At a special event in NYC on Wednesday, in presence of industry consultants, such as KEMA, and Echelon customers and partners, Echelon Corp. (News - Alert) unveiled a new Echelon Control System (ECoS) software platform for intelligent distributed control of the smart grid. ECoS will run throughout the edge of the grid on the new Edge Control Node (ECN) 7000 series of open and extensible hardware modules.
Simultaneously, Echelon also announced that nation’s third largest utility Duke Energy will be the first customer for the ECoS software platform. The initial Duke order, excluding ECN options, is for approximately $14.5 million. Deployments of ECN field trial units are expected to begin by the year end, with shipments of production units slated for the second half of 2011.
“The challenge is to build a 21st century smart grid that is more reliable, available and efficient than today’s infrastructure to empower our customers with new opportunities to reduce wasted energy and save money.” said Gianna Manes, Duke Energy’s (News - Alert) chief customer officer, in a statement. Manes further added, “Deploying digital technology with intelligent, distributed management at the edge of the grid will make us even more responsive to our customers’ needs. ECoS, the ECN 7000, and the ability to create and manage apps for the smart grid is a significant step forward for the industry and for Duke Energy. We are very excited about the potential of this solution.”
Similarly, Echelon president and CEO Ron Sege stated, “ECoS will move the grid beyond centralized reading of meters to a truly open, intelligent and distributed system that can monitor and react to an increasingly dynamic and demanding environment.” He added, “By making the low-voltage part of the grid nearest the user smarter, the ECoS powered ECN 7000 series can help utilities address the challenges brought on by increasing peak demand, the proliferation of renewable energy sources, and the emergence of electric vehicles.” Sege believes that just as applications platforms have transformed the mobile phone industry, ECoS will empower its customers and partners to create intelligent control solutions that were either impossible or prohibitively expensive in the past.
According to Echelon, ECoS is an open and secure application framework, which includes a software development kit and management tools. It enables intelligent distributed control at the edge of the network. In the ECN 7000 series, ECoS provides a set of core services, along with built-in ECoS apps, that provide the software infrastructure necessary to support multiple apps running cooperatively to monitor and control devices to implement smart grid applications. Likewise, the ECN 7000 series products provide open, published interfaces to allow third parties to develop additional hardware and software options, said the developer. Because the interfaces are completely open, they are available without licensing restrictions, added Echelon. The idea behind open interfaces is to foster a community of hardware developers creating peripheral cards to connect to the myriad of devices found in the field, as well as software developers creating new and innovative ECoS apps for the smart grid, as explained by Echelon in a Q&A session. For example, a third party can build an option board and software driver to connect to an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) network and make AMI data available to ECoS apps, continued Echelon.Deliveries of the ECN 7000 for Duke’s initial order are expected to be completed by the middle of 2013. Duke Energy provides electricity service to approximately four million customers in five states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
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Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi