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The Grid, Our Cars, and the Net

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the one-idea-to-link-them-all dept.

Power 222

Wired is running a piece on the big idea of Robin Chase — the founder of Zipcar — that we need to build our smart power grid on open standards and include cars as nodes in a mesh network. "'Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers and tanks and airplanes are running around using mesh networks,' said Chase. 'It works, it's secure, it's robust. If a node or device disappears, the network just reroutes the data.' And, perhaps most important, it's in motion. ... Build a smart electrical grid that uses Internet protocols and puts a mesh network device in every structure that has an electric meter. Sweep out the half dozen networks in our cars and replace them with an open, Internet-based platform. Add a mesh router. A nationwide mesh cloud will form, linking vehicles that can connect with one another and with the rest of the network. It's cooperative gain gone national, gone mobile, gone open."

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222 comments

great idea (2, Insightful)

u4ya (1248548) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892799)

no longer will we be slaves to the ISPs!

Sure, but (5, Insightful)

g-to-the-o-to-the-g (705721) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892851)

Maybe instead of continuing to focus on the dinosaur that is the automobile, more effort should be put into building very a efficient mass transit infrastructure. Just a thought.

Re:Sure, but (1)

syscrash2k (869981) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892877)

Maybe instead of continuing to focus on the dinosaur that is the automobile, more effort should be put into building very a efficient mass transit infrastructure. Just a thought.

There's error an in this post. Just an observation.

P.S. I think you're right. If public transportation worked well, there wouldn't be any reason to regularly operate a motor vehicle.

Re:Sure, but (3, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893295)

Cars are not inherently inefficient.

And neither are SUV's.

The energy expenditure comes from moving mass, be it of cargo, passengers, or vehicle.

An SUV is a gas-guzzler when used for just a few folks, but it can't be beat if you have heavy and/or bulky cargo to carry. If you have a big family and go on camping trips frequently, an SUV is probably the best way to do transportation. Whether said family should be big enough or go on enough camping trips to make an SUV cost effective to begin with is another matter altogether.

Public transportation or even bicycles are a good thing. Only economics and personal greed stand in the way.

It's one kind of efficiency to reduce energy consumption for a given task. It is quite another to decide if that task should be performed in the first place.

The earth is capable of healing itself if pollution is generated no faster than it can be metabolized away.

It's every earthling's obligation to not harm the earth. However, it's only due to greedy human nature that "what's in it for me" ruins the economics of it. If everyone cared about the common good (cooperated) instead of themselves (defected), then the Game Theory of Life would benefit all.

Pollution is nothing more or less than Tragedy of the Commons.

Re:Sure, but (2, Interesting)

mirshafie (1029876) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893503)

What if a city like mine [wikipedia.org] would buy 1000 bicycles and let those circulate among people? You could build a couple of strategically placed bike garages and just let people drop them of themselves.

Re:Sure, but (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893585)

Add surveillance and security and I'd do it

Re:Sure, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893973)

Some company in Germany had a self-serve rent-a-bike service a few years ago. IIRC, some folks hacked them to allow free rides for a CCC demo.

Re:Sure, but (1)

woolpert (1442969) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893671)

Cars are not inherently inefficient.

And neither are SUV's.

bogus.
Just spec'd a Ford F250 diesel standard cab truck on Ford's website. 12MPG, 12,500 pound towing capacity (the max I could get).
Compare that to any OTR commercial "big rig" which has half the fuel economy, but over six times the towing capacity.
Face it, this SUV is as third as efficient as it could be, and it has a better capacity:consumption ratio than most out there.

Re:Sure, but (2, Insightful)

gb506 (738638) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892991)

Regarding the US: Mass transit is fine for many but certainly not all people living in urban areas, a lot fewer people who live in the suburbs, and almost nobody who lives in rural areas. The nearest grocery store to my house is 18 miles away. Mass transit would be an extremely inefficient method of transport out here. Either you'd have to eat a really, really big cost-per-ride bill while providing some semblance of decent and frequent service, or you'd have to provide really, really poor, infrequent, PITA service for a more reasonable expenditure.

It'd probably be different if we had population density/distributions similar to Europe, but we don't.

Cars will remain with us for a long time.

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893081)

The US has a greater percentage urban population than France. We also have a greater rate of urbanization than France. As of 2008 we were 82% urban. Still think mass transit should be a low priority?

Source: CIA World Factbook [cia.gov]

Re:Nope (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893171)

The CIA is obviously using a very loose definition of the term "urban". They're probably counting suburbs around large cities as being IN the city.

Re:Nope (3, Insightful)

gb506 (738638) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893227)

My point isn't that mass transit should be ignored, or that we shouldn't look at doing it in a more effective way where it makes sense, but that wide scale mass transit that has as a stated goal of replacing the automobile in most circumstances, even in rural America, would not be advisable. There are about 303 people per square mile in France (non-euro territories not included), compared to 33 people per square mile in the US (excluding Alaska's area). I've excluded the no-mans-land of Alaska from this equation, but even if you excluded all of the areas where nobody lives in America, you'd still have a significant density difference between France and the US. The issue is not the same here as it is there by a large margin.

The other things is, I was in Pittsburgh in the early 90's during the Port Authority strike - no busses or trains ran in Pittsburgh for a week or more. What I recall is that people found ways to get wherever they needed to go, the air was SIGNIFICANTLY clearer and cleaner without all of the diesel belching busses on the road, and even though everyone had to get to work by private vehicle, traffic moved BETTER, because the slow-assed busses weren't clogging traffic up at every intersection in the city during rush hour.

