CenterPoint Energy wants to use the “Internet of Things” to upgrade Houston’s power grid, but are the advances promised too good to be true?

Lights for the buildings downtown can be seen as the sun sets Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008 in Houston. Houston, a fast-paced metropolis that churns on industries like oil, medical research, space technology and law, was dragged to a near halt by Hurricane Ike. But unlike its coastal suburbs, it was more inconvenienced than devastated. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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CenterPoint Energy, a company providing electricity services to much of the Houston area, recently launched an initiative to improve service and protect the city’s power grid from natural disasters.

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The initiative would employ the “Internet of Things,” allowing the company to minimize outages, resolve power issues more quickly and improve customer service.

An “Internet of Things” refers to the capability of any electrical device to connect to the Internet. The connection would allow devices to upload their status and download information from other devices.

For instance, cars would upload speeds and directions to the Internet, while traffic sensors would download the information and use it to time stoplights at busy intersections.

The proposed initiative will theoretically allow Centerpoint to place sensors on electricity meters, transformers and power substations to gather information on usage, outages and delivery patterns.

Sensors would then feed data into a sophisticated computer program evaluating usage, reporting outages and rerouting power from areas affected by outages.

The program would also find sections of the grid failing to deliver power efficiently, as well as patterns to potentially provide clues if security breach were to occurred.

Much of the drive for improvement in the power grid came as a result of the massive outages after Hurricane Ike in 2008, when thousands of customers were without power for as much as three weeks after the storm.

Centerpoint CTO Dr. Steve Pratt called the outages “the worst event in our history:”

“We could not assess the extent of the damage as quickly as we would have liked,” he said in a statement.

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The upgrades put in place since Ike now allow Centerpoint to keep power going with minimal outages, even during severe weather.

“We have had massive storms that have taken out hundreds of thousands of customers since Ike,” Pratt continued. “But now we can assess the damage and resolve issues exponentially faster than in the past.”

What do you think?

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