Siemens is packing up half of the world and taking it on a road trip. The Smart Grid Tour features a 3,000 square-foot dome that resembles a bisected earth, which was unveiled at the IEEE Smart Grid conference in New Orleans to educate stakeholders from utilities to homeowners about the smart grid and what it can do for them.

Inside the geodesic structure is a journey through the power system from generation to end point, highlighting where smart grid applications (and more specifically, Siemens Energy technology) fits in at every step. There is an overdue need for such consumer engagement after smart meter backlash in California and Texas and because of an overwhelming unfamiliarity amongst the public in regards to smart grid.

The space-age exhibit is hands-on and interactive, with touch screens and video screens. Visitors who aren't so interested in substations and transmission lines can skip to the section that interests them and speak to a technical expert about any specific questions.

Siemens did not build the road show just for residential and commercial consumers, however. The dome is also intended to educate potential regulators, politicians and even utilities.

"People are interested in what affects them and how it affects the people they interact with," said Wes Sylvester, Director of Smart Grid, Siemens Energy Inc.

The tour is another signal that the industry is turning its focus to education. Other companies, including Control4 and GE, recently launched the Smart Grid Consumer Coalition, which will provide research and education to help consumers understand and embrace smart grid.

Sylvester said the advantage of the dome is that it allows utilities to see how consumers are expected to make use of the information that will be provided by technologies like smart meters and energy management software, and it allows consumers to understand how their actions will in turn affect utilities.

The tour, which will travel to Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, New York/New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., is also not set in stone. Sylvester said that as the focus and questions about smart grid shift, the exhibits and experts inside the dome are prepared to switch gears as well (pending further smart meter backlash). "It's not a fixed presentation so the more we learn, the more we improve," said Sylvester. "We want to educate everyone."

The tour will also include education sessions and thought leadership events in each city it visits.

Tags: consumers, siemens, smart grid