Re:Nope (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893685)

Diesel has nothing to do with it; diesel is up to 40% more efficient by the gallon than regular gasoline (although it produces ~10-15% more greenhouse gasses). The reason you see dump trucks and buses belching black smoke is because they're so ridiculously heavy and they have to burn a lot of fuel to get going. Anyway, my city uses natural gas or something to fuel the buses. Also I agree with you that obviously mass transit is not an option in rural areas but pollution isn't bad in rural areas; we really only need mass transit in urban areas, and we need it adopted by everyone.

Re:Nope (1)

gb506 (738638) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893819)

If you're challenging my assertion that there was a noticeable improvement in air quality in Pittsburgh when the diesel busses were not on the road due to the driver strike, you're wrong. Diesels produce up to 400 times the amount of particulate pollution vs. gasoline engines. Mass transit busses remain on the roads all day and most of the night, unlike a commuting auto, which is normally used an hour or two per day. There was a significant improvement in air quality when those diesel busses were not running - it felt literally like a breath of fresh air.

Busses running on natural gas would be a big improvement for urban areas, and it appears natural gas is being used more frequently now.

As for needing it adopted by everyone, you go right ahead. The less time I have to ride around in a closed enviro with every kind of virus carrying, shower-phobic, alcoholic, tourette syndrome suffering mental case in town, the better.

Re:Nope (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893887)

Mass transit busses remain on the roads all day and most of the night, unlike a commuting auto, which is normally used an hour or two per day.

Buses carry more than one person per hour or two.

Re:Sure, but (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893099)

We've already had our "in America, living patterns and mass transit mostly don't work out that great" discussion this week. What new points are we possibly going to be able to bring up this time?

Re:Sure, but (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893273)

Insightful?!?!

Mass transit is far older than the automobile and has had closer runins with extinction. The automobile is far from a dinosaur. If you owned one you'd probably realize that. It may need to be altered over time with new fuels etc, but this idea that cars are dead is idiotic political spin.

Some car companies may be in bad shape, but that has less to do with their end product than it has to do with extremely bad buisiness management and labor costs.

Not that I have anything against mass transit but it better qualifies as a dinosaur. Mass transit is inherently expensive to setup and is very expensive to alter. it is infrastructure intensive (more so than cars) and may require its own infrastructure that is incomparable with other mass transit systems.

Aside from that, the idea that you could have mass transit ever compete with automobiles for automonymous transport in large areas is absurd. Perhaps it would work in a small cluster of European cities, but getting a bus or tram stop at every doorstep in the suburbs with regular service? Give me a break.

And don't go telling me "Well the suburbs were a bad idea." Whether or not that is the case, they are there and unless you plan on moving every damn house that's been built in the past century, you're going to have to deal with it.

Re:Sure, but (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893703)

The suburbs and rural areas are fine the way they are. It's the cities where you don't have a 200 square ft contiguous block of road in the entire city that doesn't have a pollution belching machine idling on top of it. Bringing a bus or tram within walking distance of every block is feasible in the cities, and that's where we have problems with pollution.

Re:Sure, but (1)

trickyD1ck (1313117) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893389)

You see, some of us plan to study hard, work hard in order to be able to own that dinosaur you speak of, or a couple. As for me, i would like a big one. You can put more effort in whatever you want as well, for instance buy stocks of public transport company of found a one.

Re:Sure, but (1, Insightful)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893455)

The dinosaur is not the automobile, it's the internal combustion engine. Battery-powered cars are the future. Furthermore, within 20 years we'll have the technology to make self-driving robotic electric cars, which will be both more convenient and more efficient than mass transit for short to medium length trips. Existing mass transit systems will become obsolete.

Re:Sure, but (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893457)

Exactly.

Why are cars needed at all in this pipe-dream?

Would not home routers serve as well? Any area not populated densely enough for home routers would not gain anything by having an occasional car drive by.

Mesh networks do not need to be based on mobile elements.

But the sooner or later you reach the edge of the mesh. Then the piper must be paid. Someone has to fund the next hop, whether its a boarder or an ocean.

Re:Sure, but (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893495)

Maybe instead of continuing to focus on the dinosaur that is the automobile, more effort should be put into building very a efficient mass transit infrastructure. Just a thought.

Mass transit is efficient only when it moves point to point along a narrow and very densely populated corridor.

The Manhatten Transfer. The Chicago Loop.

It is efficient in the city that never sleeps.

It is effcient in moving passengers with a single small carry-on bag - nothing too awkward or fragile. Passengers wth mobility problems - the very young and the very old need not apply.

The electric lines of the 1890s were in serious financial trouble before World War I.

The Ford automobile was on-demand and portal-to-portal.

It could cruise comfortably at thirty-five to forty-five miles an hour. That made the twenty minute commute a realistic possibility.

Operating costs were about a penny a mile when a token cost five cents. Cheaper than walking - when you priced a good pair of shoes.

Re:Sure, but (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893739)

There's no way a new Ford Automobile plus $800-$1000/yr insurance plus $2.20/gallon gasoline is cheaper than buying walking shoes.

Re:great idea (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892967)

Slashdot's packets are going to get to you via 300,000 WiFi hops?

