3D Blu-ray discs enter new year with some catching up to do

January 4th, 2011

2010 was home 3D’s coming out party, with every major consumer electronics company debuting 3DTVs and 3D Blu-ray Disc players, and roughly a dozen content owners taking the leap and releasing titles on 3D Blu-ray Disc. Research firm The NPD Group reported that 15% of Blu-ray Disc players sold during the important Black Friday weekend were of the 3D variety, and a full quarter of Blu-ray players available at retail by mid-November were 3D capable, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association.

“The biggest story of 2010 for our industry was certainly the launch of Blu-ray 3D,” said Lori MacPherson, EVP and GM of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. “The opportunities that it presents for creative and immersive in-home entertainment are immense.”

“The launch of Blu-ray 3D has certainly been impactful at a time when consumers have demonstrated a demand for high-quality 3D content, both in theaters and in their living rooms,” added David Bishop, worldwide president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “With the success of recent theatrical 3D films and with many more high-profile 3D releases on the horizon, now is the ideal time to bring that experience into the home.”

London-based Futuresource Consulting estimated that 3DTVs accounted for nearly 5% of flat-panels sold in the United States for the year, and Jim Bottoms, director and co-founder of Futuresource, credited that to a quick 35% to 40% drop in initial 3DTV prices in major markets.

“I think realistically everyone should feel pretty happy with 3DTV sales [in 2010],” he said. “First-year sales have outstripped first-year HDTV sales and when the consumer was also switching to panel TV from [cathode-ray tube TV] and, in the U.S., to widescreen.”

Indeed, a late-December report by The Nielsen Co. revealed that of approximately 27,000 online consumers across 53 countries, 13% said they already own or “definitely will” purchase a 3DTV set in the next 12 months, and an additional 15% said they “probably will” purchase a 3DTV.

“The DEG is enthused by the positive response of consumers and initial uptick in 3DTV sales,” said Amy Jo Smith, executive director of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “We believe that bringing 3D to the home will be an exciting driver for viewing content by all age groups.”

Lastly, in late November Oprah Winfrey listed 3DTVs among her “ultimate favorite things” on her nationally syndicated TV show, likely bringing smiles to every consumer electronics company in America.

But while some of the numbers for 3D Blu-ray are bright, one number may be cause for concern for 3D in the home: 40. That’s roughly the number of 3D Blu-ray Discs released in 2010, with nearly half of those tied in to a specific 3D hardware purchase.

The Panasonic tie-in with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Avatar, the all-time box office king, may be especially disconcerting for owners of LG, Samsung or Sony products, after it was reported that arrangement will last until early 2012.

“There are definitely too few,” said Chris Chinnock, president of Insight Media, which oversees the cross-industry 3D@Home Consortium. “Consumers want more content to buy 3DTVs, and 40 discs are not enough.”

Adam Gregorich, administrator with the Home Theater Forum, said the number of tie-ins has to be especially upsetting for owners of new 3DTVs. He pointed out that owners of a new Panasonic 3DTV are already shut out of all the tie-in titles from other manufacturers, such as Sony and Samsung, including the “Shrek” collection and Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

“I don’t think the title support has been nearly enough there,” he said. “It’s a chicken and egg argument, but there’s not much out there for 3DTV owners.”

The lack of ‘A’-list 3D Blu-ray content has created a second-hand market for bundled 3D Blu-ray titles on eBay. A week before Christmas, the asking price for the 3D Blu-ray of Bolt was as high as $125, while Avatar was going for as much as $400.

“I’m embarrassed to say I spent $86 for How to Train Your Dragon,” Gregorich admitted. “I would have spent that money for two 3D Blu-rays at Best Buy, but let’s be honest. These Imax titles [available there] are special interest. I want the blockbusters.”

He pointed to the four-disc 3D Blu-ray combo releases of Alice in Wonderland from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Despicable Me from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

“That’s the way to sell it,” he said.

Yet Scott Hettrick, publisher and editor in chief of HollywoodInHiDef.com, said there’s a good reason for the trickle of releases so far: The studios can get a premium from consumer electronics companies for an exclusive license window for the bigger titles, much more than they could get by releasing more titles straight to retail. And “filmmakers are reluctant to make their titles available in the early days, knowing that initial sales will be so tiny,” he said.

