Anticipation of Web 3.0 for Future Smart Energy Systems
Written by Zhebin Chen and Zhao Yang Dong
Web: Past and Future
The World Wide Web (the Web) is perceived as one of the fastest growing technologies with exponential growth over the past decades has emerged as the main platform of communication worldwide. The Web has developed and matured in a unique way with exponentially growing functionalities or opportunities as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Evolution of the Web from 1.0 to 3.0.
The emergence of the first website in 1991 marked the entry of the Web 1.0 era. Web 1.0 was the first implementation of the World Wide Web, which played the role of a platform where information could be published in a static manner [1, 2]. The first-generation web was designed for content delivery from a small number of writers who created websites with well-designed text and images . In this way, little interaction was needed in the era of Web 1.0 where users seldom made content contributions, and therefore the webs within this period are also known as read-only webs . Since Web 1.0 technologies provided static and read-only pages, the contents were not machine-compatible and dynamic representation was not possible at that time.
Decades later, the second generation of web, Web 2.0, gradually appeared. A conference brainstorming session between O’Reilly and MediaLive International marked the beginning of the Web 2.0 concept, . It was then systematically defined by Dougherty in 2004 as a read-write web . With Web 2.0, users were now able to write their own content on websites. A representative example of Web 2.0 is the establishment of Facebook in 2004, which also marked the explosive growth of interactive Internet. Although Web 2.0 allowed users to make their own contributions, there was a consensus that Web 2.0 was more like an extension of Web 1.0 with regard to the original ideas, principles and underlying infrastructure . It was described as a greater collaboration between different communities among which were enabled to reuse and distribute information . However, knowledge sharing and interconnectivity remained limited across community boundaries .
Under Web 2.0, Internet companies made profits by providing customers with cheap products and then acquiring user interaction data and pushing advertisements accordingly. This kind of business model has lasted for a long time. However, with increasing privacy awareness, web users have gradually paid more attention to their individual information. Apart from reading and writing, users are also eager to hold the ownership of interaction data, and this gave birth to the third generation of the web–Web 3.0. Web 3.0 was mentioned by John Markoff of the New York Times at an early stage in 2006 , where he stated that the essential idea of Web 3.0 was to construct structured data and connect them with an efficient network of information. Up to now, the latest version of the concept about Web 3.0 was proposed by Gavin Wood, the founder of Ethereum, in 2014. Not only about a technological innovation or a semantic web, Web 3.0 is able to derive an ecosystem completely isolated from the physical world based on the architecture logic of blockchain. Without an administrator, each derived ecosystem can use its own incentive mechanism to maintain operation and achieve self-upgrade. Furthermore, this ecosystem could have its own distinct economic system. For example, it can have its own capital currency and smart contracts to realize value circulation. Web 3.0 opens up huge opportunities for different sectors, including the power and energy sector.
Opportunities and Challenges to the Energy Sector
Because of the increasing scale and the vast information to be processed, modern power systems are inseparable from information technology. As the era of Web 3.0 approaches, the development of future power and energy system management, trading, operations, and planning will experience revolutionary growth and progress, together with unprecedented challenges.
Opportunities and Advantages
Compared with Web 2.0, one of the important features of Web 3.0 is decentralization. Systems will not be operated by administrators anymore. Instead, the information will be released, kept, untraceable and never leaked by the user, while any behavior of the user could transfer without any intermediary agency. This attribute breaks the power company’s monopoly on user data and maintains user data security to a certain extent. In the past, user data was collected by electricity companies and used for various operations and planning purposes. For individual users, passively accepting this was the only option. Under Web 3.0, however, user data would be owned by users themselves. This will empower users as real prosumers with various value propositions associated with the data. Meanwhile, users will not lose their data due to the change or collapse of service providers. This greatly improves the reliability and value of the users’ data.
On the other hand, collaboration and connection among customers, operators, regulators, developers, and machines will be enhanced. Since Web 3.0 involves semantic systems which enable self-understanding of machines, information that was originally disorganized will become structured with sophisticated logic. It could make the information become integrated, precise, and ever ready for retrieval. Meanwhile, as Web 3.0 technology has the ability to interpret data, a new area of eLearning would grow and expand its coverage in the power sector . Web 3.0’s features will bring opportunities to integrate multi-party information and then provide effective recommendations for the development and improvement of power systems.
Potential Risks and Challenges
Decentralization is the core mechanism of Web 3.0 and blockchain technologies. Within this mechanism, users hold their information themselves and peer-to-peer communication among users and developers makes information exchange more confidential. Under Web 3.0 era, there would be a great amount of metadata, much more than in Web 2.0 as with ontologies the integration capabilities of metadata will increase. In this way, users may lose track of information because there will not be centralized management. Especially for sensitive data, this non-traceability may lead to a flaw to inference attacks where confidential information is harvested and disclosed by integrating non-sensitive information with metadata . For example, phishing or identity theft is a crime with unlawful misappropriation of user information without authorization. Such security risks also existed in the past, but in the era of Web 3.0, this type of threat will appear more frequently and be more precise, introducing more risks to the security of user data.
Apart from technological difficulties, there will be legal challenges with Web 3.0. In the era of centralization, all information is managed by a central administrator that facilitates effective oversight of the use and management of information. However, if the Web 3.0 mode is disseminated in a decentralized form, data is owned by separate individuals and becomes untraceable. It will consequently be much more difficult to deal with illegal holding of non-compliant information. The data recording of the power system is of immeasurable importance to the overall operation of the system, and any improper use may cause incalculable losses for prosumers, utilities, and society.
SummaryUnder the basic framework of decentralization, Web 3.0 can provide technological improvements and help develop more efficient mechanisms for future power systems. Future power system operations, planning, trading, and management will undoubtedly adapt to Web 3.0 technology as it offers clear competitive advantages, and already existing technologies prove that the future will usher in new tides. However, the actual development is still in its infancy. As it comes to understand the potentials and challenges associated with Web 3.0, the power and energy sector can surely expect major advances after smart grid.
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