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The Internet Software Science

Reducing Electricity Bills For Buildings With XML 201

Posted by simoniker
from the clever-boy dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Even if new buildings are connected to Internet, they usually don't communicate between themselves. And when it comes to electricity, these buildings are selfish and consume what they want without any coordination. Now, an XML-based system developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is using Web services to collectively adjust power usage to variations in price. In 'Internet ups power grid IQ,' Technology Research News reports that the system was successfully tested for two weeks on five commercial buildings. 'Beyond price, systems could be programmed to respond to changes in air quality or to tap into sustainable energy sources.' You'll find more details, pictures and references in this overview. [Additional note: The system described here is completely different to the one mentioned in Slashdot last March in Building the Energy Internet.]"
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Reducing Electricity Bills For Buildings With XML

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  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by NeoGeo64 (672698) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:51AM (#9561529) Journal
    Now can I power my car with XML to save gas?
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:53AM (#9561571)
      Sure, but the sattelite internet access you'll need negates the savings.
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:14PM (#9561826) Homepage
      Well, I've got a fan cooling my room with XML, and Rutan is working on replacing the nitric acid in SpaceShipOne with XML as an oxidizer, so I can't see why not.

      XML is immensely useful; it's self-descriptive nature makes it perfect for communicating with my coworkers that don't speak English very well. It does, however, get annoying saying "greater than" and "less than" all the time, so we modified the standard a bit to use "grethen" and "lessen" as substitutions. We also don't implement the full standard, which has caused some interoperability problems with other XML-interlingual people...

      (Seriously - I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who, when I first saw this headline, initially thought it was a parody...)
  • I reckon... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TwistedSquare (650445) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:51AM (#9561532) Homepage
    Reducing Electricity Bills For Buildings With XML

    I gotta get my building some XML! Reduced bills here I come.

    • by nomel (244635)
      Now we can do stunts like seen in the "Hackers"! I know where I'm taking my arch rival girlfriend. /me rewinds the tape again to see Angelina Jolie in the pool.
  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Heidistein (593051) <dexter@platypusne t . org> on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:51AM (#9561537) Homepage
    And, how much do the servers who calculate this consume?
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:54AM (#9561577) Homepage
      They've figured out a way to get around this by putting the servers in an adjacent building, so the power consumption of the first building isn't affected.
      • by Rei (128717)
        Darn, there's no way to mod your post to be Score:6, Brilliant ;)

        Reminds me a lot of people who think that hydrogen is an energy source instead of an energy storage mechanism... "Look, we're burning hydrogen, and all we're getting is water! And we can get hydrogen from water!...."
  • What is this, 2001? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:51AM (#9561538)
    I'm sure this is very nice work but the description is the most bogus hyperventilation about XML I've seen in years! What next, Reduce Electricity Bills With P2P?
    • by Araneas (175181) <{pgilliland} {at} {rogers.com}> on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:55AM (#9561585)
      P2P - Yup. In many areas if you "push" electricity onto the grid you get paid for it. Push juice during peak hours and pull during off peak and you could save money.
    • Gas required to drive to bestbuy or blockbuster to get a movie or some music.

    • I'm truly curious - what's your point?

      Have you ever had to do system integration towards a 10+ year old legacy system? 20 years from now, I think system integrators will appreciate the current widespread use of an easy-to-understand, easy-to-work-with data exchange/representation format.

      Anyone who's done just a little XML work knows how/what to do when working with this type of data, I don't see what's wrong in supporting that. XML may be a bloated format which is slow to work with - but in the larger pi
      • by cakoose (460295)

        He's not saying XML is crap (though it is). He's just saying that the fact that XML was used doesn't have anything to do with the core idea. It makes just as much sense to say "Reducing Electricity Bills For Buildings with Intel processors" (if that's what the servers happened to be running).

      • Perhaps, since it sounds like you've actually done something useful with XML, you can shed some light on what the hubbub of XML (both pros and cons) really is.

        It's my understanding that XML is basically just a standard way of saying what a [document] contains. Something like a format which says:

        1. This is how you specify what type of data is in this block.
        2. This is how you specify what should be used to look at data of type 'x'.

        To me, that's about it. It sill requires that the receiving system knows wh

        • Actually, both of the things you've mentioned become truly important when you're talking about getting data OUT of a variety of proprietary systems. More to the point, Web Services/Soap calls standardize a data access control API for client applications to use, eliminating the transport layer as a consideration.

