CSMART Brings Smart Grid Technology to Chicago

| Adam J. Hecktman

On September 22nd, I attended the ribbon cutting for the Center for Smart Grid Applications, Research, & Technology (CSMART) at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It was attended by a number of state leaders who are interested in seeing the fruits of this center. Sen. Richard Durban, Congressman Bobby Rush, and Karen Weigert (the City’s Chief Sustainability Officer) were in attendance. Heavyweight partners of this endeavor were also there including ComEd, Silver Spring, and West Monroe Partners.

It is something of a mistake to call the event a ribbon cutting because it is more of a groundbreaking ceremony.   Not because we ceremoniously put a shovel into the ground, but because of the groundbreaking work that Dr. Mohammed Shahidehpour is doing as Director of the Galvin Center for Center for Electricity Innovation. Or perhaps it should have been called a plug-in ceremony because, as Sen. Durbin commented, CSMART “will make Chicago a hub for Smart Grid applications for years to come”.

Smart grids are at the center of the profound changes in our nation’s energy. CSMART is a lab that is dedicated to researching, testing, and analyzing the latest smart grid technology in a real world environment. It is a model that I am strongly in favor of, in that “it brings together academic, industry, and industry experts” to quote Congressman Rush, “to advance smart grid technology”. The public/private/academic partnership that IIT has pulled together for the CSMART is absolutely exemplary.

They have built a fully-functional test environment for the advancement of smart grid technology, and the deployment methodologies. If you follow the smart grid space, you will undoubtedly see the wide range of research and analysis projects coming out of CSMART. The first round of projects include Smart LED street light operations testing, cloud-based distributed energy resource management (ConnecttheGrid™), and data analytics and real time interactive dashboards to visualize the operations the grid.

I believe that the work that we are doing right here in Chicago is going to provide the foundation for technological advancements in energy usage, resource management, and environmental planning. Not to mention that it will be creating loads (pun intended) of great data that can be used. Microsoft is working to create the tools, technologies, and models to help accelerate scientific understanding of energy on a global scale that uses data such as these. As Karen Weigert said, the core of innovation takes place with that layer of data and transparency in place.

Every day, researchers at Microsoft Research are working with our partners, including academic partners, to accelerate scientific insights that advance our understanding towards what can be accomplished with regards to a safe, sustainable, and resilient energy supply for large cities.   And to that end, I am excited to see how the leading researchers at IIT are expanding the boundaries of knowledge of what can be done with respect to energy.

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.