Jun 15, 2015

Top 10 companies shaping the future of smart grid technology

Top 10
7 min
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition...

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of Energy Digital 

New technological innovations in the world of data, electronics and information sharing have revolutionized the electrical grid. Smart grids enable a more energy efficient electrical grid, saving money for both utility companies and consumers, which is why so many reputable companies are focused on creating innovations within this field.

The following 10 companies have each made significant progress in various fields related to smart grid technologies. Some of them have created solutions that help improve consumer adoption, while others are enhancing security and efficiency. Each company on this list was selected because they have made notable advancements in the world of smart grids.

Related: [REPORT]: Networking Market for Smart Grids could be Worth $11.69 Billion by 2019

10. Tendril

Tendril has produced an Energy Services Management platform that’s helping energy providers and smart grid users further understand their needs and uses. This unique platform employs a “leaderboard” so that different user’s usages can be compared. The goal of Tendril is to create a system that will deliver the right message and energy to the right customer.

This technology is helping to advance the overall utility of the smart grid by allowing end users to dictate how they interact with the smart grid. Providing users with increased options not only helps save them money, but it helps them understand how the smart grid is different than traditional grids. This motivates smart grid adoption, something that’s good for this emerging technology.

9. Schneider Electric

With the goal of creating a stable grid with fewer fluctuations in price, Schneider Electric has developed what they call a “prosumer solution.” This solution is centered on being able to control the smart grid from the customer’s location, both in homes and businesses. With software tailored to them, these “prosumers” will be able to customize in demand responses from the smart grid, improve grid reliability and automate their usage.

This software is greatly improving how customers of utility companies are interacting with the smart grid. Much like advancements made by Tendril, these changes will improve how end users feel about the new technology in a positive way and will help perpetuate acceptance and adoption.

8. OnPower

This company’s innovative approach to a customer-facing thermostat management systems aims to revolutionize the way that thermostats interact with the smart grid. Depending on the customer’s power consumption, the utility company will let customers know if they are eligible to receive a smart thermostat. Once installed, customers will be able to use it to adjust usage according to their individual needs.

The utility company will also track the customer’s usage and make suggestions about optimal settings. As if this weren’t enough, the smart thermostat will also inform them of what other customers are doing as a means of giving them ideas for keeping their usage down. The OnPower smart thermostat is helping promote customer adoption and desire for the smart grid.  

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7. Silver Springs Networks

Silver Springs has introduced several innovations to the world of energy-based smart grids. One of their leading smart grid platforms, Gen4 Communications Module, offers cellular connectivity. This connectivity, combined with high data rates, allows them to automatically tailor the amount of data used throughout the network.

Along with other minor features that are entirely unique to them, this technology makes Silver Springs Networks one of the top leaders in the cellular module industry for smart grids. Cellular modules for smart grids are one of the primary ways that smart grids have been enabled to grow and stand out from traditional electrical grids, specifically because high speed transmission of usage data helps the grid adapt as needed.

6. S&C

S&C’s PureWave UPS System is turning heads in the smart grid world. This system fulfills a promise of uninterrupted power that operates with a carbon footprint that’s much lower than other UPS systems on the market. This highly efficient solution is capable of being coordinated with a backup generator.

The PureWave UPS System is said to be able to offer 60 seconds of power should the smart grid fail; S&C states that 60 seconds is more than enough time for their self-healing grid to come back online. This UPS system helps provide minimal, or even no, downtime for markets that employ this solution.  

5. Itron

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a growing technology that place an increased demand on the smart grid. Itron is developing solutions to help implement efficient charging stations for EVs. Their goal is to utilize smart grids to deliver fast charging solutions to EV owners. Itron stations provide a plethora of analytical information that help them plan new features and address needs.

With enabled Wi-Fi, local access is easier than ever. Boasting an impressive 280 patents that are related to smart grid innovations, they’re working to create solutions for more energy efficient future. This applies both to EV charging stations as well as expertly monitoring and assessing usage and needs.

Itron hopes to provide an overall improved experience with energy, including simplified consumer interaction as well as lower cost, both of which will make smart grids more important to the end user.

Related: CES 2015: The $500,000-Plus Renovo Electric Supercar

4. Siemens

Siemens is making its mark on the smart grid world by creating three separate types of smart grid management tools, known as the SIGUIRD suite. Each of these three tools can be used individually or along with another of the tools. These three tools are:  

  • Phasor Data Processer (PDP)
  • Dynamic Security Assessment (DSA)
  • Protection Security Assessment (PSA)

Each of these tools help operate smart grids in a safe and protected way. They also enhance the capability of a smart grid to be analyzed with improved accuracy, which can be used to increase operating efficiency and provide better service.

Siemens has 526 smart grid related patents. These patents are focused on innovations that help them create effective monitoring solutions as well as enhance smart grid security.

Beyond standard electrical smart grids for businesses and homes, Siemens is also making advancements towards moving mass transit onto smart grid applications in order to increase their operating energy efficiency.

3. Cisco

The networking powerhouse has created a multi-faceted approach to the total operations of smart grids. While they have made several incremental innovations that have helped advance the industry, the GridBlocks Architecture is what really stands out.

Through this innovation, Cisco aims to make short term improvements to operations that will provide long term improvements. Cisco’s primary goal with every improvement is to make smart grid technology more affordable and accessible to different corners of the globe, which is an important factor to producing overall success of the smart grid industry as a whole. Cisco is employing a phased deployment strategy that they believe will transform the face of electrical utilities over a long enough time frame.

2.  IBM

Technical and electronic security powerhouse IBM has contributed greatly to smart grid operations. The company has approached smart grid solutions from three important angles: people, security and data.

Optimizing these three angles has made IBM one of the top leaders in smart grid technology. The security software patrols the smart grid looking for abuse, combined with analytical information that’s used to enhance security by understanding trends that may indicate suspicious patterns.

With a focus on large scales smart grid adoption and usage, IBM is working to provide security and support to ensure that even the largest grids operate safely. The company is advancing the goal of having a series of safe and manageable smart grids located all over the world.

Related: Comprehensive Data Intelligence: Empowering the Energy Marketplace

1. ABB

This worldwide operation is helping to implement a variety of smart grid technologies for people located in many different cities. Unlike some other companies who are focused on smart grids, ABB looks beyond smart grids and wants to create smart cities.

By taking smart grid technology a few steps further, ABB aims to make monitoring energy usage easy for both business and residential users, taking the smart grid beyond the grid itself and into the homes of those who are using it with customized ways for users to tweak their usage.

ABB has over 1,085 patents that help them with this goal. Each of their innovative projects is implementing unique solutions to smart grid problems being faced in different cities around the world.

With each of these companies working on various aspects of enhancing smart grid technologies, the future is bright, with energy poised to be efficiently delivered where it needs to be precisely when it needs to be there.

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