Gov. rolls out preliminary Smart Grid standards

645px-nist_logosvgThe Department of Commerce rolled out a list of 77 initial standards (PDF) meant to make Smart Grid technologies more interoperable. One of the biggest challenges confronting the move toward a cleaner, more efficient electrical grid in the U.S. is that all of the devices, meters, wireless networks and software platforms created by an endless array of companies need to be able to communicate seamlessly with one another. This list is the first major attempt by the government to make sure this happens fast.

The agency charged with this goliath task is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has put out a draft of a report outlining 31 standards that will contribute directly to the formation of the Smart Grid, and 46 that are indirectly related. The recurring theme that ties them all together is security. Discussed in detail at a workshop at the GridWeek conference in Washington, D.C., the standards were mostly devised to defend against hacker attacks and other privacy violations that could threaten the Smart Grid’s wireless, open infrastructure.

In order to come up with the recent standards, NIST hosted three workshops with more than 1,500 Smart Grid stakeholders. And, as if this wasn’t enough, the organization has opened the draft of its list for public and industry feedback for the next 30 days. By the end of the year, a final draft will be pitched to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — which has the power to make the standards law as part of energy legislation passed in 2007.

The preliminary list of standards includes a lot of incredibly technical specifications. More immediately relevant to utilities and consumers, an official mandate would require all smart meters that are being installed to be easily and quickly upgradeable, would force everyone in the business to adopt the same definitions for pricing and devices, would establish consistency among wireless communications systems, and require electric storage solutions and electric vehicles to be interoperable with existing Smart Grid technology.

All of this is included under the banner of “Phase 1″ of standards adoption. A second phase will follow, creating a Smart Grid Interoperability Panel to continue rolling out important standards filling the gaps between the many companies and devices involved. A third phase will then commence to test all of the standards in practice and certify companies and technology that have successfully adopted them. NIST anticipates that measures coming out of this process will be implemented by the end of 2010.

You can download the fill draft report here.

picture-31611VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your early-bird tickets for $495 before Sept. 30 at

PayPal Co-Founder And Founders Fund Partner Joins DNA Sequencing Firm Halcyon Molecular

PayPal co-founder and Founders Fund Managing Partner Luke Nosek is tackling a new field: DNA sequencing. Nosek sent out an email (which we’ve pasted below) saying that he has joined Halcyon Molecular, a human genome sequencing firm, as founding president.

According to the email, Halcyon will sequence complete human genomes in less than ten minutes and for less than $100. This is significant drop in price and time from existing genome sequencing labs that take weeks and thousands of dollars to process DNA. Nosek writes that he will continue to lead The Founders Fund’s genomics investing, but his primary role will be leading and advising Halcyon as the company progresses and readies for launch. Nosek adds that Peter Thiel, fellow co-founder of PayPal and Managing Partner at Founders Fund will be joining Halcyon’s board.

When Halcyon Molecular finally launches, its pricing and timing could be revolutionary. 23andme, which reads and tests parts of the human genome and was co-founded by Sergey Brin’s wife Anne Wojcicki, is similar in theory. But 23andme doesn’t do a full genome scan, which Halcyon promises to do, but rather looks at SNPs, which are regions of high variability in the human genome.

This summer I joined as Founding President of Halcyon Molecular, an extraordinary company which has developed a technology for sequencing DNA vastly more quickly, completely, accurately, and cheaply than ever. Ultimately, Halcyon will sequence 100% complete human genomes in less than 10 minutes and for less than $100. Current methods, which take weeks, sequence only about 90% of the genome, and cost from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on completeness.

Because only a handful of human genomes have been sequenced (and none completely), statistically significant insights have been hard to come by. If genetic research doesn’t seemed to have lived up to its therapeutic promise, it’s because sequencing is just too slow and expensive. With Halcyon’s technology, the pool of genetic information will grow by orders of magnitude in the course of months, offering the first real chance at cures for cancer and other previously intractable diseases. With full sequencing and analysis of millions of genomes, biology can begin to turn into an information science and travel down the path of Moore’s law. While we have 10X better computers and video games every ten years, we do not have 10X better cancer cures and we do not really understand what causes the major killer diseases of the first world other than the cop-out term “aging”. We must change this.

