifragility can be achieved, where a shock to one Tesla/Solarcity node does not cause the whole system to fail. In fact, the whole grid learns from the failure of that one node and grows stronger, allocating resources dynamically in real time.

 

To take the example further, what this looks like in the future;

  1. One home with a Tesla/Solarcity system loses power.
  2. the antifragile grid identifies the reason for the failure (from its database) or adds the failure to its knowledge base.
  3. The grid shuts down that one node and reallocates another node to serve the purpose of the failed node.
  4. The antifragile grid determines where there is excess capacity (a neighbor’s vehicle-to-grid enabled Tesla roadster for example) and powers up the failed node.
  5. No other node on the grid fails, the system continues to function
  6. The antifragile grid learns from the failure and implements a fix/self-heals.
  7. The antifragile grid has become a stronger and smarter system waiting for the next failure to learn from…

 

Swarm of Teslas.

Swarming suggests a new way of approaching the development of the complex adaptive system that is the utility grid. To get a bit more technical, swarming enables the industry to adopt the benefits that have been agreed on that are possible from real time pricing optimization (so each customer and device/node is paying for the price of power at the point when the power is drawn from the system and benefiting from selling the power to the system based on the same thinking), problem prevention at scale (with each node or device able to take itself off the grid should before it damages the rest of the system but in enough time for the system to learn from the failure path that node went through) and the possibility of an additional business model for all participants in their ability to provide data to civic services (e.g. real-time in-home data to the fire department, paid for by the city or the system operator in the incidence of a fire).

The above is already playing out in some experiments running in real-time; Power Blox, a swiss company, in describing its Swarm Power product suggests

In a Swarm Grid, every component of the grid learns how to adapt to the current state of the grid by observing the grid parameters and adapting its behavior with the use of artificial intelligence. Swarm Grids manage power generation, storage and consumption with a totally different approach than smart grids. They use a fully decentralized architecture to manage fluctuating current, while smart grids need a centralized architecture to steer power generation and storage.”

While I suggest future utility above, I would say most of the technological functionality required to make this happen are currently available to us with the smart home at the center.

Why Now?

Beyond the obvious situation with the outages, in a survey of 515 utility executives the #1 concern is the future and what business models will apply, with only 16 of the respondents not seeing a need for business model changes. The traditional utility is fast losing its stranglehold on the industry. Competitors with new business models are competing for renewable energy generation. Investment firms, not utilities, now own the distribution and transmission systems. The consumer node of this value chain is the only part that is arguably still up for grabs. This part of the value chain, inside our homes that the industry calls ‘behind the meter’.

But the utility has no clue how to engage consumers. This becomes a growing concern as smart devices proliferate at a rate that the utility has never had to deal with. Gartner estimates there will be 6.8Bn connected devices by 2020, and as the example earlier in this post shares, there will be an increase in the flow of data from these connected devices (even if not at an equally exponential increase in the need for electricity to power these devices). Couple this data deluge with the following four trends in the industry and you see why your local utility is wondering where the opportunity will come from:

  1. Distributed generation: as the price of solar drops there continues to be an increase in the number of homes that have these panels in their homes. If Elon Musk has his way, there will be close to half a million electric vehicles delivered to consumers by 2018. Combined with Powerwalls these EVs will bring chaos to the traditional utility business model.
  2. Regulations (clean power plan and COP): the clean power plan is being adopted aggressively in some state while some are resisting. No surprises there. What will be the surprise is that the states that are looking to achieve these goals will have the collaboration of corporations that have chosen to take on the mantle of responsible corporate citizens to offset the negative impacts of their work on the sustainability of the planet.
  3. Disruption has a way of creeping up on companies and the utilities can see their current model being disrupted before their very eyes, even though it seems to be progressing slowly. A good read for how slow and then sudden disruption happens is ‘Bold’ by Peter Diamandis where he shares the progression towards obsolescence, for traditional companies holding on to their business models in the face of change. The progression goes thus

a) Digitized: Once something (energy in this case) enters the region of zeroes and ones, where the information is as valuable as the value, and can be shared digitally it becomes an information based technology and enters exponential growth.

b) Deceptive: the initial period of growth is deceptive, where we are in 2017 with DER, and the incumbents falsely believe there is still room for their old business model. Exponential disruption does not seem to grow fast at first.

c) Disruptive: the exponential technology outperforms the incumbent in terms of effectiveness and cost and consequently disrupts the old.

d) Demonetized: Money is removed from the equation as the new exponential technology becomes cheaper and almost free.

e) Dematerialized: technologies that were once bulky (power stations) move into miniaturization (battery packs, electric vehicles and solar panels) and can be accessible to the market due to demonetization above.

f) Democratized: everyone now has access to the new technology and the incumbent is wondering what happened.

4. Mobile phones, the prosumer and increased awareness: We are more informed than we’ve ever been. Information flows have become floods. The most uninterested consumer is aware of the effects of climate change. Even if they choose to deny these effects, they are aware. A few more consumers are added to the pool of prosumers (consumers who are active participants in energy generation and consumers) everyday. This was not the case before and your local utility is not prepared for this.

All the reasons above fundamentally boil down to an increase in access, improved communication and intelligence across the ecosystem from consumer to generator. When we think about this from a systems thinking perspective we start to see why the antifragile grid is the next phase of the innovation story in this industry.

Conclusion

Building an Antifragile Grid makes sense in 2018. It is the only viable approach for rebuilding Puerto Rico. In light of the recent outage events and concerns about cybersecurity issues, with hackers breaching the security systems of several power plants in the US (this was just a few days ago on/12/17/2018), there is no better time than now to start to take an approach that ensures that, even if one device or home or battery pack or solar array gets hacked, the whole system is not compromised but learns from the hack.

The utility won’t be able to do this. Most of our utilities are asset management companies that are set in their current business models and are averse to changing that. A possible scenario is a company like Google or Apple jumping into the fray and building a complex and adaptive platform, like the ones they’ve built for their industries, for the electricity industry. But we shall see how this plays out, I truly believe an external competitor with none of the current hangups will enter the fray.

 

http://stormcenter.oncor.com/external/default.html

I also want to share that, while I am a technology optimist I am wary of seeding all of the responsibility for managing these systems to autonomous machines and ascribing too much responsibility to technology. In ‘All Our Wrong Todays’ Elan Mastai shares the idea of the “accident”, suggesting that“when you invent a new technology, you also invent the accident of that technology”. When we invented the car, we also invented the car accident. Present day tech advancements (Artificial Intelligence, Cryptocurrencies etc), are inevitable. And so are the accidents. Not a new concept, just one that is very relevant as we think about building an Antifragile Grid. Technical systems work/fail and the impacts of the failure and how they work is impacted by the world in which they work in. A way around the risk here might be to ascribe nodal identity to only the technology (a device and not an individual) and the to just the flow of energy into and out of that node to ensure impartiality in resource allocation. Just a thought…

We have the technology to ensure that thousands of people don’t lose their power every day in the US like it currently happens. We just need some imagination. Otherwise, we’ll have a lot more Atlanta Airports on our hand.

https://medium.com/@seyi_fab/using-ai-iot-biomimicry-to-build-an-antifragile-power-grid-e5cb2c8538c4