Keeping an eye on smart grids and sensor nets

Keeping an eye on smart grids and sensor nets

My say by Johna Till Johnson

is having the ability – real or imagined – to “see around corners”. That is, to predict with some degree of accuracy that which hasn’t been invented yet.

So what’s next? The next big thing in my crystal ball is something I’m calling “instrumenting reality” : Using the networking and processing capabilities we’ve developed over the past 25 years to manage, control and modify the real world.

Some context: The big revolution in the 1980s was all about computing power – getting more of it via Moore’s law, and putting it ever closer to users via the development of minicomputers and desktop PCs. The big revolution in the 1990s and the early part of this decade was networking – harnessing that computing horsepower to create, in effect, a vast distributed computing system.

With networking came the ability to create virtual reality. Web browsers, search engines, blogs, wikis and Twitter are all richer and more powerful ways to interact in the virtual environment.

The next big revolution, though, isn’t about doing more in virtual space. It’s about making the leap from the virtual world to the real one by developing the tools and technologies to use the virtual world to better manage and modify the real one.

Take smart grids, which have gotten a lot of airplay recently. Essentially, smart grids are power distribution networks that use built-in monitoring and distributed control systems to more efficiently and reliably deliver energy.

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