Halcyon’s progress has been rapid in the months since I joined. We have:

· Raised significantly more capital than we need
· Hired world leaders in biochemistry, nanofabrication, and electron microscopy
· Expanded our academic collaborations with Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley
· Received a $2 million dollar aberration corrected STEM electron microscope on loan from the Department of Energy

Founders Fund and myself have made a significant bet on this firm, perhaps the most significant since our investment in Facebook. I have joined as President and moved closer to Halcyon’s future offices in Stanford Research Park to work intensively with the team (I maintain my board seats on SpaceX, Pathway Genomics, and continue to lead Founders Fund’s genomics investing as well). Peter Thiel also joined the board to lend his expertise. But ultimately Halcyon needs the greatest scientists and engineers in the world to succeed in its mission. I know that exceptional people are hard to come by, but of all the Founders Fund companies that have, or have the potential to change the world – Facebook, SpaceX, Palantir, e.g. – Halcyon is the one with the chance to do so in the most profound way possible. It is truly vital that it work.

I want to stress that this is the most talented team I have ever worked with. This is not a job for your best friend’s brother-in-law. Halcyon people have put aside and left their homes, their million dollar salaries, full professorships at major universities, and fully seed-funded startup companies to be part of this effort.

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

The iPhone & Nokia’s Troubles, By the Numbers [GigaOM]

Helsinki…you have a problem! (Actually it’s Espoo which has a problem, but Helsinki sounded better.)

europeanhandsetsales.gif If you want to know why Nokia is in trouble, you need to look no further than its market share declines during the second quarter of 2009 in the company’s home market of Western Europe. This region accounts for a majority of its high-end phone sales. During the quarter, Nokia handset sales were down 19 percent (year-over-year), according to market research firm IDC, to about 15.3 million units. Overall handset sales for the quarter were down 6 percent and will be down a total of 10 percent for 2009, IDC says.

This data exposes Nokia’s Achilles heel. The reason why Nokia is suffering is because it doesn’t have a hit device to address the fast-growing smartphone market. Smartphone sales were up 25 percent to 8.8 million units compared to a year ago, IDC says. That’s about 1.75 million smartphones for the quarter. Guess who’s winning sales in the smartphone category? Apple, which sold about 1.4 million iPhones, and RIM, which sold 1.2 million BlackBerrys during the quarter.

What we’re seeing is a complete upheaval in the handset market. We’re seeing two traditional powerhouses — Nokia and Sony Ericsson — be upended by North American and Asian competitors, some of them newcomers to the market. These two companies will continue to lose market share for a couple of reasons: Carriers like Vodafone are launching their own smartphone devices and most importantly, Google’s Android-based devices made by companies such as Motorola and HTC are about to hit the market in large numbers in 2010.

Nokia is particularly vulnerable because it doesn’t quite have a presence in the U.S. market. Let’s see how it does in Asia and rest of the world.

Google Sites API Aims For Data Liberation

googlecode_api_sept09.jpgIn 2008, Google acquisition JotSpot announced that it would "expand upon the Google Page Creator already offered within Apps." The idea was that JotSpot would power a system to help businesses set up their own collaboration, project management and customer extranets. After 3 years of sitting quietly in the Google arsenal, JotSpot has now reemerged in the form of a Google Sites Data API.


googleapi_sites_sept09a.jpgScott Johnston, Senior Product Manager for Google Sites spoke to ReadWriteWeb about the benefits of this new API. In addition to offering users the ability to share and edit user content across Google Sites, all of your content can be accessed using the Google Data Protocol. In other words, as per Google's Data Liberation Front, users can import and export apps from Microsoft SharePoint sites into Google Sites or vice versa.

One advantage over SharePoint is that Google Sites does not require users to maintain software on PCs. Google Sites builds on the company's already well-established strengths - including cloud-based office tools and impeccable search. With the new API, if users choose to switch from SharePoint to Google Sites, they've now got an easy way to migrate their content.