“As the market becomes bigger and more lucrative, and as consumer electronics companies like Panasonic and Samsung are less willing to fork over huge premiums for exclusives, every title will soon be available at retail,” Hettrick said. “We’ve already seen the second biggest 3D title, Alice in Wonderland, leave its exclusive window with Sony and come to retail.”

And Futuresource’s Bottoms added that while bundling may frustrate consumers and discourage retailer support of 3D Blu-ray, “Who can blame Fox for taking an offer from Panasonic that generated far more revenue for Avatar on 3D than they could have hoped to raise in 2011 from a 3D BD release of the title?”

Andy Parsons, SVP of corporate communications and new product planning for Pioneer and chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association promotion committee in the United States, noted that bundling is common during an initial launch of a new product, noting, “I think the practice makes sense business-wise for both the content providers and hardware companies when the initial installed base is small.”

“Of course we’d always love to see more content, but we know it takes time to get a new product category into consumers’ homes, and this never happens overnight,” he said. “Meanwhile, a number of strong 3D theatrical titles, both recent holiday releases and those announced for next year, suggests that we should see some very strong 3D content on Blu-ray 3D throughout 2011, which should help encourage more consumers to take the plunge.”

Chinnock said he believes that bundling won’t last much longer.

“It helped initially, but it will hurt going forward. Most recognize this,” he said. “There may be exclusive bundles in the future, but probably short-duration exclusives, So I would not be too concerned.”

Even before standalone retail 3D Blu-rays come in waves, Hettrick hopes brick-and-mortar retailers will start making room for 3D software, “even if it’s only a small section, to get customers excited and educated and let them be confident that their retailer is going to be on the cutting edge in offering the newest format.

“Even if there is a relatively small number of 3DTVs and Blu-ray players out there — estimated at anywhere from 2 million to 4 million by year’s end — the more Blu-ray 3D product and 3DTV networks and programming the better to make those early adopters more satisfied and, therefore, become evangelists for 3D in the home,” Hettrick added.

Russ Crupnick, VP and senior entertainment analyst for The NPD Group, agrees. He believes 3D Blu-ray will be only part of what makes home 3D launch.

“3D is a more holistic experience in that, unlike high-def discs, it will take pressure from sports programming, gaming and home video to push consumers toward 3D devices,” Crupnick said. “It’s more about concept adoption leading content availability.”

The DEG estimates that during 2011, about 25 3D video games and more than 1,000 hours of 3D broadcast programming will help supplement 3D Blu-ray. And in another study done by Nielsen, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketers and CBS Vision, 64% of consumers surveyed after watching 3DTV content said they were most interested in sports in 3D. Six in 10 agreed 3D content was better than 2D, and nearly half said they found 3D content more engaging.

David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp. and president of CBS Vision, said he’s confident 3DTV is “just going to be a part of television” like cable and high-definition.

“No one has taken the really powerful TV dramas and made them with the eye toward 3D,” he said. “I think once that happens, you’re going to see regular television programming capturing [and] being enhanced by 3D, and people are going to watch special episodes of their favorite programs in 3D.”

Crupnick added that once the studios see a higher adoption curve of 3D hardware, they’ll be more apt to release more 3D Blu-ray titles, and retailers will start showing off their 3D Blu-ray section more.

“But we’re likely at least a year away,” he said.

Technicolor hopes it happens sooner. It began 2010 by partnering with Samsung and DreamWorks Animation on the first full-length feature 3D Blu-ray, Monsters vs. Aliens, and ended it by offering 3D Java interactive tools, 3D menus and 3D games. Doing all the 3D Blu-ray work for Warner Home Video, which had the most 3D Blu-ray releases at retail in 2010, the replicator has a major stake in the 3D Blu-ray game, according to Bob Michaels, Technicolor’s VP of worldwide DVD.

“From where we stand, we’d like to see more [releases],” he said. “The hardware guys told the industry this was real, and they’ve proven it.”

One of Technicolor’s main tasks regarding 3D Blu-ray has been “overcoming the nuances of the new players,” Michaels said. Every 3D Blu-ray must be tested on every 3D Blu-ray player available, and early on, some discs exhibited some trouble on some players. But those kinks have been worked out, and now that Technicolor has come close to pushing 3D Blu-rays off the line at the same pace as standard Blu-rays, “We have put ourselves in an accommodating position to go in whatever direction the industry wants,” Michaels said.

