Is it “the Rosetta Stone of the smart grid?” Well, that’s a tall order, but smart grid network company SmartSynch says it’s launching a “universal” router for the smart grid, dubbed GridRouter, that can connect various networks, products and languages to help create an open ecosystem for the next-generation version of the digital power grid. The Internet Protocol-based GridRouter can act as a bridge between proprietary smart grid devices from companies, says SmartSynch.
It’s true that the current power grid is made up of a whole bunch of proprietary technology that exists in silos at utilities. As Pike Research analyst Clint Wheelock has told me, the vast majority of utility wireless smart grid networks are built on proprietary wireless technology. But the trend from smart grid network companies, particularly those with roots in the infotech world like Silver Spring Networks and Cisco, has been to build next-generation network gear based on IP. So clearly there’s a change underway.
SmartSynch’s gear is different from these end-to-end IP networks products in that it can help utilities connect their legacy systems before, or in lieu of, a full network upgrade to the open ecosystem of all IP. If a utility doesn’t necessarily want to make the large capital expense of a new network, SmartSynch’s GridRouters can connect what they currently are using “without having to replace an entire system backbone.” SmartSynch CEO Stephen Johnston told me in a phone interview that the company’s router option costs significantly less than the end-to-end network option, and each GridRouter costs $500.
SmartSynch goes out of its way to say that it doesn’t think the router is competitive with the smart grid industry but that it will facilitate collaboration. SmartSynch also described the router as “doing for the smart grid what Cisco did for the Internet.” But if utilities forgo larger network upgrades from companies like Silver Spring (who many have described as the Cisco of the smart grid) and Cisco itself in favor of SmartSynch’s tool, then SmartSynch’s router will inevitably be competitive.