Re:great idea (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893765)

I think the idea is that you can sit in the park and your request will get forwarded through a few passing cars until it reaches a land-based node. You could even pay for land access; it would be much more efficient (and cheaper!) than blanketing an entire city from a cell tower. And it doesn't cost the passerbys anything to run a repeater.

This tech does work; it's in OLPC and it's widely deployed in military applications.

Re:great idea (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893711)

That's only going to work if we go to IPv6, of course. Every device would have a public facing IP address, and you'd wind up with several devices per person across the nation. Easily pass the ~4 billion limit in just the US this way.

Re:great idea (1)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893989)

not to rain on anyones pipe dream parade, but while i'd like to see ISPs doomed as much as the next guy, i begin to realize the "next guy" might work for an ISP and when he becomes unemployed, he starts looking to _my_ job.

be careful what you wish for.

don't bogart it (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892825)

Imagine it, man. It would be like so many little nets inside of bigger nets going on forever (deep inhale, coughing exhale). Wow, uh, it would be like TRON, only way better. I need a salty snack.

A nationwide mesh cloud will form, (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892827)

And the crackers and vandals will pee themselves with joy.

Re:A nationwide mesh cloud will form, (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892871)

So will anyone who wants to download stuff without caps or people telling them what they can or can't download.

Re:A nationwide mesh cloud will form, (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893803)

Not necessarily. If the ad-hoc mesh network only relayed traffic to a traditional fiber network, the network edge nodes don't have to accept requests from anonymous users. Just put it in the standard that repeaters shouldn't put their own ID on an anonymous request, or for even greater efficiency just drop requests with no ID. Of course invalid IDs can't be caught until the network.

Can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27892831)

till someone haxxorz the grid and leaves us with a bunch of mad electronic cars gone wild!

Re:Can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893237)

That would make a great movie, I think I would call it "Maximum Overdrive", oh wait, that already happened in the movies, so it can't happen in real life.

Too much to lose (5, Insightful)

shogun (657) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892841)

Big ISPs and phone companies have too much to lose to allow this to ever happen.

It would be too hard to be tapped by various 3 letter government agencies so they wouldn't like it either.

Re:Too much to lose (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893149)

Mod this man up.

Re:Too much to lose (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893241)

Mesh network or not there is still good reason for long wires and paid connectivity; 20 hops over the mesh would probably be a bit tiresome; 50 hops, with dropout, would suck.

Re:Too much to lose (2, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893733)

Mesh network or not there is still good reason for long wires and paid connectivity; 20 hops over the mesh would probably be a bit tiresome; 50 hops, with dropout, would suck.

Also, a mesh network assumes enough nodes to form a mesh.

This may work great for a town or city, but what about between towns and cities? In the US where there seems to be civilization every mile down the interstate, this may be doable, but if that low-density node goes gown, so does all connectivity.

And what about connecting say, one Vancouver or Seattle mesh to Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, etc? There's insufficient nodes along any path to guarantee communications as reliable as it is right now.

At best, we'll have MAN-sized mesh networks, connected via the same telecommunications lines because most people want to talk to people not across town, but across the world. Communications via mesh networks between towns/cities will just be too unreliable and a bottleneck...

Re:Too much to lose (2, Insightful)

spikenerd (642677) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893317)

If a big monopoly starts pulling out their big guns, that should a good reason to people to seriously consider whether it is worth their time to support it. I'm glad that the great men responsible for the freedoms I now have didn't have your defeated attitude.

Forget cars (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27892857)

What we need is to have it integrated into our phones and that we can tether to so:
a) consumers choose phones with over phones without
b) we can use it even outside the car and
c) it's not connected to cars (better to stop the car rebellion right there, tyvm).

Re:Forget cars (2, Insightful)

Zencyde (850968) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893187)

But what about battery life? Or do you propose we wait until carbon nanotubes fix the Universe?

Re:Forget cars (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893727)

I'd (naively, I'm sure) expect battery life to be better. You wouldn't need to push nearly as much power through your radio to talk to another phone 50 ft away as to a tower a couple of miles away. OTOH, the traffic through your phone would be immensely higher, so maybe that would be the dominant effect at the end of the day. More careful analysis is indicated.

Ya right (0, Troll)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892863)

That's what I want, my speedometer to be connected to a wireless mesh network.

This sounds like a great opportunity for the Dems to waste money finding stupid new ways to tax us.

Fumes (1)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892893)

A nation-wide cloud? That sounds pretty bad. I heard the fumes were toxic, that's why I stopped making it in my basement. ... OH! MeSh cloud. I see.

"Only those with something to hide..." (4, Insightful)

Zero_DgZ (1047348) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892903)

I vote thanks but no thanks on this. Despite whatever wild-eyed claims about "openness" or "oneness" or whatever other hippie bullshit the brainchilds of this are spouting, there is absolutely NO information of any kind that is appropriate for my vehicle to be broadcasting. I'm sure the police and Federal government would absolutely LOVE to have a way to track the location of every vehicle in the country, not to mention who owns it and who they're talking to via their built in net cellphone at the time. Integrating this with the idea of a vehicle is a hilariously bad idea, because the instant it comes about there will be DOT, Federal, and State laws with a laundry list of mandates about how "open" this system will be allowed to be to be "roadworthy," and I guarantee you not a single one of these mandates will be in your best interest.

Pass.

