Monday, October 27, 2008

UETS: beyond BPL and service bundling

The power guys just won't give up. It has been terribly quiet on the PLC/BPL front: Dallas is scaling back, and progress is only being made in developing nations (Ecuador, India, Brasil), or so it seems.
But now (well, the patent was filed in 2005) we have UETS (Universal Ethernet Telecommunications Service), as per Jose Morales Barroso's paper in the IEC Ocober newsletter. A interesting read!

To be sure, this is neither BPL nor 'just' a new business model (marketing a bundle of broadband and power, as Bill St. Arnaud proposes). This is much more profound integration. Let's wait and see how it develops.

1. UETS in general terms: the Intelligent Grid
  • "The total integration in only one shared physical infrastructure (e.g., towers, poles, conduits, wires), with copper cables for electric power and fiber optics for telecom, would be an exceptional improvement. The information and communications systems need the electricity, and the electric power grid of the future needs the information andcommunications technologies (ICT). Hence, the advantages of integrating them in a single infrastructure are very, very clear."
  • "A baseline technology, the Universal Ethernet Telecommunications Service (UETS), is proposed for converged services delivery over a single 'intelligent grid', a central role in meeting the world’s growing electric power demands and broadband adoption."

2. Whence UETS: to save energy
  • "The telecom technologies that form the Internet waste a huge amount of electric power, and that amount grows exponentially with the number of users and their transmission speed. At the same time, clients and servers increase in size and performance, consequently increasing the consumption. In the United States only, all electronics expend no less than 250 TWh per year, equaling more than 180 million tons of CO2, roughly equivalent to 35 million cars. (...) The practice of leaving PCs and workstations 'always on' consumes yearly 19.8 billion kilowatt-hours in the United States, enough energy to power 1.9 million homes. Individuals, institutions, and companies can help minimize wasted electricity, save money, and reduce CO2 emissions by as much as taking 18 million cars off the road!"
  • "... the net efficiency for the entire electricity path: from the grid to the final information process is smaller than 0.6 percent, and from power sources is less than 0.2 percent. This means that each watt employed for the information process needs more than 500 watts from primary energy!"
  • "We live in a kind of illusion, thinking about diverse 'achievements' (e.g., social, technological, political) when the crude reality is very different: we are consuming, in an outrageous and unjustifiable way, the planet’s resources and, at the same time, destroying
    our environment. We cannot have endless growth in consumption, wealth, goods of all types, or anything in a limited system as planet Earth: it is unsustainable."
  • "Connecting renewable and cleaner small-scale local power generators distributed throughout the grid will become more economical, taking stress off the grid, improving energy efficiency, reducing the need for transmission capacity, and providing secure regional power supplies."
  • "(...) an advanced telecom service would move information instead of people or things, drastically reducing the need for transportation."
  • "To manage power demand, the new intelligent meters report moment-to-moment power usage digitally to the utility, through the UETS network, and cycle up and down appliances in response to grid needs and signals. This enables variable pricing, providing economic incentives to shift power use between high- and low-demand periods. Home appliances containing onboard intelligence reduce demand when receiving signals that the grid is under stress or activate appliances when power rates are lower. That can take pressure off overloaded grid infrastructure and power costs."
  • "A very interesting application is the connection of hybrid electric cars to the electric network - a product known as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) - and making them an integral part of the grid, a concept known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G). (...) Smart management systems could provide additional reliability using the storage capacity of the PHEV by reversing the power flow from the battery to the grid during peak periods, using the battery’s stored energy to provide power back to the grid in order to meet peak demand, rather than adding new generating capacity. It is even possible to start the combustion engine 'in a stopped car' in critical moments of consumption to supply energy during blackouts or complement the conventional generation."
  • "Telework (...) means the death of distance. Work is not a place; teleworkers drive information, not cars, to work, saving lives in traffic accidents; reducing transportation, fuel consumption, and pollution; increasing work/home life balance; and reducing stress."

3. Comparison: simpler, better

  • Instead of a more traditional form of layering (physical, data, transmission, presentation, applications, etc.) UETS collapses the internet into 3 layers: 802.3, the IEEE standard for ethernet is the primary medium (PHY/PMD); 802.3 and 802.2 for the next one (MAC and LLC); and finally internet applications. The technology involves Banyan networking for interconnection. Further explanation of the protocols is here.
  • The technology is ethernet-based. Switches replace routers. "... evolution from 'computer networks' to the 'computer on net.' When the network is as fast as the computer’s internal links, the machine becomes a special purpose appliance across the Net."
  • "... opens up possibilities for micro-grids that supply DC power instead of AC, a tremendous energy and cost saver since digital equipment, which typically runs on DC, contains expensive, energy-wasting power conversion equipment. DC–powered systems waste less electric power, generate less heat, enable more electronic equipment density, and can cut power losses by 50 percent."
  • "This system is the proposal for the convergence of computers, Internet, broadband, mobility, and telephone networks into something extremely simple, much faster, and less costly, with more capabilities and integrated services over a shared, unique network infrastructure."
  • "The bandwidth offered is symmetrical, up to 10 Gb/s today and 100 Gb/s in the near future."

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