“There has been a lot of investment in developing the 3D Blu-ray authoring tools and quality control measures,” Chinnock said. “All the quality control stuff had to be invented, people had to be trained in 3D and to find problems, new workflows are needed and at least twice as much time is needed to author the disc.

“It is a costly and time-consuming process with control in the hands of only a few players,” he added. “There needs to be a pretty good return on this investment. I think you will see a steady increase in content release going forward.”

For 2011, a handful of titles have either been released or announced: Lionsgate will join the 3D Blu-ray ranks Jan. 25 with the release of a 3D Blu-ray combo pack of Saw 3D, Universal’s Coraline comes out on 3D Blu-ray Jan. 4, A&E Home Video’s The Universe: 7 Wonders of the Solar System gets a 3D Blu-ray release Jan. 11, and Image Entertainment will add to its 3D Blu-ray line-up with the March 29 release of Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the first studio to release a 3D Blu-ray not tied into hardware (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), will do it again Jan. 11 with Piranha 3D.

That offers hope for people like Gregorich.

“I want it to succeed. I think it will succeed. But we need more titles,” he said.

China cuts rare earth exports

January 3rd, 2011

China has reduced its export quota for rare earth minerals for the coming year. The quota for the first half of the year has been cut from 22,282 to 14,446 tonnes. Rare earth minerals are those which contain rare earth metals, 17 elements which are used heavily in the manufacture of high technology devices including mobile phones, batteries and wind turbines. China produces 97% of the worlds rare earth exports and has been reducing its export quota for a number of years. This has driven up prices and jeopardises the development of green technologies which rely heavily on these metals. Japanese, European and US trade officials have all called for a freer rare earth market. The Chinese government says the restriction on rare earth exports exists to combat illegal mining and environmental exploitation.

SEAIIT Unleashed

December 23rd, 2010

David Slade and Steve Goldspink at SEAITT have developed its core products from the ‘bottom up’, with the focus on the customers experience in mind.
Taking complex technologies and the latest  ‘good to go’ technology to market – for the user experience to
be simple, straight forward and hassle-free, for its commercial and Real Estate clients. Transforming the power of your building,  working smarter.

SEAIIT is a new approach to business, and for its customers, who wish to obtain seamless enterprise integration, providing automated end-to-end system integration solutions, from simple lighting control all the way to to full converged automated enterprise solutions for the multi-nation business client. Connecting People, Information, and Assets with the Best ways to Maximize Business Value


SEAIIT a leading service provider to Commercial and Corporate Real Estate enterprises, plan to  launch product after product, throughout 2011, all based on SEAIIT’s BI solution based roadmap and scaleable ‘core’ base offerings.

SEAIIT’s roadmap is challenging, as they are striving to prove the client with a seamless experience second to none, as an independent enterprise system integrator – the ‘glue guys’ who can put together whole converged enterprise solutions together, bespoke to each customer requirements, based on SEAIIT proven scalable core products. The effective integration of people, processes, information, technology and environment.

Anyone privy to SEAIIT’s business alliance partners / suppliers list, would discover an international ‘who’s who’ list, with all the major brands incorporated, covering the whole breath of different industries combining construction & engineering, contractors and supplies, Information Technology and Services providers, and other allied experts the their own fields incorporated. Its would be easier to ask which internationally known brands are not yet intergrated within the SEAIIT offering!

When ever you speak to SEAIIT experts, such as founders David and Steve . They have a way of talking to both the layman and the more advanced practitioner, that only they can, where you come away with practical advice that can help you make your business more agile, responsive and successful and with a better understanding of what you are able to achieve today, as only possible from those who apply the technology, can.   With quality and independence at the heart of SEAIIT,  you’ll be able to get answers to your questions from experts, gained from collaborate with its peers, and SEAIIT’s business alliance partners network.

Google app uses Wi-Fi to track electricity use

December 23rd, 2010

The latest in energy-tracking technology is coming courtesy of Google’s PowerMeter Web application and Blue Line Innovations’ PowerCost Monitor. The software helps track and monitor home-energy use from a PC or smartphone via Wi-Fi and the user’s home broadband service. CNET/Green Tech blog (12/19)

IPTV faced challenges and opportunities in 2010

December 23rd, 2010

Consumers in 2010 staged a mini-revolt, if you believe some sources, to redefine their TV viewing habits. Just as TiVo and all the DVR iterations that followed ushered in the era of time-shifted TV viewing, consumers began to experiment in TV place shifting as well, looking for ways to watch–and pay for–only the content they wanted, when and where they wanted it. Bundles? Increasingly coming under fire and even Hollywood–which jealously guards the gate to its content kingdom–is starting to take notice. FierceIPTV (12/21)

