Cisco announces electricity management partners

Cisco Systems Inc.’s smart grid strategy, which aims to sell switches and routers to electrical utilities, could potentially enable services that are not available on today’s proprietary networks, according to an industry analyst.

“I haven’t seen other enterprise networking vendors do this,” said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president at the Boston-based Yankee Group. “It adds intelligence to the network and would let us do things we can’t do now.”

On Thursday, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco announced the Smart Grid Ecosystem, which includes a “substantial group” of vendors and energy companies, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, the company’s senior director of network systems.

“Within the next year, we will see specific products and solutions,” she said. The ecosystem includes equipment manufacturers, such as General Electric Co., Science Applications International Corp., Siemens, Oracle, EMC and 20 other firms, who plan to work on interoperability testing and building IP networks for power grids and energy management.

“With IP version 6 we can support the millions of elements that need to connect in smart grid deployments,” Lasser-Raab said.

Cisco also plans to establish a technical advisory board and offer security services designed for smart grid installation.

The overall vision is to reduce electricity consumption, using IP communications, by letting utilities, businesses and consumers control appliances remotely. Lasser-Raab said the company will make routers and switches designed for outdoor use in all weather conditions and smaller routers designed to collect data from smart meters.

One service Cisco could offer is identity management to allow access to power sub-stations, she said. Another would be intrusion prevention systems designed to identify traffic from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

The ecosystem is “very forward looking,” Kerravala said.

“You can make smarter decision by putting everything on one network,” he said. For example, power management would let building managers tie their air conditioning to badge readers, so when the last person leaves the building the air conditioner will power off. Another possible application is to program the IT systems so when one employee arrives at a workplace, the printer and access point for that person’s workspace would power on.

Thursday’s announcement comes nine months after Cisco announced its EnergyWise software, a free patch for three Catalyst switches designed to let companies power down IP phones and wireless access points when they are not needed. At that time, Cisco had announced a partnership with Schneider Electric, which is also a partner in the Smart Grid initiative.

Canadian smart grid ecosystem members include Vancouver-based Pulse Energy Inc., which makes software designed to collect data from meters and analyze power consumption patterns.

Ecosystem members include:

• IT consulting and services firms Accenture, Capgemini, Infosys and Telvent;

• AeroScout Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based asset tracking device vendor, which uses Wi-Fi and radiofrequency identification technologies;

• Arcadian Networks Inc. of New York, which provides wireless broadband equipment to power utilities and the oil and gas sector;

• Areva, a French supplier of nuclear, wind and hydrogen power transmission equipment;

• London-based Cable and Wireless plc;

• Arlington, Va.-based GridPoint Inc., which makes software enabling utilities to manage power from solar panels, plug-in vehicles and advanced storage technologies;

• Electricity meter manufacturers Itron Inc of Liberty Lake, Wash. and Landis+Gyr of Zug, Switzerland;

• Open Access Technology International Inc., which hosts software for electrical utilities;

• Proximetry Inc., a San Diego-based manufacturer of performance management tools for Wi-Fi, mesh and WiMAX networks; and

• San Antonio, Tex.-based SecureLogix Corp, which makes voice security applications.

Absent from the list of partners was Hydro One Inc., which announced in April it is using Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) technology for its smart grid program.

Using customized hardware from Redline, Hydro One is remotely reading meters of nearly one million customers who don’t buy their electricity from a municipal utility, and dispatching field service staff.


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