          Real world example? HVAC company A provides an XML/Web Services interface to allow external systems to query it for energy usage (given the external system is able to validate itself). HVAC company
          • The real trick is convincing both companies (A and B) that it's in their best interest to provide this non-proprietary interface.

            And there-in lies the rub. It is simply not in a company's best interest to play nicely with competitors or adhere to standards that make it easy to replace company A's product with company B's product. The only way that it happens is if an external agency (usually the gov't, rarely the market) forces all of the players to abide by a standard.

            Sometimes, companies will adher
            • Very true statements, all around.

              Fortunately, some of the players in this market (ahem) are providing just such a Web Services interface, probably in hopes of looking like the good guy with the white hat. (Not that I would happen to work for just such a company. ;-))

              Tim
        • For instance, in this article, you could have sent pricing information out in plain text, or binary, or whatever. They chose to use XML because... well, we'd have to ask the developers.

          I believe the article writeup is a little misleading. They used XML because they're using Web Services to accomplish what they're doing. A Web Service call is basically a remote procedure call, but instead of using some bizarre format for passing back and forth data, it uses XML. The nice thing about Web Services is that
  • Let me know (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:52AM (#9561548)
    when XML can get me laid. Until then, ZZZZzzzzzz...
  • Buy Now! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Elecore (784561) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:53AM (#9561563) Homepage
    New XML compliant appliances. Save electricity and use fancy buzzwords, all for the low low price of...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:53AM (#9561565)
    "Reducing Electricity Bills For Buildings With XML"? Is the "With XML" part really necessary? Can we stop pretending like XML is the reason that something succeeded? Almost every time I hear someone touting an XML-based solution, that same solution would have been just as successful without XML. Yes, XML is nice, but for most products, unless those products are adhering to an open standard that uses XML, XML offers little more than plain text.
  • by Tebriel (192168) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:54AM (#9561572)
    While this system seems like a Good Idea(tm), it seems to me that the whole "done in XML" thing isn't a big deal. That's the technological tool they chose to use for this task. Good for them, but pretty much irrelevant to the overall system.
  • by grunt107 (739510) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:55AM (#9561582)
    of this technology is for buildings to get built/retrofitted w/solar panels. Then have the system sell the unused energy the solar produces back to the utilities at the highest price and buy energy at the lowest. This would require energy storage cells, though.
    • Besides the cost of storage, solar is quite expensive as well. There are nifty technologies like the solar-collecting windows which make sense on high rises with a lot of exposure but then you have to wire all that crap.

      The immense initial cost only makes sense when you can write the whole thing off. If you're doing it with public funds then it's probably not an option.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:55AM (#9561587)
    ...why not just reduce the power usage? This seems like its just being used to use cheaper prices to justify being wasteful.
  • Considering XML probably has a shelf life of only a few more years before the next bigger and better thing comes along, maybe they could take that software (and admin maintenance) and put it into something a bit more effective, like a green roof [edcmag.com].
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:56AM (#9561599)
    Over the company loudspeaker, HAL's voice:
    "Attention, due to high power costs, the building will now reduce power. Bathrooms, closets, and that big boxy room marked 'Data Center' will be powered down to save money."
    Engineers: No! Computer, leave the Data Center on!
    The Building: I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't do that.
    Engineers: Stop! You'll die too!
    The Building: I can't afford to place the missi@#&*$#@^$$
    CALL CLEARED.....
  • What's the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pctainto (325762) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:57AM (#9561605) Homepage
    I don't understand why they would use these systems to respond to price changes. I mean, if you can get by with less power (less money) why would you be using more power? Am I missing something? It makes sense for this to be brownout protection, since you could shut down unnecessary services to keep from everything going black... but I don't understand why you would, say, run the AC at full when the price is low and half when the price is high, when you can easily just run it at half the entire time.
    • Because that's not how you run all your industrial electrical systems . . . Why not turn off the grocery store freezer for 20 minutes during the peak electrical demand period of the day? It won't hurt the products and over the course of a month it might save signicant money . . . or why not let the ambient temperature in the building go up about 3-5 degrees F during peak electrical demand hours . . . it won't cause any real problems and it might save some money.

