May 18, 2009
The burgeoning network linking consumers of electrical power with its producers -- the smart grid -- got a new player Monday, as Cisco announced its road map for entering what it describes as a $20 billion annual market.
Cisco's smart grid plans aim to help utilities lower the cost of energy storage, transmission, and distribution; reduce network outages; and improve the security of the nation's power grid. Electricity outages cost U.S. industry about $50 billion per year, according to the Electrical Power Research Institute, and about half of all cybersecurity threats to the electrical infrastructure stem from physical breaches. At the core of Cisco's plan is a secure IP-based communications network to help utility companies optimize power supply and demand from data centers and substations, through neighborhood-area networks, to businesses and homes. Components will include Cisco switches and routers and IP-based backhaul communications for smart meters. Last month, Cisco and the city of Miami in collaboration with General Electric and Florida Power & Light announced plans to deploy 1 million advanced wireless smart meters to every home and most businesses in Miami-Dade County. The meters will connect to high-efficiency transformers, digitized substations, and other equipment through a centralized information and control system. Security is a vital piece of smart grid technology, and security experts are already issuing concerns about the potential for attacks upon the power infrastructure. In 2008, the CIA disclosed that cyberattacks have caused at least one power outage affecting multiple cities outside the United States. The Obama administration's economic recovery plan calls for 40 million smart meters to be deployed in the United States over the next three years.
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