New ZigBee device delivers advanced control of human interface devices

December 23rd, 2010

Smart-home technology connects systems such as security, lighting, sensors, heating and air-conditioning, and audio-video – enabling automatic or remote control of these features. The technology improves comfort and safety in the home, and offers convenience to the homeowner. Even more importantly, this technology offers a way to better manage energy consumption. Yahoo! Finance (12/14)

LG boasts first smartphone with dual-core processor

December 23rd, 2010

LG on Wednesday unveiled its Optimus 2X, an Android 2.2-powered smartphone and the first to contain a dual-core processor, Nvidia’s Tegra 2,1GHZ chip. The phone sports a 4-inch display and an 8-megapixel camera, as well as a second, 1.3-megapixel camera for video conferencing that supports 1080p recording. Mobile Beat (12/15)

CEA’s Shapiro puts 3-D in perspective

December 23rd, 2010

CEA’s Gary Shapiro says that while 3-D capabilities will be built into every high-end TV in the future, the technology should be considered a feature, not its own product category, such as tablet computers and Internet-ready TVs. Wall Street Journal/Digits blog (12/16)

Study: Blu-ray disc production to hit 2 billion units by 2014

December 23rd, 2010

Futuresource Consulting reports that Blu-ray disc movies and TV programming will exceed 400 million units this year, which is a 60% increase over last year. The report goes on to say that by 2014, Blu-ray disc production will hit 2 billion discs worldwide. Home Media Magazine (12/16)

Game consoles become a go-to device for VOD, streaming video

December 23rd, 2010

A Nielsen study shows that video game consoles are an increasingly important device when consumers want to watch video-on-demand or streaming content at home. Nintendo’s Wii leads the pack, with 20% of users’ time going to VOD and streaming. Those pursuits accounted for 10% of the time spent on Microsoft’s Xbox and 9% of the time spent on Sony’s PlayStation 3. MediaPost Communications/VidBlog (12/16)

Google TV not ready for 2011 International CES

December 23rd, 2010

Google TV was expected to make its debut next month at the 2011 International CES in Las Vegas, but it will be sitting on the sidelines instead, sources say. The search-engine giant is reportedly still perfecting its software and has told its TV manufacturing partners that it won’t be ready for the big show. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment. New York Times (12/19)

LG to spend heavily on electronics in 2011

December 23rd, 2010

Looking to snatch some market share away from rivals such as Apple and Samsung, LG Group said it would spend its largest amount ever next year to support its smartphone, tablet computer and advanced flat panel businesses.

The South Korean company is expected to earmark almost 70% of its $18 billion investment in 2011 to beef up its electronics businesses, an 11.7% increase over this year’s outlays. The Wall Street Journal

Traffic information (Terminal Passengers) for UK airports (November 2010)

December 22nd, 2010

by George Primentas

 

Infographic showing a selection of UK airports traffic information (terminal passengers) for November 2010

Click on the image to enlarge it

This infographic shows traffic information (Terminal Passengers) in November 2010 for a selection of UK airports. (Click here to see last month’s graph.)

On a UK map, the six BAA airports (London Heathrow, London Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen) and London Gatwick, London City and Manchester airports are indicated. For each, apart from London City Airport, you can see its number of terminal passengers in November 2010, and a comparison to November 2009 figures.

There are also line graphs showing their November Terminal Passengers figures for the last 5 years (2006-2010).

While Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton had their lowest November for the last 5-year period, Heathrow had its highest November ever; it is the 5th consecutive record month for Heathrow!

I have been designing maps, diagrams, information cards, plans and other graphics-related material for the aviation industry since early 2008, so this graph comes out of personal interest and curiosity.

Sources:
BAA November 2010 traffic figures
Gatwick airport November 2010 traffic performance summary
London City airport Facts and Figures
Manchester airport Traffic Statistics November 2010

Open Data Centre Alliance created

October 29th, 2010

With the assistance of Intel, an Open Data Centre Alliance has been created to help produce more “open and interoperable” cloud solutions.

An Open Data Centre Alliance has been established to help companies move forward with their cloud initiatives.

