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Verizon, Qualcomm, GE Back Quiet Smart Grid Firm Consert

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You would think that any startup that pulls in funding from the likes of industry heavyweights Verizon (s VZ), Qualcomm (s QCOM) and General Electric (s GE), would have a long track record. But smart grid startup Consert just jumped onto my radar with its announcement this morning that it’s raised $17.7 million from GE Energy Financial Services, Verizon Ventures, Qualcomm and Constellation Energy (s CEG).

Consert who? The most important thing to know about Consert is that it plans to largely utilize Verizon’s 3G wireless network as a backbone to offer demand management, smart meter and home area network services. In the funding release today Consert emphasizes that partnership. It’s not unusual for Qualcomm and Verizon to work together. The two have been longtime 3G partners and have previously announced machine-to-machine services together, which run data over networks used by devices (like smart meters), but don’t include consumer customers and cell phone accounts (see our recent report on telco machine-to-machine networks at GigaOM Pro, subscription required).

Consert was in the news a bit back in September 2009 when it said it had started a smart grid pilot project in Fayetteville, N.C. which reduced energy consumption of consumers by 20 percent. In that trial Consert attached controllers to HVAC systems, water heaters and pool pumps, to manage consumer energy consumption, which is somewhat unusual compared to other home energy management companies in this space. The company also boasted that its network could offer services in real time (as opposed to once every 15 minutes, once an hour or once every 24 hours, which is common for other offerings) because of the Verizon 3G network.

Consert also says its technology is built on IBM (s IBM) enterprise software, and its utility pilot projects have been done in conjunction with IBM.

The company is clearly taking a telco-centric approach to the smart grid. Its board of directors and executives have long telecom backgrounds. CEO and President Jack Roberts was CEO of research company Telephia, and a senior managing director of the Blackstone Group. Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Joseph Forbes was president and CEO of WiMAX company America Connect and CEO of wireless services company Galaxy Engineering Services.

Phone companies have just started to get more aggressive in terms of the massive market that is the smart grid. Earlier this week AT&T (s T) said it had partnered with smart grid firm Current Group, in addition to its partnerships with Silver Spring Networks and Smart Synch. Verizon has also reportedly been looking to offer a home energy management service and device via its fiber service.

For more research on M2M and the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

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