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Smart grid can function beyond the electric system

By Donna Donnawitz
February 1, 2013

Most visions of the smart grid's future focus on the technology's application in the energy delivery sector, where it could improve maintenance, reduce waste and enable better use of renewable resources. This is a powerful model for smart grid technology, but not the only way the solution can be used.

At its core, the smart grid is actually a fairly simple and intuitive technology. This makes the smart grid a solution that can be applied in a variety of ways and could enable it to revolutionize the entire utility sector.

Understanding what smart grid really does
Smart devices are any items that can connect to the web to either gather data effectively or be controlled by an end user. The smart grid, essentially, makes the power grid a smart device. It does this by combining serial-based utility solutions with Ethernet infrastructure to create an interoperable network between various parts of the power grid and the electric company. Smart grid systems really are that simple. There are plenty of nuances, like workflow automation and real-time data transit protocols that come into play, but most of these sophisticated systems are necessary in any setup of this sort and are not exclusive to power delivery.

Taking full advantage of smart grid's simplicity
The underlying intuitiveness of smart grid makes it an incredibly flexible technology. There is no reason, for example, why water companies cannot equip pipes and other delivery systems with various smart devices and connect them to an Ethernet network. Transit operators, automobile manufacturers and data center managers can similarly use intelligent device solutions in conjunction with network systems to enable the type of real-time data transit needed to replicate what the smart grid can accomplish. All of these applications for the technology offer similar potential in the form of more efficient operations. They also all present a few key challenges in terms of interoperability and the need for some specialized solutions depending on the use setting. This is where terminal servers can come into play and enable smart grid systems to be applied in a variety of settings.

Taking advantage of serial to Ethernet terminal servers
Smart devices often use specialized network connectivity options, such as serial systems, to provide reliable connectivity. While there are good reasons to use such connections, smart grid functionality depends heavily on Ethernet. As a result, serial to Ethernet converters can go a long way in enabling more sectors to embrace what the smart grid has to offer.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations.  The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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