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The first quarter of cleantech was a mix of good and bad news. Avis’ purchase of Zipcar and Silver Spring Networks’ long-awaited IPO finally occurring were further signs of thawing capital markets and movement in the acquisition space. However, in both situations valuations were lower than hoped, a sign of how investors view cleantech. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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smartmeter

The deployment of smart meters combined with the growth of cloud computing infrastructure has created opportunities to build business models around the volume of emerging energy data. Those who use data to solve customer problems and leverage decades of software development and advances in big data will attract investment dollars. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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In some cleantech sectors we’re nearing the end of painful times, but 2013 will still be a challenging year. VC funding remains tight, solar is seeing further consolidation, and the production tax credit for wind and power will likely expire. The thrust of investing will move toward companies serving unsubsidized markets where software plays a role in reducing power consumption. In many ways this is a return to plays for energy efficiency. And companies like Tesla, Opower, SolarCity, and Calxeda have the potential to show that there is still money to be made from business models built around saving energy. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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The focus of this year’s GigaOM RoadMap Conference was on design and the user interface, and how those are critical to succeeding in a connected world. During the event, attendees took time to consider important strategic issues, from what UIs will look like after Siri to where the IPO market is today and how it could affect early-stage companies. We’ve gathered some of the key takeaways from these sessions and other parts of GigaOM RoadMap to provide a brief analysis on how companies and devices will best connect with users in the future. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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How do data-center-dependent companies like Google, Amazon or Facebook reduce their power bill and, with it, their carbon footprint? The server itself could now be designed to use less power. With that possibility looming, a number of players are jumping in, from startups trying to engineer power-efficient fabrics to established chip makers like Intel that are working on lower-power processors. The race is on to see if data-center hardware can be cost-effectively implemented with a residual lowering of overall power use. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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Finally, smart-thermostat darling Nest hit a snag when Honeywell slapped it with a broad patent-infringement lawsuit over IP related to building a learning thermostat. As much a competitive strategy as anything else, the suit shows that Honeywell has woken up to the threat of a new kid on the block, and it raises larger questions about how the patent and legal systems are being used these days by major corporations. In the short term, Nest likely will have to come to some kind of settlement with the multibillion-dollar company. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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meter

Many have predicted a “big data tsunami” that will transform the energy sector and open an entirely new market for smart-grid data analytics. Stepping into the fray is the next generation of smart-grid companies, which this report profiles. It is a diverse group that includes a cast of characters from relatively mature players like Tendril to very young companies like GridMobility. Many would say they don’t need smart meters to implement their products but rather that a smart meter makes their products much more effective. Smart meter or not, what has changed is that utilities are becoming proactive and are looking at computing and data as an opportunity to improve load balance, better address outages, and shape consumer behavior to save energy. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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The fourth quarter also saw a first glimpse of how well the electric vehicle (EV) market is doing. So far it’s pretty tepid, with Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt sales figures coming in below expectations. Though the table is set for two big rollouts this year — Tesla’s luxury Model S sedan and the long-delayed Fisker Karma — EVs remain expensive, particularly for the mass-market EVs like the Leaf. It will be worth watching to see if the luxury sedans find a market with a wealthier audience. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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As we look toward the next year, the cleantech sector faces many challenges, which we examine in detail in this 2012 outlook. Renewable energy generators encounter an increasingly difficult subsidy environment, and key cleantech innovations like electric vehicles face an uphill climb in terms of connecting with a larger market. The effort to build cleaner data centers continues. Meanwhile, low-power chips will get a shot at creating further energy savings at the server level. There remains, however, something of a silver lining, with companies like Nest poised to innovate in the home energy management space and Silver Spring Network’s potentially successful IPO offering a shot in the arm for the smart grid. Additional companies mentioned in this report include ARM, Calxeda, Getaround and Solyndra. For a full list of companies, and to read the full report, sign up for a free trial. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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The momentum right now in cleantech is as much about connectivity and how it can drive energy efficiency as it is about advancing sources of renewable energy. And as the web and mobile connectivity change our consumer experiences, the opportunities to redefine cleantech are rich, and they are already happening. This research note examines the cleantech space in that context and analyzes the car-sharing, home-energy-management and smart-grid sectors and their relevant companies to see how connectivity will play into their future endeavors. Companies mentioned in this report include RelayRides, Opower, Silver Spring Networks and Nest. For a full list of companies, and to read the full report, sign up for a free trial. Read more at Gigaom Research »

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Car sharing continues to roar on as one of the most tangible ways in which we’re seeing an ideal of the cleantech movement—reducing resource consumption—finding market appeal. Capital flowed to peer-to-peer car sharing startup Getaround, Zipcarhit college campuses and strengthened its ties with Ford, and Hertz got further into the game. Read more at Gigaom Research »