Over 70 major companies have signed up to the alliance, including BMW, JP Morgan Chase, Marriot International and Shell.

They will draw up future hardware and software requirements to produce more “open and interoperable” cloud solutions.

Intel helped establish and launch the independent group and has been appointed as technical adviser.

In its utopian cloud vision, Intel believes the alliance will “accelerate the inevitable outcomes” of the cloud progressing towards greater openness, said vice president in the Intel architecture group, Boyd Davis.

Speaking today during the launch of the Cloud 2015 vision at CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation in Switzerland, Davis claimed Intel had been a major part of helping establish standards in other areas of technology previously.

Now the tech giant wants to facilitate the establishment of standards in the cloud, without inhibiting innovation.

The alliance members will draw up a roadmap for cloud developments and will use this to guide purchase decisions and planning for future data centre innovations.

Version 1.0 of this roadmap will be made into a public document ready for the first quarter of 2011 and any corporation will be able to access it to help guide their cloud plans as well.

A member of the steering group, BMW’s vice president of IT infrastructure Mario Mueller, explained the benefits of the collaboration initiative.

“The alliance will give us a unified voice to speak together about what we collectively need to … address the challenges we face inside of our organisations as quickly and effectively as possible,” Mueller said.

“For the first time an independent consortium of leading global IT managers will work together to share their collective knowledge to find the requirements of the data centre and cloud environments for today and, of course, for tomorrow.”

Within the alliance there is a marketing committee and a technical coordination committee.

The latter has chartered five work groups, including services, management, infrastructure, security, and government and ecosystem, all of which are now in the process of forming alliance objectives.

IBM has also been busy initiating projects to help firms with their cloud initiatives.

Earlier this week, Big Blue launched its Cloud Computing Lab in the UK, designed to help partners reap the benefits of the cloud.

Virgin – 100Mbps broadband service announced

October 29th, 2010

Virgin announced the roll out of its 100Mbps broadband services this week after Prime Minister David Cameron effectively leaked the news on Monday.

Existing and potential customers can pre-register for the 100Mbps broadband service, capable of delivering speeds of up to nearly ten times the UK average.

Parts of London, the south east and Yorkshire will be able to take advantage of the speeds from the start of December 2010, with complete rollout expected to be finished by mid 2012.

While some have praised the announcement, rival ISP BT has criticised the pricing of Virgin’s superfast broadband offering, which costs £45 per month as a stand-alone service or £35 when bundled with a phone line.

An affordable, high-speed nationwide broadband network will be essential for businesses if they want to improve their productivity by adopting cloud computing services.

Spending Review: List of major projects given the green light

October 22nd, 2010

List of projects across the country given the go-ahead in the Spending Review document

North West

  • Mersey Gateway Bridge – new suspension bridge over the River Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn
  • West Cumberland hospital redevelopment
  • Royal Oldham hospital redevelopment and Typhoon fast jet construction

West Midlands

  • HS2 – new high speed rail link from London to Birmingham, and then to both Manchester and Leeds
  • Midland Metro – route extension and capacity increase
  • Birmingham New Street – station upgrade

South West

  • Weymouth 2012 package – an integrated transport package to be delivered in time for the Olympics
  • Poole Bridge – new bridge providing link to key development sites

South East

  • A23 – improvements to the A23 Trunk Road between Handcross and Warninglid
  • Diamond Synchrotron – Phase 3 development of the national science research facility
  • Surrey – St Helier hospital redevelopment

London

  • Crossrail
  • Transport for London – continued funding for the London Underground upgrade programme which will increase capacity by 30%
  • UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation
  • M25 – widening from junctions 16 to 25, and 27 to 30

North East

  • East Coast – improvements to the East Coast Main Line
  • Nexus – £500m refurbish and upgrade the Tyne & Wear metro

Yorkshire & the Humber

  • Leeds Station – new southern entrance to improve access
  • Yorkshire – northern urban centres rail capacity improvements

East Midlands

  • A46 – improvements between Newark and Widmerpool
  • M1/M6 viaduct – replacment of failing Catthorpe
  • viaduct carrying the M6 over the M1 at Junction 19

East of England

  • A11 – upgrading the remaining section to provide a continuous dual carriageway link between Norwich & the M11

Capital Spending Review in education facilities and science parks for the UK

October 22nd, 2010

The long awaited Capital Spending Review took place this week and the good news is that £15.8 billion has been set aside for refurbishment and repair work on up to 600 schools in need of urgent assistance.

