IBM: All Your Smart Meters Are Belong to Us

Will IBM (s IBM) become the master controller of smart meter networks? IBM on Monday launched a new line of software meant to help utilities get their smart meter networks running in proper order.

Much of what IBM’s promising from its new so-called Intelligent Metering Network Management software platform sounds like the kind of stuff smart meters are already supposed to do on their own. The list includes using smart meter data to pinpoint power grid outages and detect failing grid equipment to replace it before it fails.

But IBM says its software will help utilities’ smart meter networks run more smoothly and will also enable the networks to deliver more value (to learn more about interesting applications from the smart grid, come to our Green:Net 2011 event on April 21 in San Francisco). In addition IBM says its software will enable smart meters from different vendors to talk to one another, and even allow different utilities to talk to one another, according to Dave Bartlett, IBM’s vice president of industry solutions.

IBM thinks its competitive advantage for its new software is its scale. While startups may have innovative technologies to add to the picture, “We work well at scale,” Bartlett said. For example, CMP is working with IBM partner Trilliant to deploy smart meters for roughly 620,000 customers, and Trilliant is using IBM’s umbrella smart meter management software platform.

Overall integration is the name of IBM’s smart grid game, to be sure. The company launched a broad-based utility services offering launched in 2009, and followed up with a smart grid communications partnership program in September. Partners in its network include many of the world’s biggest smart meter makers — Itron (s ITRI), Landis+Gyr and Sensus — and smart meter networking partners like Trilliant, Cisco (s CSCO) and Juniper Networks, representing some of the different end points that could be linked together by IBM’s new software platform.

Utilities facing a host of unfamiliar smart grid technologies are increasingly looking for help in managing them, whether it’s from giants like IBM or Microsoft (s MSFT) on the software side, Cisco on the networking side or Accenture, Logica and CapGemini from the consulting and services side. These kinds of smart grid managed services are going to grow to a $4.3 billion global market by 2015, up from $470 million last year, Pike Research predicts.

CenterPoint Energy is IBM’s first named utility customer using the software — not surprising, since the Texas utility has been the showcase for a number of IBM’s smart grid integration services. Others are using IBM’s software platform behind the scenes, Bartlett said.

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Image courtesy of Manywinters via Creative Commons license.