If we're going to do the mesh network thing, I'd rather have it in a portable device like a phone or PDA that doesn't give the government a billion inroads to regulate, legislate, and subvert it, and one that I can chose not to buy, to turn off, or to leave at home.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (2, Funny)

PetriBORG (518266) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892971)

Not to rain on your parade here, because I really would love a sweet mesh network, but our phones and PDAs are already used by the gov to track us - remember that the FBI can turn on the voice mic (and for sure the GPS and maybe the camera by now) of any phone - even if that phone doesn't appear to be on.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27892989)

remember that the FBI can turn on the voice mic (and for sure the GPS and maybe the camera by now) of any phone - even if that phone doesn't appear to be on

That's not true. I've worked on a phone, and when it's off, it's off. (Besides, if you're worried, take the battery out.)

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (2, Interesting)

citizenr (871508) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893079)

It is true. Phones are NEVER off, they are in sleep mode.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (5, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893575)

It is true. Phones are NEVER off, they are in sleep mode.

If by "sleep mode" you mean:

  • Radio turned off (send and receive)
  • CPU turned off
  • GPS turned off
  • Camera turned off
  • DRAM refresh turned off (RAM state decays to garbage)
  • Tiny trickle of power through the power button and the set of relays within the CPU that sense the powerup signal.

The most important bit there, of course, is "radio turned off". If the radio weren't off, your battery would go dead in a matter of days even when the phone is off, just as it does when the phone is on. It might last a couple days longer off than on, but that's all.

Since that doesn't happen -- turn the phone off with a full battery and turn it on a month later and you'll still have most of a full charge -- that means the radio is off. And if the radio is off, then the FBI can't send your phone any signals telling it to turn anything on.

The CPU being off and the RAM refresh off, by the way, are the reasons that when you turn your phone on it takes anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds to become functional. It's gotta boot.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (2, Insightful)

Zero_DgZ (1047348) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893085)

Not to rain on YOUR parade, but you should read and comprehend my entire post before trying to nitpick.

You can turn your cell phone off, you can leave it at home, or you can chose not to have one. Try doing that with a mesh networking "black box" that's buried somewhere within your car's computer system and the DOT has mandated is illegal to disable or remove (if the future-car-to-be even works without it). If this weird vision of the future comes to be you may just want to invest in a bicycle.

My point wasn't that Mesh Networks Are Bad, M'kay, but that building a huge one in a form that will specifically enable shady government types to meddle with it is a spectacularly bad idea.

What if the black box is SATAN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893175)

Try doing that with a mesh networking "black box" that's buried somewhere within your car's computer system and the DOT has mandated is illegal to disable or remove (if the future-car-to-be even works without it).

Quit the paranoid crap. You've already decided that this idea is "hippie bullshit" and now you're desperately trying to justify this position by throwing in as much anti-government hysteria as you can. You've invented a "black box", complete with conspiracy by the evil police state government to track your every move.

Spare me.

If you have anything intelligent to say about this particular idea you'd better say it soon. Otherwise people might judge you by the insanity inherent in any statement that decries hippies and government in the same breath.

Insert 3 letter agency here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893291)

So you are all good with the government spying on you then?

Re:What if the black box is SATAN? (4, Informative)

Zero_DgZ (1047348) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893565)

I hate to break it to you, but this far everything everyone's ever penned on this particular subject because... are you following along with this at home? The technology doesn't exist yet. We don't know. It's an unknown, and anything could happen up to and including nothing at all.

All I'm doing is putting forth a possibility tainted by my own opinion. I'm straightforward enough to be honest about that. Why are you so hell bent on turning speculative opinion into some kind of bullshit personal affront?

While we're on that topic, though, let's look at the track record of our illustrious elected officials. It is already mandated that all cell phones sold in the US come with GPS chipsets capable of transmitting your phone's location. In most cases this can be disabled excepting 911 calls, but the technology is there. Your position can already be triangulated fairly accurately just via cell towers. This is a proven fact. Warrantless wiretapping and general spying on US citizens without cause by the Federal government is so well documented that there's already been massive outcry and a million and one headlines about it. This is a proven fact. OBD2 compliant automobiles sold in the USA are required by the DOT to have black boxes (for lack of a better term) that record vehicle speed, brake status, RPM's, and the other assortment of telemetry available in a modern engine for the sole purpose of the police using it against you in post-crash investigations. This is a proven fact. Traffic cameras are already in place in many locations throughout the country and are not only used to hand out speeding tickets as well as track individual vehicle movement when the police so desire, as has made headlines more than once. This is a proven fact.

None of the above is speculation. People who live off your tax dollars want to know where you are and what you're doing at all times, and the demonstration of this desire is made clear again and again and again. How many stories are posted to Slashdot to the effect of "company developing X technology to recognize faces/scan fingerprints/track crowd movements/snoop on cell or internet conversations?" Count them. How many of them go on to say they're doing it with government funding or for homeland security purposes, and all those other buzzwords? There's a reason Slashdot has a "Your Rights Online" section. There's a reason stories like these are of so much interest.

What is speculation is what will happen if a widespread vehicle based network of no concrete design or aim is put into service. My speculation is that bad things will happen if it is, especially given the track record of the US government both Federal and local in passing mandates involving automotive technology. If you don't agree with my speculation, that's fine. But if you want to blow it out of proportion and turn it into some kind of affront that's all you.

Re:What if the black box is SATAN? (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893649)

People who live off your tax dollars want to know where you are and what you're doing at all times,

Oh boy, believe me, there are times that they'd probably rather not know what I'm doing.

