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Aviat Networks and the Promise of the Smart Grid

Smart Grid

September 03, 2010

Aviat Networks and the Promise of the Smart Grid

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

A quick look around global markets today and you’ll notice there are significant trends that influence other markets. One very influence space is the utility market and the most significant trend there is the move to an all-IP infrastructure, according to Eric Ehlers, market development manager at Aviat (News - Alert) Networks. In a recent TMCnet interview, Ehlers noted that there needs to be a balance in terms of the influence regulators should have over Smart Grid initiatives. He also believes the growth of 4G wireless is significant for the success of Smart Grid initiatives.

In terms of the Smart Grid serving as a security threat, Ehlers noted that utilities, vendors and standards groups are doing everything possible to avoid malicious attacks and are working on cybersecurity standards. He also believes that the adoption for smart home products will be driven by ease of use and there is definitely a future for electric cars. As for the year of the Smart Grid – Ehlers notes it is still about two years out. Ehlers does expect there to be overlap between the communications market and the Smart Grid, although utilities want to build their own private networks they can control.

As for the most overhyped technology, Ehlers highlighted that there are a lot of things within the Smart Grid space that are being hyped up and we will have to wait and see what emerges as delivering true value. Aviat Networks is participating in the Smart Grid West 2010 Summit and plans to bring significant value and experience to the event. As for a bold technology prediction for 2011, Ehlers predicts we will see more of the smaller rural utilities building out some really interesting Smart Grid projects.

The entire conversation follows:

TMC (News - Alert) Representative: What is the most significant trend impacting the utility market? Why?

Ehlers: I think the biggest trend impacting the utility market is the move to an all-IP infrastructure. This changes everything in regards to how Smart Grid networks are designed.

TMC Representative: How much influence should regulators have over smart grid initiatives?

Ehlers: There needs to be a balance. Since Smart Grid is new, there will need to be a lot of trial and error. Too much regulation can stipend this process. On the other side, regulators need to make sure that utilities are making wise decision in the build outs so that the consumer doesn’t get stuck with a big rake hike to make up the cost.

TMC Representative: How important is the growth of 4G wireless to the success of Smart Grid initiatives? Huge.

Ehlers: The Smart Grid in the United States will be built on wireless technologies. There will be a lot of video and high bandwidth applications (complex database searches, file transfers training, etc) combined with remote service areas driving the need for 4G wireless. . Technologies such as WiMax are already being deployed to meet this need.

TMC Representative: Don’t Smart Grids potentially present a major security threat?

Ehlers: Any time you open things up to IP two-way communications and add more endpoints, security because a major obstacle. That being said the utilities, vendors and standards groups are keenly aware of this issue and are doing everything they can to avoid malicious attacks and are working on cybersecurity standards.  One of the big keys is to think about security up front before deployment. It can be very costly to go back and try to fill-in security gaps after the fact.

TMC Representative: How long do you think the adoption curve will be for smart home products? 

Ehlers: What will drive adoption? We are still a few years away from the smart home. Adoption will be driven by ease of use (implementation easy for homeowners) and the data has to be easy to follow. Standards will also play a big part be it ZigBee, Z-Wave or another this has yet to be played out.

TMC Representative: Is there a future for electric cars?

Ehlers: Absolutely. The price points w/ tax breaks are starting to get to an area that the average consumer can afford for cars like the Leaf and Volt.  The real key will be investing in the infrastructure across the United States so that people have access to charging stations. That will make or break the electric car.

TMC Representative: Which will be the year of the Smart Grid?

Ehlers: I think we are still about 2 years out. Utilities are just now getting their Smart Grid grants from the government and I suspect we will start seeing the benefits in two years.

TMC Representative: How do you see the communications market overlapping with the smart grid space if at all?

Ehlers: Overall utilities will want to build their own private networks that they can control and not have to worry about the reliability of a commercial network.  Wireless access like WiMax and proper backhaul seen will need to be addressed for the Smart Grid just like in communications networks. There are also some instances where commercial networks will work as a portion of the Smart Grid network, but I believe this will be more for non-critical traffic like AMI. 

TMC Representative: What is the most overhyped technology in your opinion?

Ehlers: There are a lot of things going on in Smart Grid that that are being hyped up. That being said there is no one technology that will be the end-all be all solution. Changes and advances will take place and some of the current technologies will be weeded out.  There are a lot of start-up smart gird companies out there and these are being invested in and bought-up by the larger players. It still remains to be seen which ones will really pan out from the Smart Grid hype.

TMC Representative: Why should attendees make sure they visit your booth at Smart Grid Summit?

Ehlers: Aviat Networks has been building robust, reliable communications networks for Utilities for over 45 years.  Aviat has built an unmatched knowledge and understanding of the mission critical applications, network uptime, and network management/monitoring necessary for next generation smart grid communications.

TMC Representative: Please make a bold technology prediction for 2011.

Ehlers: I think you are going to see more of the smaller rural utilities building out some really interesting smart grid projects.  Wireless will play a large part in these Smart Grid projects because of the cost savings these smaller utilities can benefit from.

Representatives from Aviat will be appearing at ITEXPO (News - Alert), the world’s premier IP communications event. Don’t wait. Register now.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda

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