September 10, 2010 – Echelon, which makes smart meters and control systems for buildings, introduced a hardware and software system that can process the large amounts of data generated by edge grid hardware and automate certain tasks, such as reporting a problem to utilities or redirecting the flow of electricity. The software is called the Echelon Control System (Ecos) and a hardware device, designed to be hung on a utility pole in a local distribution point, is called the Edge Control Node (ECN) 7000.
The hardware system is open enough that other hardware companies can build networking cards for it, explained Jeff Lund, the vice president of development at Echelon. Those hardware companies, such as meter makers, can write software applications for utilities, such as demand response–where electricity customers shift their energy consumption to off-peak times. Echelon hopes that eventually, software-only companies will write applications for its software control system.
"What we’re enabling is a control layer so you’re connecting devices and making decisions close to the point of action, which is more reliable, more scalable, and less expensive," Lund said.
Right now, a lot of data is sent over proprietary networking protocols and processed back at utilities’ data centers. But bandwidth can be limited and making sense of the huge amounts of data generated by devices can be easier when done at the edge of the network, Lund said.
The company also announced that utility Duke Energy has signed on as a customer.