In addition, I am sure that my doings are well under the radar, so to speak.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (2, Interesting)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893065)

Just think though, if you no longer had to pay 2.25 per gallon of gasoline, but instead your electric car just pulled energy from the road it traveled on at a rate that would not only be lower but would then be tacked on to your electric bill. The same is true for the future as it is now, the best we can do to keep our privacy is make sure laws protect them, and more appropriately require a WARRANT. No more of this warrantless bullshit.

Re:"Only those with something to hide..." (1)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893505)

Then we have to stop the stupid law that allows the government to spy on us and record everything we do.

Don't blame the technology for all the government bullshit.

One thing of note (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892937)

I can't say I completely understand the article. It seems either she, or the person who wrote the article, is confusing mesh networking with power distribution. The article doesn't make clear how the two fit together (maybe someone else who understood can explain better). It talks about wireless networking at the same time it talks about plugging things in. Those two don't seem to fit well together (yeah, I know, some companies are developing wireless electric device chargers, but it's a totally different concept).

One thing that interested me in the article was this quote, " the Obama Administration allocated $4.5 billion in the stimulus bill for smart grid R&D." So we're getting some kind of smarter grid anyway, at least some research into it.

Re:One thing of note (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27892993)

She wants anything connected to the smart power distribution grid to communicate using a mesh network with an open design. She thinks that putting the same sort of mesh nodes into vehicles would allow the overall mesh network to function better and, apparently, that it would be useful for something.

Re:One thing of note (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893073)

The "Smart Grid" is the concept that you can make electricity use (and distribution) more efficient by building in "smart" power-meters. These "smart" power-meters are networked , which lets them do.... things, some of which may be useful (remote meter-reading? charging you different time-of-day rates? and actually letting you know what those rates are so they can turn them up on a very hot summer day when everyone's AC is on and encourage people thereby to use less power so you don't need as many expensive peaker plants running?) It's not an entirely bad idea, though it is a trifle hyped beyond its usefulness, I think. Which means we'll probably spend too much money on something dubious, just you watch. Really, though, the stuff at the power-substation and major-power-line-level does need somewhat of an overhaul, and that's probably worthwhile.

I guess the "electric-car" angle comes because if you're charging an electric car overnight, you probably want to charge it when it's cheapest, or something to that effect. And I can see the merit of some sort of open standard here, so you can make a chip which plugs into whatever-and-the-power-line and make that sort of decision. But that's not quite what he's suggesting; he's suggesting turning that device into a wireless mesh node.

Now, I know a guy who worked at IBM and was really big into this sort of "pervasive computing" stuff. I think some of it sounds neat; I was at a park the other day where one of the water fountains was not working, and I thought, "some day, there will be a little cheap chip in there which will let them know that the fountain isn't working, and they might actually fix it within hours or days instead of months or years. And they will have one in every streetlight, too. Everything. Because it will be so ridiculously cheap. Oh, and they will use IPv6."

Someday. But today, that sort of equipment will probably cost you a couple hundred dollars per installation. And why you'd mount it on a car, I'm not sure: the car itself doesn't have too much data to transmit, and we have pretty good cellular coverage in most urban areas, and the car density is relatively limited in most other places. Why would anyone with a useful packet to send want to go through this mess of a moving mesh when you can do a quick point-to-point link is beyond me. His "in Iraq, everything is mesh" in fact highlights this - in Iraq, there is not all that much infrastructure, and you probably have a bunch of high-power tanks and jeeps and such with high-power long-range antennas on private frequencies. They can sling data a few dozen miles, and probably have to.

Oh. His "without spending a dollar more" is total BS, too. Of course it would cost money. A half-decent wireless mesh node these days will run you a couple hundred each. That's coming down all the time, sure, but the alternative is already fairly cheap.

Re:One thing of note (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893261)

And why you'd mount it on a car, I'm not sure: the car itself doesn't have too much data to transmit

Some ideas:

  • car in front to the car behind: I hit the breaks, and am coming to a sudden halt. Break now, or you'll hit me;
  • car behind to car in front: I'm accelerating and taking you over. Don't change lanes;
  • car to other cars on the road: my tires lost grip at [GPS coordinates]. Forward to other cars that road is slippery there;
  • car to the police: I've been in an accident at [GPS coordinates]. My driver's vital signs are fluctuating.

And for some privacy nightmare:

  • I think my driver is drunk. I'd better call the cops

Re:One thing of note (2, Funny)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893657)

Hell, I'd like the ability to overlay the windshield with a HUD conveying speed information and wheel angles so I know what everyone around me is doing. Maybe shade the lanes so I know when it's safe to change. Or something. Apple will figure it out when they produce the iCar system, found only in select fancy-ass cars.

Re:One thing of note (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893673)

car to the police: I've been in an accident at [GPS coordinates]. My driver's vital signs are fluctuating.

All I think when I read that is "Michael... Michael, are you alright??? Michael!"

Re:One thing of note (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893097)

Simple, this is a poorly written article.

Re:One thing of note (1)

xlotlu (1395639) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893181)

It seems either she, or the person who wrote the article, is confusing mesh networking with power distribution. [...] Those two don't seem to fit well together.

Here's someone else's work [wikipedia.org] that seemed to "confuse" the two.

But what she's basically saying is: if it's powered by the grid, put it on the mesh network. And while you're at it do the same for cars.