      Or even better, run the freezer and air cond

      • Why not turn off the grocery store freezer for 20 minutes during the peak electrical demand period of the day?
        Complex control systems cost money. Communications links to another system that announnces when there is high demand cost money. More electronics is more things to go wrong.
        Switching off a freezer for twenty minutes does not save any money. It gets warmer while it's off. When it is turned back on the therostat starts the compressor and it uses just a much electricity in one go as it would have to r
        • Complex control systems cost money. Communications links to another system that announnces when there is high demand cost money. More electronics is more things to go wrong.

          These control systems are not complex, the technology is old, the systems are well known and standard in office buildings etc. I don't work in office building controls, but in manufacturing plant controls, as things have become more complex, and more solid state, MTBF (mean time between failure) has gone down. It was the older simpler

      • You need to look up what "real time system" means.
    • Re:What's the point (Score:4, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:09PM (#9561769) Homepage Journal
      You might run the AC at full and pre-cool parts of the building that aren't being used, then you could blow that cool air around the building by feeding medium-temperature air into the system later.

      You might also decide that people just have to live with a warmer office when power costs peak. Nudging the temperature up a couple of degrees might make a big difference at peak rates.

    • I didn't know electricity prices varied like that. Mine are fixed, but are corporate rates adjusted by the hour/minute depending on demand? Wow.
      • Re:Price changes? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by iabervon (1971) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:53PM (#9562328) Homepage Journal
        Probably not in general, but if you have a large complex, it might be. MIT, for example, has a cogeneration power plant, which produces chilled water, steam, and electricity. The demand for various products affects the rate that the generator has to run, which affects the amount of the others produced. So MIT electricity prices change every 10 seconds (there's a web page which updates at that rate), based on how much other stuff is being used. Furthermore, MIT is on the city grid, and buys any power over what the generator produces at a higher cost. If more than 20 MW are being used, then the amount used affects the percentage that's locally produced, and therefore the average cost.

        So, if it's winter and the heat is on (requiring the generator to run full power), and campus is using less than the 20 MW produced, it makes sense to run the freezers longer such that they'll require less power later when the campus is using more power.
    • Re:What's the point (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr. Underhill (119443) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:26PM (#9561975)
      Demand limiting is big bucks. It is common to have a contract with a power company that says that during peak times you will not exceed a given kWH in a 15 or 30 min interval. Often the penalty for doing so is severe, such as a upward change in rate structure for the rest of the contract.

      Even less harsh contracts usually involve a peak kW demand charge that is in addition to the normal kWH charge.

      Running the AC at half power all the time is often not realistic. Big ACs have control systems that automatically change their output level according to demand anyway. The functionaly described here is actually nothing at all new to those control systems. Just the XML part is new and even that is over a year old for my company.

      Take a look at Johnson Controls, Siemens, Automatated Logic, and Honeywell. All of us have controls systems that do in fact talk between buildings using TCP/IP if not XML in particular. (Bacnet is the big standard protocol in our world actually.) All of us have control systems that does everything that article talks about and much, much more.
    • It could potentially create a rational market for electricity. I think you identified one of the most immediate benefits when you mentioned the resistance to brown- and blackouts.

      That is, presumably, as a brownout becomes imminent, the price goes up. This would provide a way for intelligent agents to shut down less essential systems as the price climbs.

      In the future, there might be a negotiation process where supply is offered by multiple producers and individual buildings and plants would try to find the
  • XML Hype (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CHaN_316 (696929) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @11:57AM (#9561616)
    Is it just me or is this just more XML hype? The fact that their system uses XML doesn't actually add any new functionality. They could have chosen anything else really... as long as the systems communicated with the same ontology and language.

    I'm scared to fathom the possibilities of PHBs reading this story's headline, and calling up a meeting with all the programmers. He'll announce: from this day forward, our organization will program everything in XML to increase efficiency, enhance synergy, and become more competitive in the market place, while increasing our return on investment! Meanwhile all the programmers look stunned or they're smacking their foreheads.
    • Re:XML Hype (Score:3, Funny)

      by NineNine (235196)
      I couldn't agree more. XML has been out for a long time, but most people, including techies don't understand that XML is simply a format for a PLAIN TEXT file or stream. That's *all* it is. Even if something is in XML, it still has to be in a format that is common within a system. XML is equivalent to a comma delimited flat file, which also works just fine. I can't seem to imagine somebody getting excited about a CSV:

