Summary:

Silver Spring Networks, which builds smart grid networks for utilities, today announced a reseller partnership with Control4, a startup that provides home automation gear and services. This deal between the two leaders in these spaces shows how the smart home sector is maturing.

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Two leaders in the smart grid networking and home energy management sectors are teaming up. On Wednesday afternoon Silver Spring Networks, which builds smart grid networks for utilities, announced a reseller partnership with Control4, a startup that provides home automation gear and services. The move suggests a continued maturing market around the consumer portion of the smart grid.

Basically, utilities can now buy a network with demand response functionality (used to reduce power consumption during peak demand times) via Silver Spring that connects into the home to Control4’s smart thermostats, dashboards, and smart appliance controllers. The partners are already providing this end-to-end network technology for the smart grid project of utility AEP Ohio.

Both these companies are well-known to utilities — Silver Spring is one of the oldest smart grid-specific networking companies around and Control4 moved into the smart energy home space in the summer of 2009, but had been selling home automation products for years.

The residential piece of the smart grid will be crucial to keep utilities’ customers happy, and will play a key role in reducing energy consumption in homes. A handful of consumers, mostly in California and Texas, have lashed out against smart meters for reasons as various as health and privacy concerns as well as claims that meters were inaccurate. The more established and trusted the players are in this space the better.

The indication that the utility-side of the smart home is making some progress, follows in the footsteps of a recent push by consumer electronics companies and telecom firms looking to tap into the smart home, including home energy management. As I noted in this article “The Telco Energy Home Is Coming . . .For Real This Time, which I wrote for GigaOM Pro (subscription required), Verizon, AT&T and Motorola have all moved into this area in recent weeks.

Remember though, that the market for the smart energy home — from the utility side, the telco perspective, and the gadget makers viewpoint — is still tiny right now. It’s made up by a handful of utility trials, Verizon’s trial in New Jersey, and DIYers that have bought stand alone gadgets like the TED. However, Pike Research predicts that by 2015, 28 million homeowners around the world will be using some kind of high-tech tool to manage their energy use.

Silver Spring has placed more of an emphasis on the edge of the network (smart grid applications) in recent months, and earlier this month showed off electric vehicle charging connected to its smart grid network. And back in September 2009, Silver Spring bought energy management software company Greenbox. In this afternoon’s announcement Silver Spring says its Customer IQ web portal (the renamed Greenbox product) will connect with Control4’s devices.

Silver Spring had been rumored to IPO in 2010, but didn’t end up filing. Will 2011 be the year that Silver Spring goes for the public markets? As I put it in this end-of-the-year piece, a Silver Spring IPO would be a big score for the overall smart grid sector.

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