We are all in a rather funny business. In a few areas we’ve seen a lot of evolution and technology – computer based automation, for example. But it has taken 100 years for residential electric metering to graduate from the induction mechanical meter to solid state metering. It has taken 40 years for AMR to evolve from serving a few thousand meters to serving a few tens of millions of meters, but this just scratches the surface! There is still a long way to go.

Not withstanding the few areas of brilliant progress, innovation in the industry is measured in such plodding terms, and forward motion can appear to be so glacial, that I find it hard to stay awake while thinking about it! We are surrounded by so many other areas in which technology seems to progress more easily, as evidenced by consumer electronics, medical sciences and education.

Ah, but there is an answer! I would like to have you believe that I discovered it, but you will see that others have beaten me to it.

Let’s say that you have a product, or an idea or a technique that is getting a little worn at the edges. It is tired. It is old news. It used to be exciting, but now it has just been around for too long, and too many people have studied it or even implemented it. So how can you reinvigorate that topic, generate excitement in top management, write papers for conferences or attract research funding? Simple. Just rename it and start all over! You may want to add or subtract a few ingredients, though, to hide the fact that the topic is really ‘just the same old thing’.

If a few years have elapsed since the matter was a ‘hot topic’ you don’t have to change anything! Hopefully the people who were involved with the topic under the old name will have been promoted, fired or retired, so they won’t figure out that this is just the same old stuff. That makes it easier to re-launch the old idea with a new name.

CONSIDER THESE EXAMPLES::

Cogeneration. (How boring! Please give us a new word!) Now it is CHP (combined heat and power).

In the 1980s it was called Dispersed Storage and Generation (DSG). Now is is simply DG (distributed generation) or DR (Distributed Resources).

In the 1970s it was called Direct Load Control (DLC). After a few years that term was inelegant and it became Load Management
(L/M). But like an old carpet, L/M became a little frayed at the edges, so along came Demand-side management (DSM). Now DSM has had its day in the limelight; it has been augmented and replaced by Demand Response (DR).

There is a clear challenge to readers of this publication: What about the ubiquitous Smart Meter – a topic that has been around for decades and that will be massaged with new names and acronyms for decades to come? How shall we attract interest in smart metering? Easy. Give it a new name. For example, have you seen the clever new DAYWAM metering technology (Does All You Want and More)?

Or perhaps the BESERK meter (Best Energy Sensing Ever Really Known) or a meter using TRASH technology (True-up Reading and Sensing Heuristic)?

Or the extremely flexible SERIOUS meter technology (Supports Every Rate In Our Universe, Sort-of).

You get the picture. Next time you have to face a management team to recommend something your company should have done many years ago, simply adopt the utility industry rules for success: If the idea you are selling is stale or shopworn, all you have to do is rename it. Do this in two stages:

Stage 1: Start by widely using the acronym for the new name that you have invented, as if everyone knows what it means. Of course nobody will know, but they won’t say so because they don’t want to look stupid. They will want to find out what it means, because it must be something hot and new, and using the new acronym is a sign that you are technically astute and up to date. Gradually, then, you can begin spelling it out in hushed and reverent tones, because actually it must be the NEXT BIG THING.

Stage 2: Be excited! Be the expert. This isn’t too difficult because there really is nothing new here. But the new name and acronym, properly used, will make all the difference. You have now only to start counting the days until your next promotion because of your Highly Visible, Politically Astute and Incredibly Technically Competent Vision And Insight Into The Very Latest Ideas! (HVPAAITCVAIITVLI)

Congratulations! Now you know how to exist on the cutting edge, and how to spot the NEXT BIG THING.

If you would like to comment on this Viewpoint, please write to the author at cm@smart-energy.com