Great, when anything breaks, EVERYTHING breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893043)

How pollyannish.

We decry monoculture in operating systems and databases, but some holy grail of IP everywhere?

I'm happy that my car is more reliable than my computer or Internet connection. If power to my home was as unreliable, I'd be pissed.

One hacker to rule them all?

Remember how much we liked electronic voting? That's how you'll feel about the 'smart grid' when suddenly government and utilities can micromanage your lives.

ad-hoc mesh networking (2, Insightful)

convolvatron (176505) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893069)

15 years ago when i looked at the literature there were substantial problems with the efficiency of the selected routes, route convergence and message overhead. these things got much worse as the rate of change in the peer graph goes up.

have things gotten that much better?

Re:ad-hoc mesh networking (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893143)

If you throw enough computing power / bandwidth at it, message overhead and efficiency aren't as much of a problem - particularly for sending boring data packets that can tolerate a little latency and lossiness. We've made huge strides in the past 15 years.

The part I'm trying to figure out is, "why put them in a car?" It's not like the car is a major consumer or producer of data. Is this really going to change all that much? If not, and if non-car-things are to be using this mesh, it seems that you'd be massively overprovisioning dense urban areas and massively underprovisioning rural areas.

I don't see how the mobility of a motor vehicle brings anything valuable into the picture. I guess when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a car...

And exactly WHAT... (3, Insightful)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893131)

... will plugging my car into this "mesh" gain me? I don't see a reason for this. It's excessive and prone to more problems than we already have (I guess. I don't even understand exactly what problem she's trying to solve so as to properly determine that). I don't see the automobile in the same light that she does. Just let my car be a car and be powered by my power, Mrs. Xzibit.

Why is this not tagged 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893133)

Major Premise: Anything connected to a network can be attacked from anywhere on that network.
Minor Premise: Let's make cars that are connected to a network.
Conclusion: Let's make cars that can be cracked from across a network.

Am I missing something?

In 15 words or fewer - what is the point of this? (2, Interesting)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893163)

Those who actually bothered to read TFA, what exactly is the point of this? I understand Robin Chase loves feel-good social causes, and she is a good organizer, but no one ever accused her of being an engineer. Having read TFA, it sounds to me a bit like confused meandering of someone trying to figure out how to use some of the stimulus billions for yet another social pet cause, but without the clear definition of what that cause is.

Re:In 15 words or fewer - what is the point of thi (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893275)

someone trying to figure out how to use some of the stimulus billions for yet another social pet cause

Bingo.
You will see more of this soon.

Agreed (2, Insightful)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893329)

Having read TFA, it sounds to me a bit like confused meandering of someone trying to figure out how to use some of the stimulus billions for yet another social pet cause, but without the clear definition of what that cause is.

My feelings exactly. It has lots of woo-woo words and ideas which seem magical and yet, I can't understand what the fundamental idea is exactly. --It almost sounds like she's suggesting that we use phone system-like switching technology to route power to individual homes and devices. Sounds bloody expensive to put into place. A high voltage router on every street corner, though I don't really see the advantage, unless each house is also generating electricity. Maybe I'm missing something.

If the concept is viable, then it can be explained in baby terms, which clearly I need. I feel like one of those really thick studio execs guys like Kevin Smith make fun of. So either I'm really, really dumb, the idea needs work, or she needs a good translator to stand between her head and the audience.

Those Zip Cars looks sort of cool, though I don't quite see the advantage. Do they have a team of service people running around each city maintaining the cars? It sounds like a de-centralized "Rent-a-Car", but while they don't have to rent a main lot, they still must have to maintain a garage and offices somewhere, and I bet they have to pay for all the individual parking spaces. Seems gimmicky, but again, maybe I'm just not seeing the big picture. (After all, I still refuse to use a cell phone over my trusty land line, so it's entirely possible that I'm missing the point.)

-FL

Re:Agreed (2, Informative)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893587)

Basically, it's single-use public transportation for people in cities who don't own cars. I use one two or three times a month to make runs to the big suburban shopping centers and such. Occasionally I take one for a few days and visit my parents. Otherwise I'm on foot, bike, train, or bus.

It works very well in my opinion.

Re:Agreed (2, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893925)

It has lots of woo-woo words and ideas which seem magical and yet, I can't understand what the fundamental idea is exactly.

That is actually a great description of anything appearing in Wired...

Re:In 15 words or fewer - what is the point of thi (1)

pdxp (1213906) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893501)

She read some academic papers on mesh & vehicle networking (DARPA funded for sure), and pooped.

Inter-vehiclular communications (1)

bensafrickingenius (828123) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893221)

So once this is done, can I IM other drivers and give them driving tips? Like, oh, I don't know -- "Hey buddy! If you'd bothered to use your freakin' turn signal, I coulda made my left, and not had to wait another ten minutes for an opening in traffic! Thanks a lot!" Because, if so? Sign me up!

The Dumb Electrical Grid Is Very Reliable! (2, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893231)

Folks who write articles about smart grid communicating with cars, etc bring to mind foolish talk of internet toasters and networked refrigerators.

The current electrical grid (speaking of USA; PJM region in particular) is very reliable as it is. Grid operators already have the ability to shape production; with millions of users, usage patterns are easy to spot and plan for ahead of time.

In my view, smart grid and smart meters are simply a way to control people's usage and charging them more; residential electric bills will likely become very complicated.

