The Time Has Come for a Platform of Platforms
THE TIME HAS COME FOR A PLATFORM OF PLATFORMS
Where: Focus is on the rural USA and the Rural Electric Cooperative
Value Proposition: AFG’s offering is attractive to utilities, communities and providers alike.
What: An Intelligent Shared Infrastructure serving utilities, people and machines
How: What does it take to deliver on the promise using a community of practice
Why: The Electric Grid must be re-tooled as an Intelligent System of System
Why: “Our Race with Intelligent Machines” can be easily seen when viewing the world’s state of readiness amongst its communication networks and electric power grids. These critical systems face the challenge of connecting hundreds of millions of machines, devices and sensors, with people and things in the face of significant gaps in security and infrastructure. The path we are now on will not sustain the data tsunami being unleashed. Presently we are losing badly in this race with intelligent machines. If we are to win this race to transform how we work with intelligent machines newer, faster communication networks and reliable electric power infrastructures are needed along with military grade security covering all 7 layers of the stack.
Today’s electric power networks operate by and large using historical, or “near” real-time data and tools to manage the flow of information and operate critical infrastructure. Communication networks supporting streaming data and enabling milli-second decision and response is lacking. This presents a gap that must be bridged if we are to deliver intelligence to the edge of the grid enabling the digitization, decentralization and decarbonization of our nation’s power systems. Retooling our communication networks to enable the retooling of the electric grid is an essential first step in creating the building blocks for the “next generation” levels of real-time data processing and machine learning required to create and deliver this intelligence.
The Notion of Shared Infrastructure
What: The Agile Fractal Grid (AFG) delivers a scalable, highly secure, broad band communications network and grid edge-based supercomputing infrastructure platform to be shared amongst utilities, communities, telecom carriers, service companies and customers alike. AFG orchestrates the digital transformation of the electric power grid and provides a digital marketplace clearinghouse platform for designing and delivering innovative service solutions and for creating new measures of value for all stakeholders.
AFG’s revenues are expected to exceed $6 billion by end of year 2022, and will continue to grow as penetration amongst utilities and adoption of services increases. Revenues are generated through long-term, evergreen contracts covering 3 principal sources: 1) Buildout of the communications infrastructure and managed services to be provided by AFG under a Network-as-a-Service offering; 2) Buildout of the super-computing data hubs and managed services to be provided by AFG under an Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering; and, 3) management and operation of AFG’s digital marketplace platform provided to energy and other application providers for marketing and delivery of their service offerings to the electric co-operative communities
Where: AFG’s Security Fabric Alliance’s “Community of Practice” proposes a path to the future that is surprising in its simplicity. It starts, as shown in the following illustration, with the deployment of a multimodal, multi-purpose (shared infrastructure), small cell, high speed digital communications network throughout rural America, an area that represents 72% of our nation’s land mass and over 14% of our population. Adequate broadband communications coverage exists in only 47% of this territory, posing unique challenges and opportunities. There are 960 cooperative electric utilities serving the 46 million customers in this area. AFG’s small cell network will be deployed at the edge of these cooperative electric utilities’ distribution power systems, sharing the electric utility’s poles, transformers and substations to close the gap in accelerating delivery of the next generation of broadband needed to get back in the race to win.
Value Proposition: Numerous benefits accrue to the utility in return for granting AFG the use of its assets and right-of-ways to deploy the communications and computing network. The utility receives access to broadband services for itself and the community at large, plus use of the network in implementing key services for reducing energy costs, increasing grid reliability and launching new innovative services. The placement of super-computing data pods at the utility’s substation deliver new, energy use revenue streams and a platform for community services.
Cellular service providers and internet service providers also significantly benefit from the use of AFG’s shared, multi-purpose infrastructure. These providers avoid the capital investment required to extend their networks and offer their services within rural America. Instead, they can take advantage of a risk-free, pay-as-you-use-it approach for acquiring new subscribers and serving existing customers. Cellular providers providing services to customers under roaming agreements with other carriers can avoid the high cost of these operating arrangements through the use of the AFG Hosted Access Network eliminating roaming fees entirely.
Other providers such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Akamai and others who offer services demanding high reliability and high response speeds will use AFG’s communications network and super-computing infrastructure to avoid the cost of building data centers, as well as, taking advantage of the risk-free, pay-as-you-use it approach. Today approximately 2% of all power produced is consumed by data centers. This figure is expected to climb to 20% of all power produced by 2030. Nearly 40% of data center construction costs are for power reliability. AFG’s data hubs can be operational with 60 days instead of the 9 months normally required to build a data center.
Combining this super-computing edge-based platform in combination with its network communications infrastructure qualifies AFG as a Tier 1 carrier allowing it to avoid internet connection fees. Application service providers participating in AFG’s “Community of Practice” have the advantage of deploying their offerings through AFG’s shared infrastructure and digital marketplace clearinghouse platform. The providers’ costs-of-goods-sold are minimized, profit margins are increased and operating risks are reduced. AFG’s digital marketplace is an Amazon-like managed services platform and business model offering application service providers the use of a shared communications, computing infrastructure, back-office services, operational support, as well as, community visibility and customer acquisition tools for rapidly driving growth.
