Securing the Smart Grid: The Road Ahead

With the push for more efficient energy distribution, the Smart Grid has quickly transformed from the hottest buzzword to a global reality. While the Smart Grid promises to deliver many benefits, it is essential to secure this critical infrastructure now, before it's too late.

By Joshua Pennell | Posted Feb 5, 2010
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With the push for more efficient energy distribution, the Smart Grid has quickly transformed from the hottest buzzword to a global reality. While the Smart Grid promises to deliver many benefits, it is essential to secure this critical infrastructure now, before it's too late.

So what exactly is the Smart Grid? The Smart Grid provides a much-needed update to our electric grid by connecting local power distribution with the national infrastructure, effectively changing the way electricity is delivered. The Smart Grid's energy delivery network is best described as a two-way flow of electricity and information that is capable of monitoring everything from power plants to customers' individual appliances. The Smart Grid leverages the benefits of distributed computing and fault-tolerant communication to deliver real-time information and enable the near-instantaneous balance of supply and demand at the device level.

A critical part of the Smart Grid is the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or smart meter network, which acts as both a distribution and endpoint for communication and sensor nodes. Smart meters include a wireless network interface and mesh networking software, which allow utility companies to update the software running the devices automatically and allows them to shut off a customer's electricity over the network, known in the industry as remote disconnect.

Smart meters are the most common component in the Smart Grid and are designed to give utilities and end-users more control over electricity distribution, generation, and usage, as well as greater savings and more efficient, reliable services. The benefits are undisputed; however, it is critical to examine the security of these smart meter devices, which are appearing rapidly on homes across the globe.

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