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smart grid

Smart grid is a generic label for the application of computer intelligence and networking abilities to a dumb electricity distribution system.

Smart grid initiatives seek to improve operations, maintenance and planning by making sure that each component of the electric grid can both 'talk' and 'listen.' Another major component of smart grid technology is automation.

In many places, a power company will only know that service is out if a customer calls. In a smart grid scenario, if service is interrupted the company will know right away because certain components of the grid (Smart meters in the affected area, for instance) stop sending sensor data. By ensuring that all the components of the grid -- from transformers to power lines to home electric meters -- have IP addresses and are capable of two-way communication, the company can manage distribution more efficiently, be proactive about maintenance and respond to outages faster.

The United Stated Department of Energy proposes that four types of technology will drive the advancement of smart grids: 

  • Integrated, automated communication between components of the electric grid. 
  • Sensing and measurement technologies. 
  • Automated controls for distribution and repairs. 
  • Improved management dashboards and decision support software.

The smart grid is one example of the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), in which almost any entity imaginable can be outfitted with a unique identifier (UID) and the capacity to communicate over a network.

See also: sensor, smart grid sensor, wireless sensor and actuator network (WSAN), sensor hub

This was last updated in September 2015

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