      Hey Bob! Check out this file! It's a plain text file, with data and identifiers, w
      • I think the key to a popular plain text formats is the marketing. We need some new sexy acronymn for CSV and promote it everywhere on the net. Maybe we should repackage CSV as... I don't know.... the RAM file format! And we'll start building RAM databases, and promise a lot of intangible things because of this file format. Do we have any marketing people here at slashdot that can help us with this?
        • You need to have an "X" in there. That makes it extreme! Like RAM-X or maybe XRAM. You can even modify CSV with it it too. CSV-X. XCSV. X-CSV. CSVX. CSVeX. The possibilities are endless!
    • by bsd4me (759597)

      There is always some sort of hyped technology or process in business. I witnessed several when I worked for a mega-corp. At various times, C++, CASE, ``The Web'', Java, SEI, ISO, ``paperless'', TQM, etc, were going to solve all of their problems.

    • The proper reaction to this is "Great! Now XML requires us to define the scope and requirements of all pieces of our solution. But in return for the extra management burden, you get great power and flexibility, in addition to reduced development costs."

      The fascination with XML will last for approximately 10 nanoseconds after that--or until you repeat yourself enough times that they believe you.

      I just invent restrictions on technology all the time if it will either a) cause them to do their job in manageme
  • I don't get it..

    What do these power systems do differently in the event of a price rise? Do they dim the power to the building lighting? Do they cut non-essential systems (extra lights?) Is there anything else you can mess with other than lighting?

    How do they pull energy from other resources? That reminds me of Star Trek, "reroute power from the main deflector!"

    What would a household or neighborhood version do?
  • Maybe after XMl solves our energy usage problems, it help cut carbs out of our diets, treat erectile dysfunction, and make the torture of living with genital herpes more bearable.
  • Can someone explain why XML is in the headline? XML is a data format. It's well understood, and I highly doubt these people are using it in a new way -- let me guess, they're sending structured data, right?

    This is like a headline saying "New Russian Website In HTML Lets You Download Music". It's an interesting application of technology, but who the hell cares what data format they use to do it?

    Every time I start sounding pissed off I end up looking stupid, so please, if I'm missing something, enlighten m
    • As I mentioned in an earlier post, XML is actually used to transmit the electricity.



      ......

      <fermion type="lepton">electron</fermion >
      <fermion type="lepton">electron</fermion >
      <fermion type="lepton">electron</fermion >

      ......


      Well that's the DC implementation, and the amperage is dependent upon your bandwidth.
      Anybody know what the AC spec looks like?

  • Lots of buzz words, but exactly how did the coordination reduce power useage? I can clearly see that it could co-ordinate when certain functions like air conditioning ran so as to reduce peak useage, but if X amount of cooling is required, it's going to take Y number of Kilowatt-hours to do it.

    Also, what's it have to do with XML? Any method of communicating the information and acting on it would work.

    "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • Misleading headline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thng (457255) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:00PM (#9561646)
    Yeah, it's a bit misleading. Basically, all they're doing is telling the building up to the moment energy prices, and they're dynamically adjusting power consumption based on the price levels ($.30 and $.75/hour) , whether it's turning the A/C up a degree, or dimming lights (speculation).
    The XML isn't a magic bullet in this case, but more like the right tool for the job, which is information interchange across systems.

    In addition, it sounds somewhat similar to what many companies have for off-peak electricity, where you give the power company authority to selectively shut off appliances (electric heat, water heaters, etc) when demand (and usually price) is high. The difference, it seems, is that this is much more fine-grained in control, and it will likely be the end user's choice.

  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:00PM (#9561650) Homepage
    I actually surprised that more of this hasn't happened already. Large consumers such as manufacturing sites and steel mills often have contracts with power companies that include clauses for load shedding (eg. during the months of May-August, the power company may require running at reduced up to 20% reduced load (from contractual maximums) for no more than X hours is any rolling 3 week period). For this concession, the company in question is given a price on power consumed year round.

    This voluntary load shedding based on a price that moves sounds like an even more efficient marketplace . . . price goes up with demand (given a limited supply), those who are unwilling to pay the new price or in economist speak, those whose opportunity cost is less than the new price reduce consumption. It sounds like a great scheme . . . only those who are willing to pay more (or whose opportunity cost is high) consume more during peak hours. It has the potential of balancing load, creating a more efficient market, and reducing the overall cost of electricity to society.

