In the evening of Sep 21st, Stephen Bush presented to the IEEE Boston Communications group his perspective of the Smart Grid and the importance of communications (see IEEE Boston). I had the pleasure to sit next to Stephen during the dinner meeting before the formal meeting – he works for GE Global Research in NY, holding a PhD in computer science.
The Power Grid was presented as the biggest machine on earth with all kind of complexities. Stephen explained the basic “components” of the network i.e. generators, transmission lines, transfer switches, transformers, etc; then he highlighted the challenges of this machine, i.e. load balancing, its reliability and redundancy, market dynamics for setting the price, etc.
[I am in process of obtaining a link to his presentation which I will post.]
But, after the meeting, I started looking into Stephen’s research work and run into a new subject for me: Active Networks. Basically, Active Networks are self configuring, smart networks with code and data packaged together in the same packets. There is excellent lecture on this subject given by Stephen. Here is an excerpt from his site:
The goal of active networking is to create communication networks that reposition static, low-level network operation into dynamic, differentiated, and adaptable behavior. This allows communication hardware to be more fully used given that its operation can be tailored to specific application requirements. This also enables a more flexible and survivable communication network. Active networking decouples the network protocol from its transport by allowing easy insertion of protocols on top of the transport layer. Active networking also minimizes requirements for global agreement; it does not require years of standards negotiation to introduce new protocols. Active networking enables on-the-fly experimentation given easy insertion of new protocols and network applications, thus enabling the rapid deployment of new services and applications. The mechanism for implementing an active network is to enable communication packets to carry network code as well as data. This code may be installed on the fly into low-level network devices as the packet flows throughout the network…
One particular abstract sketch I liked was given in his paper of Active Virtual Network Management Prediction where he tries to apply communications theory concepts to managing the reliability of the power networks.
The lecture includes enough details so you can appreciate the value of such networks; after watching the 1:20min video, I started wondering: “boy the TCP/IP and current World Wide Web is so out of date!” But at the same time, it is ubiquitous, available now, reliable enough and works. It is neither elegant, nor expandable and by far from optimum using the hardware (/router) resources.
You can find more pointers to his work here.
Great work Stephen!