Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Batteries for Smart Grids

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Philipp Braun is speaking on how to work out the use of home batteries for solar panels (more formally "Hierarchical distributed optimization and predictive control of a smart grid").

Phillip compared a centralized versus distributed approach. With the centralized approach the electricity authority issues commands to the batteries to charge or discharge, with distributed the controller in each house tries to predict what will be needed. He has worked on an approach combining centralized and distributed approach: the central system sends out a suggested solution, which the local system then modifies.

While interesting, Phillip's approach does not allow for micro-grids. That is coordinating the households in a neighborhood. This is an attractive alternative as it can take into account how the households are physically wired together, as well as local climatic conditions which will effect solar power production and power use. As well as physical constraints making micro-grids practical there are also financial and regulatory reasons to coordinate household power, even if they are near-by.

Phillip is now at ANU, and has published a number of papers.

The Canberra based company Reposit Power, founded by an ANU graduate, produces systems for controlling home batteries. They recently featured in the ABC TV documentary "Battery powered homes".

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cyber Bootcamp for Australian Government Ministers

Alastair MacGibbon, Special Adviser to the Australian Prime Minister on Cyber Security has said senior government executives and Ministers should be set to “Cyber Bootcamp”. This is one of the recommendations in "Review of the Events Surrounding the2016 eCensus". This is a report on the successful denial of service attack on the 2016 Australian Census website, in August 2016.

The government downplayed the significance of the incident by describing it as a "truck across the driveway", just preventing access but doing no other damage. However, continuing the analogy, the truck may be filled with armed terrorists, or a very large bomb. On Wednesday, Dan Tehan MP, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security outlined a scenario where a virus introduced to critical systems shuts down the electricity grid, causing widespread deaths and injury.

Summary of Recommendations
  • Crisis Communications and Coordination ...
  • Education: The Attorney-General’s Department should develop a “Cyber Bootcamp”
  • Security Framework: The Australian Signals Directorate should strengthen the framework...
  •  Embracing Adaptive Government...
  • Cyber Security in a Digital First World
  • The ABS should engage an independent security consultant ...
  • The ABS should ensure future significant changes to personal information handling ...
  • The ABS should adopt a privacy management plan ...
  • The ABS should assess and enhance existing ABS privacy training for staff.
  • The ABS should develop a specific strategy to remove the current state of vendor lock-in.
  • Agencies should review their approach to cyber security incident response planning and coordination ...
  • Agencies should ensure independent security assessments are conducted on critical ICT deliverables.
  • Agencies should test security measures and monitoring systems for online government services ...
  • Agencies should be conscious of updated interpretations of governing legislation ...
  • The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has recommended the government develop an APS-wide Privacy Code in collaboration with the Office. ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Warning of Cyber Storm from Australian Cyber Security Minister

Greetings from the National Press Club in Canberra, where Dan Tehan MP, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security is describing a 'A Cyber Storm'. He is outlining a scenario where a virus introduced to critical systems shuts down the electricity grid, causing widespread deaths and injury. He described this as a "real and present threat". The minister suggested that government, industry and the public can address this threat together. The minister went on to mention that ASD had carried out cyber attacks on ISIS.

Earlier in the year I ran the IT students at the Australian National University through a Hypothetical on Cyberwarfare over the South China Sea. Unfortunately this invented scenario is becoming more likely by the day.

There is a new Australian Cyber Security Innovation Centre being built just outside my office window at ANU. However, as the minister pointed out, this is not just something for IT professionals and federal government. State governments, business and the public have a role.

One of the press questions to the Minister asked if enough defense funding goes to Cyberwarfare. The Minister claimed that "new money" was being put into the military for cyber security and warfare. However, the amounts mentioned were tiny, compared to the amount spent on conventional military systems. One approach I have suggested is a CyberWarfare Battalion, made up of reservist military officers who are IT professionals. 

John McDuling IT Journalist of the Year

John McDuling from AFR Weekend was just announced as winner of the ACS Excellence in IT Journalism Award at the National Press Club in Canberra. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wikipedia Citizenship

Apparently I have become a Wikipedia citizen, without realizing it. I received an invitation to vote in the ArbCom Elections 2016. I was going to delete the e-mail thinking it was some sort of spam. But because I have made more than 150 Wikipedia edits, I can help select who is on the Arbitration Committee. Will there be post-Truth campaigns for candidates, like a real election? ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wireless Power for Classrooms and Warships

Providing power is a problem in classrooms and other locations with movable furniture. I was reminded of this today when I watched two workers fit power sockets to a desk in a library. After twenty minutes they had the desk assembled and then left, but there was a mains power plug hanging down from under the desk with nothing to plug it into.

Pixelated Induction (PI) claim to be able to deliver standard inductive charging charging for mobile devices, on a scale suitable for airport lounges and cafes. However, how do you get the power to a movable desk? It occurred to me that the same technology which gets the power from the desk to the phone could be used to get it from the floor to the desk.

A plate on the floor would have an inductive unit installed. Movable desks would have a curly cord and inductive charging plate hanging underneath. Magnets in the floor and plate would make connection easier. Power would then be available on the desktop through another inductive plate. The floor unit could have four inductive units in a grid, allowing four phones to be charged on the desktop. Removable unit could also be made, so that no modification of the desk was needed. A USB port would be a useful option for charging  laptop and tablets.

For innovation hubs and similar localizations with large numbers of itinerant users,  there might be long flexible strips with a induction charger built in every 450 mm. One of these strips would be laid down the middle of a long row of desks.

A useful initial market to explore with this technology is not schools, libraries or airport lounges, but military command centers. The reality is not as meritorious as the pristine rooms depicted in fiction. There are always cables draped everywhere, connecting equipment brought in and packed up again frequently. It would be very useful to be able to provide desktop power without cabling. I saw this first hand on board the USS Blue Ridge. A complete military solution might also include a tacky surface, similar to that used for holding mobile phones to car dashboards (the US Marines use gaffer tape to secure their equipment to the ship's desks). Australia has recently commissioned the second of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, which have a similar requirement.