iPod and other PEDs offer potential in the smart grid


Palo Alto, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — July 30, 2010 – The iPod touch, Android and other portable electronic devices (PEDs) could become an important component in the monitoring and analysis of smart grid performance, according to a new study from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Serving as portable minicomputers these devices could become a major component of the smart grid sensor market whereby data needs to be streamed, stored and selectively uploaded from a remote location to a centralized location, the study found.

The EPRI study was aimed at understanding the capabilities and limitations and the full electric power industry potential of these devices, and evaluated five applications that could be of value to utilities. These were as a non-contact voltage sensor, a handheld power analyzer, a long duration data logger, an asset mapping device, and a magnetic field sensor.

Each was successfully demonstrated using the iPod touch – but with the upfront understanding that other PEDs like the Android, Palm Pre, Zune HD, Sony Instinct and others may perform similar functions.

In terms of signal stability and accuracy it was found that for all of the power analysis and monitoring applications, the only limitation is the requirement for an interface device that can connect to the PED and facilitate accurate signal input to the PED. The iPod touch device itself is highly suitable for oscilloscope grade acquisition and accuracy.

The need for unique interfaces, depending on the type of PED, is a current shortcoming for the industry as a whole. The EPRI recommended that it prototypes a series of application specific interfaces and the specifications for the interfaces be provided to manufacturers willing to market a product for specific PED types. For the Apple devices, the interface would need to be the proprietary dock interface whereas for other PEDs this interface will likely be a USB input.

Presently the maximum number of input signals obtainable by a PED is one or two depending on the input. However, the interface device could enable as many as six or eight input signals while maintaining waveform resolution in the 128 samples per cycle (60 Hz) range.

In terms of computational data analysis and post data processing, PEDs do have that capability, but just like any other handheld data acquisition technology, it is more desirable to upload the information to a desktop environment before performing significant data analysis. The basic requirements for developing “power industry specific” applications are familiarity with “objective c” programming and a clear understanding of unique coding aspects for the various PED types.

The next step will be to work with electric service providers to roadmap the full potential of PEDs and demonstrate their applicability with a smart grid, the EPRI said in conclusion.