Key points from the spending review for education

Annual education budget = £57.6bn 
£15.8bn for 600 UK schools
Direct funding to schools in England to be protected 
Budget will rise 0.1% in real terms each year, taking funding from £35bn to £39bn 
Spending on school buildings to fall 60%
£2.5bn “pupil premium” for teaching for disadvantaged pupils

The UK Knowledge Economy loan could eventually see up to £2bn invested in education facilities and science parks in the UK

The European Investment Bank is to invest £500m in further education facilities and science parks in the UK.

The UK Knowledge Economy loan will be passed to three banks, which will invest in higher and further education facilities, science parks and incubation centres.

The first £150m of lending has been agreed, with more lending expected next year when more banks come on board. The EIB said the programme could potentially be worth up to £2bn

The three banks so far involved are RBS, Santander and Lloyds.

Vince Cable, minister for innovation, said: “The science and research community is very successful at securing funding from a diverse range of sources, so this new loan facility will be a welcome addition to the options available for universities and science parks in the UK.”

Ofcom to axe 170 staff as budget is cut by £30m

October 21st, 2010

Ofcom is being forced to shed up to 170 staff, nearly one in five employees, and slash its spending by £30m as part of swingeing cuts to meet the public sector deficit.

Ed Richards: Ofcom chief executive

Ed Richards: Ofcom chief executive

Staff at the media regulator were told of the proposals today by chief executive Ed Richards, who said the organisation needed to “re-focus” because of spending constraints.

The proposal means 170 of Ofcom’s 870 staff members will exit. Staff have now entered a 90-day consultation period.

Ofcom has offices in London, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for Ofcom said the cuts were across the organisation, though Richard’s role as chief executive will not be impacted.

Ofcom currently employs a range of professions, including advisors, administrators, call-centre handlers, and back-office workers. Its current funding cap of £143m will be reduced to £112.7m by 2015 as part of the government-prompted cuts.

It says the reduction will deliver 28.2% real terms savings.

The job and budget cuts follow last week’s announcement by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport outlining plans to strip Ofcom of a number of powers as part of the government’s efficiency drive, including returning the policy-setting role to the secretary of state.

Richards said: “These are difficult times for everyone in the public sector and it is right that Ofcom plays its part meeting the challenge facing the public finances.

“We also need to re-focus in the light of changing markets and technological developments, and of course in respect of the budgetary constraints. This is why we have taken the initiative and today set out detailed proposals for both reducing expenditure and achieving greater strategic focus and organisational effectiveness.

“I am absolutely confident that Ofcom will emerge leaner, stronger, and fully able to build on its excellent track record of delivering benefits for citizens and consumers.”

The U.S. smart grid is set to boom by 2015

October 14th, 2010

The U.S. smart grid is set to boom by 2015, growing to a $9.6 billion market with smart-grid management services generating $4.3 billion in revenue, according to separate reports from GTM Research and Pike Research.
The smart-grid market in the United States will grow 70 percent to $9.6 billion by 2015, according to a Sept. 24 forecast from GTM Research analyst David Leeds. The market research company currently pegs the market at $5.6 billion.

The term smart grid refers to a next-generation electricity delivery network designed to monitor household and business consumption and automate control mechanisms. Rather than depending on a single technology, smart grids consist of a web of networks allowing real-time communication between users and power providers.

The expansion will be driven by federal grants for utility modernization, competition between utilities companies and investments in smart-grid technology by large IT companies, according to GTM Research. For example, utilities can submit their plans and budgets for approved smart-grid projects by Sept. 30 to qualify for a share of the $3.4 billion in federal stimulus grants.

GTM Research analysts calculated the 2015 forecast by compiling outlooks in four core technology sectors: advanced metering infrastructure, distributionautomation, home area networks and smart utility enterprise.

“Over the next 10 to 15 years, GTM Research expects the distinction between ‘smart grid’ and traditional grids to dissolve,” Leeds said.

The smart grid is not just about adding communications capabilities to the electricity grid. It also requires integrating back-end utility systems so that companies can analyze the data being generated and act accordingly, he said. With business intelligence in place, smart grids can adjust supply for a specific area based on demand and time of the day, reroute the distribution path if there is a problem in a section of the grid, and support new applications, such as renewable and electric transportation.

GTM Research analysts estimated that large-scale deployment and integration would cost about $165 billion.

