DETER for Cyber-Physical System Experiments - News From the Front Line

On February 20-21, 2013, I attended the Working Group meeting of NASPI  (the North American SynchroPhasor Initiative) in Huntington Beach, California. This Working Group includes several hundred EEs and a few computer scientists, working towards standardization and deployment of instrumentation for monitoring and control of electric power transmission grids around the world. The goal is a significant increase in reliability and efficiency of high voltage transmission. It is a part of a technical revolution that has sprung upon a technologically backwards industry, the "smart grid". This is a big deal. One fascinating session at the meeting analyzed the major regional blackout events in the past 10 years. The general conclusion was that the fine-grained instrumentation being planned by this Working Group should prevent many future blackouts, which are very costly to society as well as the utilities themselves.

A synchrophasor is a measurement of the electrical state -- e.g., voltage, current, and frequency -- at a specific point in the electric power grid, repeating typically 60 times per second. "Synchro" refers to the use of GPS to time-synchronize these measurements, so collectively they provide an accurate and consistent picture of the grid state. The synchrophasor data is streamed over a computer network ("NASPInet") to central control centers for processing, to drive visual displays for the operators. The design of NASPInet and its relation to the Internet present interesting issues on internetwork architecture.

The power grid is critical infrastructure, and the monitoring and control functions considered by the NASPI meetings form a cyber-physical system. I have been attending NASPI meetings to promote the use of DeterLab for testing the proposed cyber-physical system architectures at moderate scale. Within the Data Networking and Management Task Team (DNMTT) of the NASPI Working Group, I have presented DeterLab, and I have described early experiments with DeterLab for testng middleware for synchrophasor data collection. At the February NASPI meeting, I presented a talk entitled "An InterNut Looks at NASPInet". This talk summarized the key meta-principles behind Internet protocol design, and it presented my perspective on NASPInet as a computer scientist with extensive Internet experience. I got good feedback from members of the audience.