February 2016
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Built to Mash

Economic mashups enable allocation, balancing, and smoothing of resource use within a micromarket.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
TC9 Inc

The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor


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The Internet of Things is being built to mash. Maybe it is because the initial devices are so simple, providing a service with a single command. Lock the door. Alarm the house. Answer the door. The low cost integration that the cable companies demand rewards not looking under the hood.

Last month, I had the pleasure of a tour of a home microgrid system ready to mash. With care and good math, it can compensate for the incidental on-demand dumb loads of the house. If those loads are ready for an energy mashup, it can do better. In the AllSeen Alliance, appliances and domotic apps are already built to mash functionally. AllJoyn leaf nodes for cuisine and for lighting and fireplace scenarios can mash for the perfectly planned evening. AllJoyn routing nodes can enable the apps to coordinate their behaviors.

Modern appliances act as apps in themselves. My washer can query my phone which snapped a picture of a barcode in a garment to program a wash load. But even smart appliances also use resources that affect the whole home, notably energy and hot water, and make noise that might interfere with the romantic evening scenario currently running on the lighting manager.

With a resource framework, resources limited by policy or by firm supply limits can be shared, allocated, smoothed over time through cooperation between the apps. A mashable microgrid can cooperate with these appliances and apps to optimize resource use over time.

Optimize is of course a nebulous word unless one asks “optimize for what?” Does one optimize for lowest peak use, longest battery life, or for energy security? Does one optimize for high energy import before the storm, or for energy export for revenue, or for economic cooperation with the neighbors? The answer should be: whatever the homeowner wants.

OASIS Energy Interoperation is becoming recognized as the interface for economic resource mashups. In the NIST Transactive Energy Challenge, it is demonstrating the ease of reconfiguration and the resilience of rapid response in secure multi-facility mission-critical environments. In the mashable home, it is readying integration-free resource smoothing, making each home a more valuable participant in a larger but still local community. Mashups across neighborhoods, and between homes await only reglatory relief.

As one moves into larger containing microgrids, or into more critical facilities, a mashable market requires greater security. With economic interfaces, each system or microgrid communicates only through an energy services interface, and hat interface is a security firewall; fractal microgrids intrinsically support defense in depth.

As one moves from inside the home to outside the home, inside the commercial building to the business district, there is also a change in economic constraints. In a micromarket that operates a home, all participants are all playing with the dealer’s chips. As we move into bases and neighborhoods, different owners and different bank accounts come into play.

Blockchain names a set of technologies that can make official inalterable records without central authority. Blockchain can be used to manage identity, contracts, and transactions. Bitcoin is a well-known type of blockchain, but far from the only one. IBM and eleven major banks are currently working together on open source for a bankable blockchain, i.e., one in which decentralized transactions can eventually move up into the banking system.

In the Internet of Things, some relationships and some purchases may be too small to warrant central registration. Even a central authority for identity of small things threatens privacy and security. Central approval is too expensive to support nano-transactions. Blockchain can track device description, functions, locations, and price, if the device is ready to be hired or bought. Blockchain can record smart contracts without an intermediary for granting authority or permission.

Payments and bartering simplify integration of diverse systems. Micro-payments and even nano-payments could enable negotiations to buy into the HOV lane, air rights for delivery drones, or even real time negotiation for five minutes of Wi-Fi time from the vending machine.

Blockchain opens up an intriguing decentralized model for economic mashups. A home micromarket can operate with simple bilateral trades or a managed double auction. Micromarkets that span cities or regions may need central trading floors and complex matching of transactions that might bundle storage, power, transmission, and other purchases into a single trade. A neighborhood is somewhere in-between.

Economic mashups can simplify trading between resource types. A routine CHP decision trades value between generating heat and power, and the current demands for each across a market. Cooling demands may rely on absorption or compression chillers, that is on making dynamic choices between using a thermal market or a power market to supply a third market. District energy may place the two thermal markets (heat and cold) external to each facility. CHP, especially CHP with cooling, usually relies on careful and expensive static analysis. Economic mashups just might make the home CHP economical.

Neighborhood micromarkets are driven in part by a desire for resilience, i.e., for operation during central infrastructure failure. Neighborhood micromarkets can be justified solely for enabling distributed energy resources to be used locally, without transmission loss or new transmission infrastructure. Each of these motives, along with the capability of defense in depth, comes into play in the Camp Pendleton microgrids.

Owners of home microgrids may want to trade amongst themselves after the storm. With telecommunications potentially down as well, they want to trade using enforceable contracts without central approval or authority. Such markets must be mashable, because even if all homes in a neighborhood start with the same technology, over time each homeowner will make his own decisions on upgrades.

The IoT is made for mashing. Economic mashups enable allocation, balancing, and smoothing of resource use within a micromarket. Multiple micromarkets will be able to self-manage across resources in the same facility.

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