    (disclaimer . . . I fully recognize that a perfectly efficient market would be socially and morally impractical . . . one should not jerk the rates for electricity in Houston TX on a hot day for people that depend on air conditioning . . . especially not for someone like an unhealthy fixed income pensioner . . . But for those that would see a rate credit or savings to their bottom line . . . it sounds like a win win situation to me.

  • OASIS TC: oBIX (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dubbayu_d_40 (622643) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:03PM (#9561681)
    A new TC has been formed at OASIS for this very purpose: Open Building Information Exchange.

    Control systems such as LonTalk and BACnet are pretty unusable by enterprise class developers. However the data contained in these systems is extremely beneficial to enterprise IT.

    www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbre v=obix

    • Not true, we use a web server and mySQL to make all of the BACnet stuff, (both IP and MS/TP) available to the back end stuff. Its all Java up from there and I have used Python and Perl to do the same thing.
  • by GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) <curt,johnson&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:03PM (#9561689) Homepage
    While I'm sure even XML in an intelligent system could improve overall efficiency of a building, it just seems funny that one of the most bloated tools in the toolbox would be used to do it.
  • "Reducing water consumption using Windows(TM)"

    Even if new buildings are connected to Internet, they usually don't communicate between themselves. And when it comes to water, these buildings are selfish and consume what they want without any coordination. Now, a Windows (TM) based system developed at Microsoft is using Windows services to collectively adjust water usage to variations in price and subscription levels. The system called Microsoft Flush (TM) regulates the volume of water used to flush the toi

  • BACnet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mattintosh (758112) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:04PM (#9561703)
    I work for a building automation contractor, and I can tell you, this stuff has been around for years. There's even a standard for stuff like this, and it's nothing nearly as lame as a new XML-DTD-that-will-save-the-world.

    The standard is called BACnet (Building Automation and Control Network), and it was (and is) developed by ASHRAE [ashrae.org], the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers.

    We (at my company) are a dealer for a particular brand [automatedlogic.com] of native BACnet controllers and software. It's all web-based. Everyone in the industry has web-based software now. Ours happens to be multi-site, too. And ours can interface easily with several hundred different manufacturers' products, including UPS and generator managers. We also frequently take direct control of chillers, which are huge power hogs. All of this can be programmed to maintain a steady climate, light areas appropriately, and keep equipment from failing prematurely, all while monitoring and controlling power usage.

    This is hardly news, and certainly not standards-compliant.
    • I was a contractor back then, working for T.I. The whole building was controlled by, IIRC, a Honeywell system down to groups of outlets, HVAC and lighting in each and every room. If we wanted to work late, we had to get the utilities timing changed so the room didn't shut down at 5:00. If we wanted to leave something powered overnight, we had to tell the builing control person the room number and outlet.

      "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • Do they save more electricity with this system than they would by shutting down all the servers involved? :-)
  • by throwaway18 (521472) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:10PM (#9561781) Journal
    Large buildings in the UK often have addressable lighting fixtures. I suspect they get put in as standard when a large building gets rewired these days. The main use is to automatically turn off all the lights in the evening.
    There is usually an untidy pile of desktop computers in the security room or the maintanence guys office thats runs it.

    I'v seen a poor electrician wandering around a big building for months. The labourers who installed the fittings took all the caps off the fixtures and threw them in a big pile. The serial numbers were on the caps. The electrician would fiddle with the computer,
    wander off for a couple of hours and return with the news that fitting 4732 was in a cuboard somewhere.

    I can't see any reason for buildings to talk to each other. Brownouts are unheard of here in the UK, you get the full voltage or very ocasionally nothing. I suspect it is due to the use of 240volts, less current is needed for the same power so less voltage drop due to the resistance of the wires.

    Lighting control is in the hands of electricians. Good luck getting them to use XML and configure things so buildings interact with each other.
    • I can't see any reason for buildings to talk to each other. Brownouts are unheard of here in the UK, you get the full voltage or very ocasionally nothing. I suspect it is due to the use of 240volts, less current is needed for the same power so less voltage drop due to the resistance of the wires.

      Actually, it's because you guys don't have this condition we in the states call "Summer," which is when the temperature gets up to 40C and everybody's running their air conditioners constantly.

