Network of Excellence in Internet Science

Power under Control

On Friday April 24 2015 TUM attended a workshop under title "Power under Control"( It took place in the technology center for businesses and start-ups in the proximity of the TUM Campus in Garching. The main topic was the power supply and its automation and control for critical infrastructures. Prominent companies in the area like MTU, DEIF, and Westermo were present in the workshop. It was organized by a local SME that is working on mobile apps to control, manage, and visualize such infrastructures.

The focus of the first half of talks was on technology for Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems. One of the presentators truthfully pointed out that control is only one aspect of operating an infrastructure. The components that actually do the work in our systems are even more vital for reliable operation. In the context of power systems these are batteries, diesel generators, power switches, etc. An interesting idea is that these systems could also be used for the regular energy grid, for which companies then need specific certificates for complying to regulatory standards. To a small degree this  is already happening. Another interesting observation  was that due to the high availabiltiy of the energy grid in Central Europe, companies that e.g. have a UPS might be reluctant to test its operation as often as recommended. There are technical as well as social reasons for that.

The second half of the talks was about control over the Internet and via mobile applications. Here, you find solutions based on Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and firewalls. A major difficulty is that small companies may not have staff with IT knowledge, which makes it difficult to sell more difficult to set-up but more secure systems. Furthermore, there are often hardware limitations. Nonetheless, reasonable security measures as mentioned above can be used. What you also find in the context of JRA7 (Internet as critical infrastructure, networked infrastructures) is that a security issue may occur, yet you have to keep the system running as the real-world consequences do not allow a simple shutdown.

Internet Science and EINS JRA7 ideas were brought into discussion via mutual talks in the coffee breaks and in the personal introduction. Our JRA7/SEA2 workshop on Trends in Critical Infrastructure Protection on May 11-12 2015 in Semmering, Austria partially involved representatives from similar domains. But that is another blog post.

Also, thanks to my colleague Nadine Herold for help and reminding about the workshop.