US semiconductor chip maker Intel has a raft of initiatives underway with German power companies to deliver monitoring and security systems, as well contributing to an European standardisation initiative.

Intel is working with German regional utility Westfalen Weser Energie to devise a smart monitoring system for its electrical substations.

In Germany there are around 1 million secondary substations, each serving 100 to 150 people in residential areas, said Detlef Gieselmann, the utility’s senior vice president of business development.

Intel has so far installed industrial PCs at two substations built around Core i5 processors, with additional instrumentation to measure voltage and current.

The news PCs can log and report as much data on the status of the substation as around 200 of the utility’s legacy SCADA systems, claims the company, so the next phase of the joint project is to develop software tools to handle the increased data flow.

Security
As well as managing data, the German utility says it’s vital to think about security from the start.

Mr Gieselmann said: “Substations are rarely visited after the equipment is installed—perhaps once every five to 10 years for an audit or maintenance check—and yet every PC installed will become a new IP gateway on to the utility’s internal network, providing potentially dangerous access to critical infrastructure.”

Two Intel business units – security software vendor McAfee and embedded OS developer WindRiver – are developing a security platform to deliver end-to-end protection for the smart grid.

This would enable utilities to securely manage each secondary substation from a central location.

Standardisation
Another vital factor in connecting up smart grid elements will be having them all talk the same language, said Christian Morales, the company’s vice president and general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

To that end, Intel is joining the EEBus Initiative, a German smart grid standards consortium.

The EEBus Initiative and 10 other German IT and energy industry associations signed a joint declaration this week committing to make Germany the leading market for smart home technologies and calling for the development of manufacturer-independent standards for smart home and smart grid communications.

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