All this talk about people charging their cars at night and then selling it back during the day for extra credit is nonsense, because when millions of people are charging at night, it's easily conceivable that nightly usage could be just as high as during the day.

In respect to cars communicating with other cars - why? It's obvious that most people will charge their cars as often as possible, even if told not to, in particular, at night so they are sure to have enough charge to get to get the kids to school, get to work, etc.

The internet is another means of communication - it's not going magically solve energy issues nor change human nature.

In my view, a better approach than a so-called smart grid is developing / promoting more efficient energy production methods, in particular nuclear (solar, wind, etc are nice, but are lacking in energy density), along with encouraging people to produce some of their own energy for their needs, such as with solar panels on their roof.

Ron

Plus, electrical demand is != bandwidth demand. (3, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893443)

I did a lot of tariff programming back in the day and I loved it...

Electrical demand is not the same as network demand. If your ISP is short on bandwidth, everyone just slows down. But if your power company is short on power, at worst, they have to start throwing people off of the grid, because everyone must have 110VAC 60hz power.

This reality is reflected in the pricing of electricity, especially for larger customers.

The kind of an electric bill a refinery gets, for example, shows this. In such bills, you start with the raw data obtained from power recorders - every kwh and kvarh (reactive power), is recorded at either 15 minute or hourly increments, depending on the utility. This data is rolled up to look at peak demand, and bill to date usage, broken out into buckets representing time of use, each of which has its own price. For the most part, the demand portion of the bill is roughly half, and the other half is the cumulative portion.

So, of all the actionable items in a bill that one could act on, really, instantaneous demand is the most important thing to optimize. If you jack up your demand during the day, for just one hour, by 50%, you've significantly increased your monthly bill... because the utility still has to have equipment to satisfy peak service.

The thing is, industrial customers have known this now for at least 10 years, if not longer, and there's a whole electrical services industry designed to help them avoid that maximum demand charge. Some companies making ice at night for cooling by day. Others try and have multiple shifts. Still others just put in their own local generation that kicks in when their utility usage gets too high. All of this is controlled by automated SCADA systems that have been field proven for at least a decade, if not longer.

The point is, I'm wondering how much smarter the electrical world can actually get? What you are really talking about is putting residential customers on industrial style tariffs. But, what would be the benefit? I mean, there's not too much a residential customer could practically do that would cost effectively help them lower their peak demand in such a way as to be cost effective.

For example, in California, for SCE, the GS-2 tariff specifies a demand charge of less than $10 / kw. SCE GS2 [sce.com]. If you figure that most homes use less than 2Kw max demand, there's not much room for economical demand shaving. If you lowered your peak demand from 3kw to 2kw, you would be saving $120 a year. There's few, if any devices that could store energy at night, help with peak demand by day, where you could actually recoup that investment economically.

Re:Plus, electrical demand is != bandwidth demand. (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893595)

I think the idea is that future electrical cars will consume heck loads of power, if they all started charging at the same time when everyone gets home they'd probably break the grid however if they're connected to the "smart grid" then they could be nice and spread out their charging through the night so everyone is charged by the morning.

Fully charged cars could even help the grid out by sending out power at peak times.

Re:The Dumb Electrical Grid Is Very Reliable! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893737)

Learn about phasors and how instabilities affect power grids and then tell me again how reliable dumb grids are.

Power generation has to be designed for the peak demand. With proper storage, generation need only be sufficient for average demand. Think!

This translates to fewer power plants needed.

The "mesh network" exists (1)

keneng (1211114) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893459)

The mesh networks exists. Take a bunch of wifi routers, mesh their ssid's together. I imagine this to be a mesh network. No surprises.

The current WIFI users are slow-moving at home and only using WIFI at home.

The "TWIST" in Ms. Chase's opinion is to design WIFI for FAST-MOVING-WIFI users. Design wifi for moving quickly in and moving quickly out of a particular user's range of acceptable signal strength for reliable connecting/sending/receiving data.

The popular network apps like firefox/bittorrent still assume wired networks. That will change with time however. I'm sure a kind of wififox or wiftorrent designed for "UDP protocol" already exist for 3G/2G phones using proprietary source code. That's Ms. Chase's point. If that code were made to be open-source code, the world would greatly benefit. She didn't say anything about making the node-hardware easy to adapt to an owner's needs, but I think she was implying it by bringing up the open-source approach. Open-source implies "DIGITAL FREEDOM" as www.fsf.org/campaigns would express it. Every FAST-MOVING-WIFI-USER should have the ability to modify one's FAST-MOVING-WIFI-HARDWARE as one's sees fit.

I'm absolutely sure the guys that built UDP a long time ago already did everything necessary for mesh networks.

For as long as your computer is connected to two networks simultaneously. If the first try fails then you can retry the second packet on a second/third/fourth... network simultaneously. The first response back wins.
All these wifi devices already have a unique ssid manufactured into them. Right now the ip version 4 address and ip version 6 address needs to be changed if we moved from one wifi router to another. Reliable TCP/IP v4/v6 communication assumes your IP address doesn't change under your feet every second. I.e. SSL assumes the same constant source IP address and the same constant destination IP address for the connection to stay up.

