Cisco, IBM Continue to Expand Smart Grid Efforts

A day after IBM rolled out its SAFE smart grid platform for power companies and software vendors, Cisco announced its Smart Grid Ecosystem, designed to bring together such players and service providers, energy companies and IT vendors for building a standards- and IP-based communications infrastructure for smart grids. Cisco also created a technical advisory board of power companies to help Cisco align its efforts with the customers' needs.

Cisco Systems and IBM continue to pull in partners and roll out products and services tied to their smart grid efforts.

A day after IBM introduced a platform designed to make it easier for utilities to become more efficient and software makers to build their offerings, Cisco Sept. 17 is announcing its Smart Grid Ecosystem for pushing the adoption of IP-based communication standards for smart grids.

Cisco's ecosystem is designed to bring together systems integrators, tech vendors, power companies and companies that touch on any part of smart grid infrastuctures to work on interoperability standards and to push the adoption of IP-based communications.

The goal is to reduce the cost and complexity of using various smart grid communications offerings, according to Marthin de Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group.

"This platform is at the heart of smart grid deployments," de Beer said in a video posted on the Cisco Website.

Already about 30 businesses have joined Cisco's ecosystem, including Accenture, Capgemini, EMC, EnergyHub, GE, Oracle, Schneider Electric, Siemens and Verizon.

Cisco officials in May announced their entrance into the smart grid space, which they said could mean $20 billion in business within five years. Power companies are under pressure to increase efficiencies, reduce operating expenses and incorporate alternatives sources of energy, de Beer said. They're also getting hemmed in by increasing government regulations.

"As a result, the energy sector is in the midst of an industry transition, perhaps the biggest we have seen in a generation," de Beer said.

Since the spring, both Cisco and IBM have been among the most active IT vendors in this space, partnering together and with other vendors, communities and power companies to initiate smart grid projects.

Most recently, representatives from both companies were at the announcement yesterday by Pacific Gas & Electric and the city of San Jose, Calif., about a smart grid initiative in Northern California.

In addition to the Smart Grid Ecosystem, Cisco also created the Smart Grid Technical Advisory Board of power companies to advise Cisco in aligning its offerings to customers needs.

Cisco also is rolling out security services and solutions aimed at protecting the physical and cyber security of electric systems. The services include compliance and physical site security assessments, design of the grid security architecture, and physical and networking security design.

Cisco also joined the ZigBee Alliance, which is a group of companies that want to build wirelessly connected, low-power monitoring and control products based on the ZigBee open wireless standard.