May 2011
Interview

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Tony PaineEMAIL INTERVIEW – Tony Paine and Manny Mandrusiak

Tony Paine, President and Co-Owner of Kepware Technologies

Kepware is a leading provider of automation protocols and communications interoperability. Tony joined the company in 1996 and throughout his career there, has been pivotal in the architectural development of all Kepware products. Tony has represented Kepware in various open standards committees and is currently a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the OPC Foundation, where he helps to drive the technical direction of the automation industry. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maine at Orono.


Smart Grid Infrastructure

This next generation grid, the Smart Grid, will allow for the bidirectional flow of data, allowing for real-time decision making to ensure that energy is produced and provided in the most cost effective manner.

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Mandrusiak:  I read your article entitled Smart-Energy Consumption via an Open Ecosystem and was intrigued by the visionary statements you made regarding the Smart Grid, and the trends that you see for 2011.  Would you care to elaborate on some of the technology trends that you are seeing?

Paine:  True interoperability comes from standards based hardware and software that delivers instant (or with very little effort) plug and play between disparate systems developed by competing vendors. Where interoperability is lacking across grid components, you are left with stranded assets that can’t be monitored or controlled. A single standard will not emerge overnight, so I would expect to see a lot of middleware solutions that will provide translation across disparate systems, allowing for connectivity between different utilities as well as state borders.

Mandrusiak:  You also mentioned the term “Open Ecosystem” when referring to the collaboration between technologists and utility companies.  Can you describe for our readers how you see a possible architecture develop? 

Paine:  There is a lot of collaboration today in and between different groups, such as the Utility Technology Association (UTA), National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) and GridWise Alliance, where work is being done to establish the basic foundation for a next generation architecture, allowing the supply of energy. Energy starts from power generation, flows through transmission systems into distribution, and eventually is provided to consumers. This next generation grid, the Smart Grid, will allow for the bidirectional flow of data, allowing for real-time decision making to ensure that energy is produced and provided in the most cost effective manner. In order to achieve the information flow required to make these decisions, interoperability between existing and new infrastructure is necessary.

Mandrusiak:  In the evolving Smart Grid Infrastructure what role do you see OPC technology playing?

Paine:  OPC has already solved many of these same interoperability issues in the automation industry. Since the OPC standard has become the de facto standard for openness in this space between vendors, I would expect it to play a key role in terms of the interoperability between Industry and the Grid.

Mandrusiak:  Smart Meters are always a topic discussion, and as they are being deployed the issue of data security would naturally become a concern.  What steps has OPC technology taken with regards to keeping data safe?

Paine:  OPC has been working hard over the past several years to build the latest interoperability standard called the Unified Architecture. It took all the functionality that OPC had developed in previous years, such as how to exchange real-time data, alarm and events, historical information, and generalized it into a common set of services. Perhaps more importantly, OPC accessed how their technology was being used – ways it never imagined since its inception – and found that it was being used to transfer information over the Internet and in systems where security vulnerabilities could expose risks to the environment or human life. As such, OPC looked at Industries latest security standards and incorporated them into the specifications. This was done in such a way that as new security standards evolve they can be easily incorporated into OPC’s latest technology without having to re-architect or re-implement the specifications.

Control Solutions, Inc Mandrusiak:  The topic of being able to access data on handheld devices and Smartphones comes up quite a lot.  What are your thoughts on accessing data from HVAC systems for example on a Smartphone?  Will OPC make this possible?

Paine:  OPC’s Unified Archictecture has been designed for platform independence and is capable of running on embedded devices, such as a mobile handheld device. Our expectations today is that we can access data from anywhere in the world and the latest smart-phones provide a convenient platform to make this achievable. The Unified Architecture provides two important key elements which would allow for this kind of information exchange. First, it can reliably move information from internal systems into the cloud (a public or private repository for data) using secure methodologies. Second, its platform independence makes it possible to pull the information out of the cloud and into your mobile platform for analysis or visualization.

Mandrusiak:  I would like to get your closing thoughts about how Kepware is approaching information exchange in the Building Automation Vertical, and where interested parties can get more information about the OPC products what will enable them to leverage some of the concepts that we discussed in this interview?

Paine:  Kepware is very much about interoperability. We recognize that there are hundreds, if not thousands of existing standards or protocols in use worldwide – across many markets and verticals. In Building Automation, there is a focus on creating smarter and greener buildings. Energy costs continue to rise and where we get our energy can have a direct impact on the environment. In order to cut costs and limit the usage of energy, buildings need to have the intelligence to monitor and make decisions in real-time. This intelligence can determine how to best control HVAC and lighting, a couple of important systems which are capable of consuming energy when it is not necessarily warranted. We have been investing a significant time in understanding not only the protocols used in this market, but other application specific requirements. Readers can monitor our web site to learn more about what we are working on or contact us for more information.





 

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