How: AFG provides the turnkey engineering design, funding, program management and installation of the multi-purpose communications network and the super computing infrastructure. AFG delivers this shared infrastructure, as well as, the back-office services platform supporting creation of the digital marketplace, for use by the utility, the community, carriers, and service providers. AFG continues to operate and maintain this shared infrastructure and platform as a managed service, as well as, orchestrating the introduction of application providers and their services in responding to the utility’s and community’s needs.
Architecting a new infrastructure starts with creating intelligence at the edge. Aside from communication, one must also move computation, control and decision making to the edge. This emerging intersection of practices between computer science and electrical engineering is called FOG (or edge) computing and will support connecting people, machines, and the energy internet of things (IoT) today and well into the future. Winning the race with intelligent machines is dependent upon our success in creating this shared infrastructure.
AFG’s small cell networks and edge computing platform is integral to delivering the next generation intelligent grid system. The cell provides secure end-to-end real time communications between sensors, devices, equipment and distributed energy resources and data super-computing pods installed at the utility substation eliminating potential latency. Placement of these data pods collocated with the power grid ensures a reliable source of power supply. The small cell networks deliver bi-directional data communication and control all the way to the edge providing super-fast LTE broadband access to the community’s businesses and residents. These small cell networks integrate seamlessly with fiber backhaul systems, supercomputing data hubs, cloud-based analytics and application platforms, distributed energy resources, the utility’s internal operational systems, public service networks and the internet of things (IoT).
AFG’s engagement with the utility begins with a discussion for determining the current state of fiber and broad band cellular network deployments within the community and service territory. Working together, the utility and AFG define the scope of a pilot and select an area for assessment, engineering design and construction of the AFG network and computing infrastructure. Existing utility fiber and cellular installations are leveraged within AFG’s design. The pilot offers a path to first deploy a shared multi-purpose network and computing infrastructure which is then followed by service offerings selected and delivered from AFG’s digital market place such as: 1) Volt-VAR optimization applications to optimize line voltage reducing distribution energy line losses by as much as 10% and minimizing line damage; 2) synchro-phasor applications for locating and analyzing sources of voltage and frequency anomalies and greatly increasing situational awareness; 3) micro-grids and virtual power pools for integrating, controlling and monetizing distributed energy resources and for optimizing grid operations allowing for deferral of capital investments; 4) building automation applications for improving efficiencies of facilities and equipment reducing overall utility and customer energy costs; and, 5) trans-active retail energy applications for designing and delivering to customers new energy offerings and value. Each service selected by the utility is deployed at a pace matching their business strategy and needs. Other community focused digital marketplace offerings supporting internet and cellular services, education, public safety, health, etc. are also made available.
The initial pilot is followed by a staged deployment of AFG’s shared network and computing infrastructure throughout the utility’s service area. The digital marketplace platform is built upon this infrastructure. What emerges is an ecosystem platform of infrastructure and services supporting the creation of an industrial Internet and completing the digital transformation of the utility’s power grid ensuring interoperability, performance, security, scalability, serviceability, reliability and agility between the grid, micro-grids, distributed energy resources, electric vehicles and, other IoT equipment and devices – all in need of real time data coordination. AFG’s small cells are the building blocks for gathering and distributing knowledge… resulting in an intelligent “social” network of machines.
THE AGILE FRACTAL GRID ORCHESTRATION
The digital marketplace produces a repository of active knowledge surrounding both people and machines that can be shared in real-time as a mechanism for continuously enhancing the intelligent network. The intelligent architecture produces an infrastructure enabling processes for machine learning, automation, analytics to understand machine behaviors, and the design of algorithms, rules, and decision models. AFG and its partner companies, use agile development techniques to iteratively design services together with the utility and other community members, to ensure service applications successfully deliver to expectations and needs. Over time, the result is a national network and platform that grows up organically and self-learns with every pilot to assemble the ecosystem of network infrastructures and services drawn from the hundreds of partners that are asked to participate. This bio-inspired process scales itself from one project at a time to eventually merge into AFG’s platform of platforms.
The value of AFG’s (Agile Fractal Grid Inc.) platform of platforms and shared, multi-purpose infrastructure will match that of other unicorns like Facebook. While social networking is indeed a subset of what AFG is planning, transformation of the power grid and its markets will require AFG’s higher order of integration delivering low latency communications, forward edge computing, machine-to-machine interoperability, real-time automation, deterministic workflow, end-to-end military grade security and, the unique economic model AFG is bringing to win this race.
Charles “Chuck” Speicher Jr.
Chairman of the Board at, Agile Fractal Grid Inc.