The smart money is on smart energy


By Mike Jordan

The American government has launched a number of initiatives to stimulate the economy. Some will work and, unfortunately, some will not. I believe the investment in the future of the smart grid will pay dividends we can’t even imagine.

Remember when Judge Harold Greene presided over the breakup of the Bell system? I had just joined AT&T when the breakup started. Naively, I wondered why we needed to break up a company that was running one of the best communication systems in the world. Well, look at the phone service today. Competition and free enterprise drove innovation and capabilities that no one imagined in 1984 when telecommunication was a monopoly. It’s hard to call it a phone service anymore, with cellular, video, data, television and many other services available in place of POTS (plain old telephone service).

What could the electric grid look like 10 or 20 years from now? Will we each have our own rate plan based on our lifestyle? Will less generation be required as control over the grid, along with better practices of knowledgeable consumers, eliminate all peak demand concerns? Or will we have more energy available through harvesting new sources driven by new applications and increasing demand?

Deregulation alone will not generate change overnight. The state of Texas, where deregulation started with the Texas Electric Choice Act of 1999, has not realised all the benefits of a competitive market. Change is occurring – but slowly for now.

If the federal government provides nearly $4 billion in stimulus funds and utilities add a similar amount from their budgets, we’ll see a serious advancement of the smart grid. We’ll also see a number of new and existing companies come into the spotlight. Venture capital funds are rapidly flowing into this market right now. Many domestic jobs will be created, since most of this money will be spent in the US.

At LS Research, we’ve been fortunate to work in the smart energy market for the past 13 years. We are privileged to work with some of the biggest and best companies as well as many new and emerging companies. We’ve performed services including wireless design, antenna design, and FCC and CE certification, as well as complete AMR/AMI systems design testing and prototyping.

With our core business of custom design services for many industries, including military, medical, consumer products and energy, we focus on producing reliable, cost effective and functional products that provide great value to users.

Recently, LS Research launched a full suite of smart energy devices for residential and small commercial applications. Key to the offering is our flagship Rate$aver in-home display unit. This fully production certified ZigBee-enabled display unit shows consumers their energy consumption on a real time basis. We also provide a digital touch frame, various gateways, repeaters and other devices geared toward the smart energy and home area network markets that also help consumers understand their real time energy usage. It’s a huge leap from a monthly bill (which only shows energy expenditures the consumer has no way to influence) to real time views that allow instant adjustments in energy consumption.

We believe this market will grow significantly over the next few years, so we’re adding capabilities and sharpening our focus in this area. We continue to provide proprietary design services for both start-ups and seasoned companies, applying our highly focused skills and knowledge regarding current and emerging standards in the energy field. LS Research belongs to many organisations working on standards, like the ZigBee and U-SNAP Alliances. We are lucky to have such talented people who understand this market. To be accepted as a trusted partner by so many companies is not something we take lightly. We stand ready to take on additional projects, and our board of directors supports our goal of continuing to make strategic investments in this important area.