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Echelon unveils open platform for smart grid, brings Duke Energy on board

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Echelon's new open software platform promises to bring intelligence to the smart grid in the form of distributed control. Will it make energy infrastructure more bulletproof?

San Jose, Calif.-based networking firm Echelon on Wednesday announced an open software platform for intelligent distributed control of the smart grid.

Called the Echelon Control System, or ECoS, the platform is intended to run "throughout the edge of the grid" -- that is, the space between distribution and you, the end user.

Effectively, the platform allows utilities to control the various moving parts of the grid -- the mix of energy sources, peak demand, the emergence of electric vehicles, etc. The idea is to take the smart grid beyond centralized access to meter data and actually put some intelligence into it, allowing the grid to monitor -- and then react -- to changes by giving it control of the devices on it.

The goal: a faster, more reliable and more efficient grid.

ECoS will run on the company's new Edge Control Node 7000 series of hardware. It was announced this morning at an event in New York City in partnership with industry consultants KEMA and partners Oracle, Denmark utility company SEAS-NVETelvent and Duke Energy, which will be Echelon's first customer.

Echelon's pitch for the platform is that developers can build applications to make local, autonomous control decisions in near real-time. One example it gave: utilities normally have little warning of power outages; with a smarter grid, the utility company can monitor voltage fluctuations, power quality and line signal strength with the hope that more advance notice leaves it enough time to take corrective action and avoid a cascading outage.

Can intelligent distributed control make our energy infrastructure more bulletproof? It all depends on how it's managed. But for now, companies are banking that getting the tools in utilities' hands will help secure the grid, particularly as a company scales its business.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure