Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Smart grid communications – is there collaboration in sight?

There’s been a lot of news and discussion recently around smart grid communications and the competing platforms.  Here’s a brief update. 

Back in March Cisco announced that it had bought a stake in Grid Net, a privately-held smart grid company.  Grid Net develops software that handles transmission of electricity over power grids and also smart meter software. 

The thing is that Grid Net is a WIMAX supporter when it comes to smart meter communications and it now has Clearwire, Motorola, Intel and General Electric on its side.  Grid Net sees its 4G WIMAX integration as a product differentiator.  Cisco’s support gives the approach a lot of extra clout, but WIMAX is the (relatively) new kid on the blog and faces stiff competition.

From the likes of smart grid solutions company SmartSynch, which advocates the use of public wireless networks for smart meter communications.  The company recently extended its partnership with smart meter supplier Itron to include mobile communications, integrated with Itron’s IP-based Open Way platform. 

It seems that DTE Energy, a Detroit-based energy company, is experimenting with the functionality in a deployment of OpenWay which will extend to 2.6 million electric meters and 700,000 natural gas meters.

There is also a third option, in the form of proprietary networks such as that from Trilliant, helped by the acquisition last year of wireless equipment company SkyPilot.  We reported on recent network products from the company back in March.

In the light of these competing platforms and technologies, it was good to hear, earlier in April, that SmartSynch has formed the GridRouter EcoSystem with the intention of establishing an interoperable, IP-based communications business network for the smart grid.  Companies that join will gain access to a collaborative network of cross-vendor innovation, made possible by the SmartSynch GridRouter, described as “the industry’s first universal smart grid communications solution supporting multiple communication networks (public or private) and connectivity to any smart grid device”.

The idea is to transform competition into collaboration to provide utilities with a differentiated choice of smart grid solutions that are certified for interoperability. Supporters already include AT&T, Motorola, T-Mobile, Rogers Communications, Itron, Daviscomms USA, Futaba Corporation and AuthenTec.

Given that Pike Research forecast last December that ”Smart grid infrastructure, including grid automation upgrades as well as smart metering, represents a huge market opportunity and will attract $200bn in worldwide investment between 2008 and 2015”, there’s clearly a lot to play for. 

© The Green IT Review

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