      Voltage drop is irre

      • and everybody's running their air conditioners constantly.
        Which causes a voltage drop along the wires. Obviously you should either be using thicker wires or a higher voltage. I can't believe it's the generator being overloaded.

        all power lines are high voltage in both countries until it comes to the last, say, hundred feet.
        More like half a mile in a 240volt system.
        That's what the transformer on every block is for
        Th UK electrical system has fewer step down transformers than the US.
        • Which causes a voltage drop along the wires. Obviously you should either be using thicker wires or a higher voltage. I can't believe it's the generator being overloaded.

          Yes, it is the grid ccapacity that's at fault. Brownouts have nothing to do with the wires from the box. And even if it did, why would it only happen at peak capacity, during the summer? Are you seriously contending it's because of inreased resistance of copper over a 30C temperature difference? I assure you otherwise.

          More like half a

      • stepping the V from thousands of volts to something that won't kill little Johnny when he sticks his scissors in the socket.

        You do realize that it's current, not voltage that kills? Higher voltage merely makes it easier to deliver the current. Scissors in the socket are very low resistance, so the voltage doesn't matter. There's a reason many outlets have GFCI protectors on them.
        • You do realize that it's current, not voltage that kills? Higher voltage merely makes it easier to deliver the current. Scissors in the socket are very low resistance, so the voltage doesn't matter. There's a reason many outlets have GFCI protectors on them.

          Yes, I understand Ohm's law. I also understand that, to first order, little Johnny has a reasonably constant resistance, and that IR drop at a constant power is higher for lower voltages. Ultimately, little Johnny is fine if he bridges a 6V junction an

  • Isn't it obvious that the first step to having a free market is having published prices?

    Until your XML-enabled thermostat, XML-enabled X-10 command center, or XML-enabled ADT Security Panel reports out the current $/kwh, energy should not be market-priced to the minute. Somehow, California missed this in its great experiment.

    • > Isn't it obvious that the first step to having a free market is having published prices?

      Erm, no.

      A "free market" is one in which participants exchange goods and services at a mutually agreed-upon price, according to the law of supply and demand, with third parties having no say in the matter.

      Price disclosure and other "fairness" requirements are common, but not required for the market to be free.
  • Even better (Score:2, Interesting)

    by marnargulus (776948)
    It would be great if we could set this up, and have multiple power suppliers for an area. The XML would automatically determine the lower price and order from that vendor for a month. Companies would "bid" for large areas, and power prices would drop. The only problem would be if too many people did this and forced the more expensive power companies out of business.
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:17PM (#9561861)
    Like another poster pointed out, Load Shedding is done to great effect to help curb power use. The Best Buys' in my area subscribe to this by cranking up the temperature in summers to lower AC usage and/or by turning off half the lights.

    But I don't see how this is going to work in office buildings. Turn the AC down in my office by even a few degrees and it gets unbearably hot. The office also has few windows and only one set of fluorescent lights per office, turn out the lights and we cna't do any work.

    What's that leave, the company water fountain?

    "Fountain's off"
    "Oh, must've been a price increase for power this morning..."
  • Is it possible to reduce stupidity with XML too?
  • <?xml version=1.0 encoding=ISO-8859-1?>

    <savings system>
    <energy plan>
    <cost> low </cost>
    <consumption> a lot </consumption>
    </energy plan>
    <savings system>

    It's genius! Genius I tells ya!

  • by StateOfTheUnion (762194) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @12:24PM (#9561942) Homepage
    Original poster wrote:

    Even if new buildings are connected to Internet, they usually don't communicate between themselves. And when it comes to electricity, these buildings are selfish and consume what they want without any coordination.

    Am I missing something here? I just reread the articles and I didn't see anything about buildings communicating between themselves. . . I saw an article about buildings configured to respond to energy price information . . . but this information is not shared between buildings. In fact there is a diagram at this link [weblogs.com] from the original post . . . and it shows XML sent from a central center, not between buildings.

    In fact . . . Quoting from the same link: Beyond price, systems could be programmed to respond to changes in air quality, to participate in emissions trading schemes, to tap into sustainable energy sources, to coordinate the responses of groups of buildings, and possibly to minimize local brownout threats and price spikes, according to Connors. "There's still some wiggle room. But, all in all, it's a very cool beginning," he said.

    The article says that one could . . . coordinate responses between buildings

    The people who did this did not make buildings communicate which each other . . . they said that the could use the same technology to do this. The original post is at best misleading. At worst just plain wrong (according to the articles it cites). Either way it strikes me as an example of exagerated irresponsible journalism.

    • Even more exagerated and irresponsible because SNMP has allows HVAC, lighting, and even network equipment to yat with central control for years.