Since the deployment timeline is about 20 years, according to the report, full penetration is still decades away. Even so, utility companies are increasing investment in advanced metering infrastructure, such as smart meters, energy displays and appliance controls. These projects will allow utilities to move away from flat-rate billing to variable rates depending on usage and let consumers adjust their usage patterns accordingly, the report said. It also predicted that smart-meter deployments would reach 48 percent nationwide by 2015.

Utility companies are not the only ones looking at this market: Some of the biggest names in technology are building smart-grid offerings. Cisco Systemshas an extensive line of energy-monitoring devices, routers and management software, such as the Cisco Network Building Mediator, which tells managers how much power is being used by elevators, heating and cooling systems in a building. IBM offers consulting, design and implementation services to utilities companies, while Intel has been working on IEEE standards for smart-grid technologies.

A separate report released by Pike Research on Sept. 22 predicts that utilities companies will depend on outside experts to deploy, manage and maintain these grids. Global spending on smart-grid management services is expected to grow to $821 million in 2011, up from $470 million this year. Smart-grid management services alone will generate $4.3 billion in revenues by 2015, according to the report.

While there are economic benefits to improving electricity distribution, the growing popularity of electrical transportation is a bigger driver for smart-grid investment, according to both market research companies. The number of plug-in cars and trucks in the United States is expected to reach 841,000 by the end of 2015, Pike Research said.

GTM Research identified systems integration and data managementsolutions as additional areas of investment.

“The day is quickly approaching when the bulk of new hardware, software and systems added to grids will be intelligent,” said GTM Research’s Leeds.

Time to recognise the power of ICT for environmental change

October 14th, 2010

ICT can be a great force for pursuing sustainability, says Malcolm Johnson, director of Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau ITU

 

Malcolm Johnson, director of Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau ITU

Malcolm Johnson, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, at the ITU Council 2010. Photograph: V. MartinInformation and communication technology (ICT) have taken over our lives. We are reaching a stage where networked devices may number trillions.

There are obvious environmental ramifications to this exponential growth. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), if IT power consumption continues to grow at 15% a year it will represent 40% of all global electrical consumption by 2030. Apart from the carbon footprint created by the use of ICTs there are other considerations in manufacturing, transport, mining of rare metals and the issue of waste.

However, we can also harness the power of ICT for environmental good.

ICT can help manage smart buildings that power themselves and then feed energy back into the electricity grid, a new smart grid providing a much more efficient distribution. It can power smart buildings, manage better water distribution and power intelligent transport systems.

Intelligent transport systems (ITS) can clear our cities of debilitating pollutants and traffic jams. In connected cities you will be directed to the nearest available parking space, GPS enabled systems will make traffic flow better and intelligent ambient lighting will appear only when and where it’s needed. ITS can also be applied to public transport, to respond more efficiently to customer needs as well as providing the means for electric cars to provide distributed energy storage in network downtime.

Urban broadband access for everyone will help to create a level playing field of opportunities for the underprivileged. Teleworking, already happening today, will increase as urban environments implement universal access, enabling more flexible and efficient working conditions.

Sensor networks and artificial intelligence will become embedded into the physical environment of our cities. Already digital spaces and public problem solving tools are emerging as solutions for positive change.

International consensus on standards for climate change mitigation and adaption, environmentally friendly and energy saving technologies, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission accounting and verification, will provide a firm foundation for designers, architects, engineers, developers and government authorities to create sustainable living environments.

For its part, ITU has standardised a methodology giving ICT companies a consistent mechanism to report on their carbon footprints, and continues to produce more energy efficient global standards, such as the universal charger for mobile devices, saving an estimated 13.6m tonnes of CO2 and 82,000 tonnes of redundant chargers, every year. No more drawers full of redundant chargers!

If supported by smart policies and proper standardisation, ICT can be a force for good in creating a kinder, more connected and colourful world.

The financial and economic crisis sweeping the globe has hampered investments for alternative technologies, while placing ever greater stress on the business case for going green. Fortunately, many national stimulus packages stipulate that rebuilding infrastructure be done in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Even conservative estimates show a significant contribution can be made through the application of ICT. Companies can exercise corporate social responsibility while also improving efficiency and reducing costs. There are some truly compelling reasons for businesses to take in this challenge.

This article was produced for Guardian Professional – a commercial
division of Guardian News and Media.