The smart grid is a network and one company can’t provide all of the end-to-end gear or software. That’s why strategic partnerships will be key for companies, particularly startups. This morning Grid Net, the smart meter software startup that has been building a smart grid ecosystem around the wireless standard WiMAX, announced that it’s partnered with software heavyweight Oracle to sell its network and meter management software.
The win is significant for Grid Net, given Oracle has been selling software to utilities for years, particular after it acquired SPL WorldGroup in 2006, a leading provider of revenue and operations management software for the utilities industry. About a year ago Oracle decided to make a bigger leap into smart grid network software and launched what it called an end-to-end software solution for electricity distributors looking to embrace smart grid technologies.
The relationship with Grid Net is through Oracle’s Partner Network and Oracle also works with software startup eMeter, smart meter maker Sensus, and software maker AMX International. IBM, Cisco and Silver Spring Networks have similar strategies to partner with startups and technology companies to be able to sell full end-to-end network solutions to utilities.
The future of innovation — and a lot of the marketplace — for the smart grid will emerge in the software layer. Utilities will install the hardware for their networks once over couple of decades but will be looking to offering services and software-based solutions over those networks on an ongoing basis.
It’s also the software players that dominated computing and the Internet, like IBM and Oracle, that will be leading deals with utilities — hence why a company like Grid Net needs to align with Oracle. Enterprise software company SAP also sells a software package that helps utilities integrate smart meter data with backend sales, services and billing, and Accenture sells smart grid software and consulting services.
What was also clear in Grid Net’s release today is that the company is trying to move away from being branded as the WiMAX smart grid company. Grid Net’s Chief Strategy Officer, Andres Carvallo, told me in May when he joined the firm from Austin Energy that Grid Net would basically be able to integrate with any kind of wireless or broadband technology that its utility customers wanted including LTE (the cellular next-generation wireless technology).
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