But there's UDP...When using this protocol, it is understood and implied that the connection will not always be up. It is understood the protocol needs to be prepared for unreliable packet communication. This makes UDP more suitable for for wifi. The source ip address needs to be acquired from the wifi router. ok. the source ip can send a UDP request packet to the router and pray that the router will be quick enough give him a response UDP packet back. If he doesn't then it's time to send out another dhclient client request to get a new IP address from another router. Then reconnect to whatever other node you're talking to and continue to send/receive whatever. The routers know UDP by the way so it's just a matter building the applications with more wifi context.

Are there such api functions as:
getIpAddressForSSID(SSID as string)
returns IpAddress as string

getIpAddressForMAC(MAC as string)
returns IpAddress as string
?

They would be useful for the UDP/FAST-MOVING-WIFI.
My guess is that they exist, but I've never had a requirement to use them myself.

Great idea, but... (1)

pdxp (1213906) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893473)

... not really. TFA is a senseless non-story. Chase is just regurgitating the same "big picture" vision statements you'll see in dozens of academic papers. Nothing makes her ideas so special.

You can't just slap a mesh router on a car and expect to be able to pull up /. while cruising through the boonies. I've been working in the field of vehicular networking for a long time now, and the big problem is that everyone thinks you can get end-to-end connectivity no matter where you are or how fast you're going. That just doesn't happen "because it's a mesh network". Go read about the packet delivery ratio of AODV or DSR in a large-scale vehicular network if you're interested in some proof. Small and discrete pieces of information are more manageable, but then why not just use cellular? (There's reasons you can't, but I digress).

Mesh networks are great in some situations, but not in vehicular networks on a city-wide (or country-wide) scale. 200 mesh routers in Vienna is cool, but what about 500,000, moving at an average speed of, say, 30mph? In this case:

Cooperative gain means more users bring more capacity, not less.

Is absolutely not true unless you're talking about storage volume rather than bandwidth. I can't wait to see someone spend millions of dollars to equip 10,000+ cars and watch everything fail, as long as they don't take away from my research funding.

TLDR: Leave the mobile networking ideas to the people who know what works and what doesn't.

Too bad for rural people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893499)

A nationwide mesh cloud will form, linking vehicles that can connect with one another and with the rest of the network.

Unfortunately, people who live in the middle of nowhere (which ironically is "everywhere" [va.gov] in the U.S.) get left out of this 'nationwide' network.

It's a cool concept though.

" the founder of Zipcar" that put 10,000 MORE cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893539)

Sorry, title did not fit.

" the founder of Zipcar" that put 10,000 MORE cars on the street!

Just a few short years ago I was reading how Zip was "taking [invent your number here] cars off the street by (TA DAH) putting 10,000 cars ON the street!

Somehow, some way, giving hourly rental driving access to zads of people IN CARS, was somehow taking cars off the street.

It is as if Mr. Zip was zapping car owners into sending the gas guzzlers to the crusher and they only used bikes, unless they needed a Zip car to go to Ikea.

Sorry, all this girl has seen is people who never owned a car, or no longer own one, heading to Zip to USA A FUCKING CAR TO DRIVE AROUND when they would have done something else.

10,000 off the street? HA! Why didn't you just by everybody an SUV and be done with it?

I am not driving a car that can be hacked into. (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893579)

As soon as someone claims something is 100% secure I know they don't know what they are talking about.

I'd rather walk.

?? i dont get (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893681)

Whats with having gas using cars part of the electric grid. we dont have that much electric cars to plug into the grid yet. of course we are moving in that trend with cars being able to connect to it.

Community Energy Storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893693)

You engineers out there, learn about it and *then* discuss it.

http://www.case.edu/energy/pdf/presentations/Utility_Deployment_of_Energy_Storage.pdf

P.S., Google is your friend

Could be handy (1)

rapsac (1182477) | more than 4 years ago | (#27893743)

I've always thought that gridlock is partly a product of all the micro-pauses between seeing the car in front of us move and reacting to that. A grid system might be able to eliminate these pauses and hence remove what seems to me, a major cause of congestion. A grid might also be able to help with other similar traffic bottlenecks, such as merging and changes in direction. The only problem is, you'd have to give up some control of your car when in heavy traffic - but hey, you never had much anyway.

Kablooie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27893801)

tanks and airplanes are running around

Ah! AH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Seems like a good idea that needs some more work (1)

Zitchas (713512) | more than 4 years ago | (#27894003)

I think this is an excellent idea, so long as there are limits to it. For instance, the network should NOT be connected to, or capable of connecting to, the actual functioning of the vehicle. Worst case example being it should NOT be even vaguely possible for someone to hack into your car and turn off the engine. Or slam on the brake/gas. That being said, being able to read/broadcast status reports would be good. Such as letting the driver behind me know that I just slammed on the brakes. I know tail lights are supposed to do that, but anyway. Or possibly acting like the yellow flag at the racetrack : "a car 500m ahead just lost control, be careful". Likewise, for areas subject to snow storms, fog, or other conditions of poor visibility, such tracking would be *very* appreciated just knowing how far away the next car is in front/behind. Likewise, if such a mesh network was actually part of the internet, it could conceivably make it possible to connect to the internet, access it, and whatnot without going through *any* ISP. On the one hand, the potential for tracking should worry the privacy and rights advocates, and with good cause. On the other, such distribution of networking could also enable rights and privacy, since it'd be hard to track anything through such a constantly changing network, and even harder to filter anything. I would say it pretty much eliminates the option of filtering our internet. All that being said, I'm not too sure what the connection is with the electrical grid, aside from the potential of "smart" use of electricity, which would be good.
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