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Marketing Genius: Getting Your Product to Be Called Smart

October 15, 2009

The Economist has a leader and a briefing this week (en leur parlance) on ‘smart’ grid technology, i.e. anything which makes the transportation and allocation of energy more efficient, flexible and reliable, all of which ultimately save money.

The leader says that smart grids are great and all but “the technology isn’t inherently frugal or green” because it can be used to transport coal energy just as much as solar energy. However, the increased efficiency (even while distributing dirty energy) and reliability of smart grids do make them both green and frugal. They also encourage the installation of renewable energy systems by customers by making the grid more capable of accepting surplus production. So, while the Economist can search for a detraction, the truth is smart grids are a win-win.

The important thing that I took away from the briefing was the three “stacks” of smart-grid products, stacks being how their referred to in the industry. The first stack is advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) which is the foundational technology that allows monitoring of the grid. The second stack is “all the technology a utility needs to manage the usage data, combine it with other information and set rates depending on demand,” that is, the products that actually monitor and use the information from AMI. Finally, there’s “home area network,” which is the still amorphous stack that includes the products that will be installed directly into a customer’s home and allow them to monitor their own energy use. Another thing I noticed in this article was that more than half of the companies mentioned as industry leaders – Silver Spring Networks, KPCB, Cisco, PG&E, Foundation Capital, Trilliant Networks, eMeter, Oracle, iControl – are based in Silicon Valley, which was nice to see.

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