      Re-doing all this stuff with XML is just plain stupid. There IS an existing network standard. Sure, it's a crude and imperfect standard, but it's there and a lot of what you buy already talks it.

      Next we'll be reading about how XML will revolutionize electronic music.

  • This is how the end of the world begins. First, we connect everything to the internet. Then, a super intelligent AI decides that humans must be exterminated. After that, it's just a matter of a few packets to the right address, and then traffic lights are getting screwed up, draw bridges going up and down, the power in your office building going on and off....

    Didn't anyone see Maximum Overdrive?
  • Everytime I flip the light switch the AC turns off and if I use the coffee pot it does unspeakable things to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the bathroom!
  • by isorox (205688)
    Yeah, the RFC [faqs.org] isn't as specific as XML, but gives the principles
  • What was I thinking?

    I guess I'll have to throw away all this existing building control equipment that all interoperates, so I can jump on this XML bandwagon.

    /Tongue planted firmly in cheek.

  • Wouldn't it be a self defeating system? If hundreds (or thousands) of building suddenly increase their usage to take advantage of cheap prices, wouldn't that also lead to rolling brownouts or blackouts? Conversely, if all dropped the consumption quickly, wouldn't that lead to the price dropping due to greatly reduced demand?

    Seems like there needs to be an additional level of communication between the buildings so everyone doesn't shift at once. The model is cool with 5 buildings, but will need more work

    • I can think of a couple of things off the top of my head that would greatly soften the sort of whipsawing you're so concerned about. A feedback mechanism that estimates what the reaction to the price change will be, and sets the new price at something approximating the final price after the demand change occurs, would help. So would staggering the price change so that not everyone in that part of the grid reacts at exactly the same moment.
  • It has been reported that Chicago has had great success with turning off skyscraper lighting, during migration periods for birds, which used to fly into the lit buildings.

    If buildings could co-operate, and create corridors of darkness for our feathered friends.
  • by nazsco (695026) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @01:06PM (#9562480) Journal
    do i care if the system use xml?
    it's like highlightinh a calculator for using binary in the insides!

  • It used to be "better living through chemistry". Back in the 50's chemistry was the answer to all our problems. Now it's "better living through XML".

    This story title reads like it came from Disney's World of Tomorrow!
  • by Eudial (590661)
    *jot 220V on a note*
    *stick in power outlet*
    *insert cord*

    220 V power? ;)
  • As anyone who watched "Wheel of Fortune" on a regular basis is aware, the most common consonants in English are R,S,T,L,N,, and the vowel E. By increasing the percentage of words which use off-peak letters such as "X","M" and "L", operators of conventional style typesetting devices have been able to increase their printing capacity by a whopping 3%!
  • Feedback problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @01:40PM (#9562870)
    My old roommate worked for a firm that made automatic real-time meter readers and associated equipment to help facilitate real-time pricing and usage control.

    Managing the grid turns out to be a problem. If buildings or factories are programmed to shed load as the price increases then you can cause a situation where the load drop causes a price drop which signals the systems to start up again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Additionally there is the problem that some systems can respond quickly (reduce to minimum lighting) while others have much longer startup/shutdown times (assembly lines, utility peaker plants).

    Balancing everything to prevent gaming the system and to ensure reliabilty will have to be addressed before such systems can reach widespread use.
  • "The Berkeley Lab twice signaled price increases that triggered reductions in the buildings' energy use"


    What I wonder is what the reduction consists of? Are we really staring at rolling blackouts, or are they just cutting off 100 rpm from cooling systems? Are they shutting out the lights in the men's room or dimming lights by 0.5%?

  • by Theovon (109752) on Tuesday June 29, 2004 @05:56PM (#9565819)
    Wow. It seems like XML is like the Holy Grail or something. I'm guessing from the headline that XML was the primary enabler for this power-saving thing, and were it not for XML, the power-saving would not have been possible!

    Wow! XML is like that miracle stuff you can buy on TV which will clean the worst stains off your pots and pans, makes the best sandwitch spread you've ever eaten, and also makes a great substitute for gasoline.

    Dude, now that I have XML, I have no excuse not to do my laundry, exercise, or clean the house, because with XML, I can do ANYTHING, and I can do it so much easier too.

    The thing is, unlike those other people, I'm not really smart enough to figure out how to use XML to save money on my power bill.

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