When it comes to smart grid deployments the need for “open” architecture using Internet Protocol has become resounding (IP is one of our Winners of 2009 on GigaOM Pro). Hey, even the phone companies — who have long built closed, proprietary networks — want to offer something in the ballpark of an open network. This morning Verizon Wireless announced that it is partnering with Ambient Corporation to offer customers an “Open Smart Grid Communications Architecture,” which they bill as “an open communications network” for utilities’ smart grid programs.
Ambient, which builds network gear and software based on IP will be supplying the smart grid network portion, and the architecture will run over Verizon Wireless’ 3G network. Verizon and Ambient say their network can connect with utilities’ private IP networks, and the duo is highlighting the security features and the long-term infrastructure investment of Verizon’s network.
Following the lead of the broadband world, IP is swiftly turning into one of the dominant choices for utilities for their new smart grid networks (many previous deployments of utility networks are based on proprietary standards). Infrastructure biggies Silver Spring Networks and Cisco build IP-based networks, and IP has been pushed heavily by Google and others in the Internet set that have moved into energy.
Ambient has developed an “X-3100 smart grid node” that can extend Verizon Wireless’ 3G network via communications standards Wi-Fi, power line carrier, Zigbee and WiMAX communications technology. In other words the companies are saying that utilities that sign up for their open IP smart grid network will, like other open IP networks, be able to connect to the common IP broadand standards. But of course, utilities will be using 3G for the backbone of the network, which is not an open IP network.
Some utilities that I’ve talked to that are building out their own networks say that 3G just doesn’t provide enough bandwidth or flexibility. A utility like San Diego Gas & Electric is building out its own network that will use various IP wireless standards, include a small portion made up by WiMAX. But a utility that doesn’t need such a robust network, could be quite happy running services over a phone company network.
Verizon is by no means the only phone company that is offering its network for smart grid services. They pretty much all are. Last month AT&T (a T) announced a partnership with network player Silver Spring — AT&T works with SmartSynch as well. And SmartSynch has for a long time marketed itself as the phone company smart grid player, but following the open IP trend, the company more recently launched a universal IP open smart grid router product.
Image courtesy of Verizon Wireless.