Google Book Settlement Negotiations Continue

googlebooks_settlement_sept09a.jpgAs of today, federal judge Denny Chin granted a motion to delay the planned October 7th Google Book settlement. In an trial rife with controversy, Chin noted that it was pointless to hold a hearing on a settlement when key points were still being negotiated with the Department of Justice. According to the New York Times, "The first clear signs that the settlement in its current form would be derailed came late Friday, when the Justice Department raised a number of legal and antitrust objections to it." Nevertheless, with so many objections filed, it appears to the public like the revision process has never really stopped.


googlebooks_settlement_sept09b.jpgMore than 400 objections have been filed from various groups. Some of those include the National Writers Union, concerned privacy advocates.

While Judge Chin notes that the settlement can have positive affects on the public, he states, "It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be struck, the public would benefit. Under all the circumstances, it makes no sense to conduct a hearing on the fairness and reasonableness of the current settlement agreement, as it does not appear that the current settlement will be the operative one."

Instead of the hearing, the court will hold a status conference to review next steps to the case. To view the order visit the Google Book Settlement Page.

Photo Credit: Timothy Vollmer


Best Twitter Client? [Hive Five Call For Contenders]

If you're an infrequent Twitter user you may never venture from the simple interface on the Twitter website. Regular users however have found third-party Twitter applications to be a fantastic addition to their micro-blogging experience.

This week we want to hear about your favorite Twitter client. Whether it's web-based, installed on your computer, or on your mobile phone, we want to hear about the third-party tool you use to Twitter and what it is about that tool which makes it your number one choice.

Hive Five nominations take place in the comments, where you post your favorite tool for the job. We get hundreds of comments, so to make your nomination clear, please include it at the top of your comment like so: VOTE: Twitter Client. Please don't include your vote in a reply to another commenter. Instead, make your vote and reply separate comments. If you don't follow this format, we may not count your vote. To prevent tampering with the results, votes from first-time commenters may not be counted. After you've made your nomination, let us know what makes it stand out from the competition.

About the Hive Five: The Hive Five feature series asks readers to answer the most frequently asked question we get: "Which tool is the best?" Once a week we'll put out a call for contenders looking for the best solution to a certain problem, then YOU tell us your favorite tools to get the job done. Every weekend, we'll report back with the top five recommendations and give you a chance to vote on which is best. For an example, check out last week's Hive Five Best Time-Tracking Applications.

DEMO: ShareGrove extends Facebook to conversations

conversationsA criticism of social networks like Twitter and Facebook is that they promote superficiality over depth when users post hundreds of miniature updates about their lives. What suffers are the conversations, say the founders of ShareGrove, a San Mateo-based startup that presented at DEMOFall 09, a conference co-presented by VentureBeat.

picture-83While one of Facebook’s biggest aims is to strengthen the “weak ties” in a person’s social network, like distant acquaintances or friends from the past, most of a user’s online interactions tends to be with a handful of their closest friends, said ShareGrove co-founder Kent Libbey.

ShareGrove is a site that uses Facebook Connect to bring a person’s closest friends into a space that’s a hybrid between e-mail, a Facebook wall and group chat. It immediately updates whenever a member of the group posts an item (like Friendfeed which was recently acquired by Facebook) and incorporates search when a user types in a comment. So if you type in the name of a book for sale on Amazon, that will appear in a left-hand column as an object that you can drag and drop into the comment. It’s also a revenue model for ShareGrove as Amazon pays a small percentage of its sales to partners that refer them customers.

ShareGrove’s one of a handful of projects (like Zenbe and Google Wave) that are trying to find a new form of communication that melds the best of breed from all others, so that users don’t have to constantly switch between e-mailing, Twittering and blogging. (Lissn is another variant of this that launched at TechCrunch50 last week. But ShareGrove is private and Lissn is public.) While ShareGrove might have trouble gaining the same user traction that Google Wave will have when it comes out for public beta next week, its thinking and incorporation of search points the way toward a more integrated form of communication in the future.

ShareGrove is seed funded by Elm Street Ventures.