Fueled by $4 billion from Uncle Sam, industry leaders from an array of companies are working to establish a set of standards that will act as a road map for creating a smart electrical grid, significantly changing the field service profession in its wake. With so many players – IT and power companies, consumer electronics groups, appliance makers, and telecoms – reaching consensus won’t be easy, but the threat of federal intervention is keeping industry leaders on track.

Guaranteed to shake up the service industry, the smart electrical grid will pose new challenges for field service techs. According to industry expert Bastian Fischer in an interview with “Power & Energy,”

Twenty-first century utility jobs will be significantly different from those of the 20th century. Field service technicians are a good example. Smart grids means fewer ‘false alarm’ service calls because utilities will know if a customer’s meter is working before sending a repair crew. On the other hand, when they receive an assignment, it may be more challenging. Technicians will be responsible for more sophisticated, complex equipment. And there will be more of it – more sensors, more distributed computing devices. But the tasks technicians handle will likely be much more demanding.

Tuesday, the NIST organized a round table to address the federal government’s role in the creation of standards for the country’s smart grid. Too much regulation could stifle the fledgling industry and too little pressure from the federal government could result in a stalemate. But attendees agreed that the government’s involvement was useful in helping move the process along.

According to GigaOM, Mark Chandler, general counsel for Cisco and one of the round table’s panelists, called what NIST did “critical,” to driving forward the move to open standards, and putting the industry on a path to success.

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.