Joerg Resch of Kuppinger Cole in Germany wrote recently about the importance of identity management to the Smart Grid – by which he means the emerging energy infrastructure based on intelligent, distributed renewable resources:
In 10-12 years from now, the whole utilities and energy market will look dramatically different. Decentralization of energy production with consumers converting to prosumers pumping solar energy into the grid and offering their electric car batteries as storage facilities, spot markets for the masses offering electricity on demand with a fully transparent price setting (energy in a defined region at a defined time can be cheaper, if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing strong), and smart meters in each home being able to automatically contract such energy from spot markets and then tell the washing machine to start working as soon as electricity price falls under a defined line. And – if we think a bit further and apply Google-like business models to the energy market, we can get an idea of the incredible size this market will develop into.
These are just a few examples, which might give you an idea on how the “post fossile energy market” will work. The drivers leading the way into this new age are clear: energy production from oil and gas will become more and more expensive, because pollution is not for free and the resources will not last forever. And the transparency gain from making the grid smarter will make electricity cheaper than it is now.
The drivers are getting stronger every day. Therefore, we will soon see many large scale smart grid initiatives, and we will see questions rising such as who has control over the information collected by the smart meter in my home. Is it my energy provider? How would Kim Cameron´s 7 laws of Identity work in a smart grid? What would a “grid perimeter” look like which keeps information on the usage of whatever electric devices within my 4 walls? By now, we all know what cybercrimes are and how they can affect each of us. But what are the risks of “smart grid hacking”? How might we be affected by “grid crimes”?
In fact at Blackhat 2009, security consultant Mike Davis demonstrated successful hacker attacks on commercially available smart meters. He told the conference,
“Many of the security vulnerabilities we found are pretty frightening and most smart meters don't even use encryption or ask for authentication before carrying out sensitive functions like running software updates and severing customers from the power grid.”
Privacy commission Ann Cavoukian of Ontario has insisted that industry turn its attention to the security and privacy of these devices:
“The best response is to ensure that privacy is proactively embedded into the design of the Smart Grid, from end to end. The Smart Grid is presently in its infancy worldwide – I’m confident that many jurisdictions will look to our work being done in Ontario as the privacy standard to be met. We are creating the necessary framework with which to address this issue.”
Until recently, no one has talked about drive-by mapping of our home devices. But from now on we will. When we think about home devices, we need to reach into the future and come to terms with the huge stakes that are up for grabs here.
The smart home and the smart grid alert us to just how important the identity and privacy of our devices really is. We can use technical mechanisms like encryption to protect some information from eavesdroppers. But not the patterns of our communication or the identities of our devices… To do that we need a regulatory framework that ensures commercial interests don't enter our “device space” without our consent.
Google's recent Street View WiFi boondoggle is a watershed event in drawing our attention to these matters.