On the floor of DistribuTECH, last year’s buzzword of "interoperability" has been replaced by "data analytics." Vendors of every stripe are offering solutions to harness and make sense of the increasing amount of information coming off of every layer of the grid.
-- Aclara Technologies announced its new Aclara Mobile Experience (AME) at the show in San Diego. The company, which is part of the Utility Solutions Group of ESCO Technologies Inc. (NYSE:ESE), built an open-source middleware platform that allows for a turnkey solution to meet utilities' current and future mobile needs.
Currently, most utilities only have a mobile app for outages, said Aclara’s Vice President of Business Development Andy Zetlan, but there is a growing need for everything from bill alerts and customer service to usage tracking to be available on smartphones. Aclara’s mobile platform will include apps for utilities to pick from to customize their solutions, and it’s a platform ready for prepay, said Zetlan.
“Aclara has spent considerable time evaluating both industry and consumer requirements and believes that AME is clearly a game-changing approach to mobile consumer engagement by utilities,” said Zetlan. “We’ve designed AME to achieve flexibility and higher degrees of functionality than prior designs, while remaining focused on security and ease of use for the consumer.”
Rather than various apps appearing siloed, Aclara’s platform will allow utilities to brand their mobile experience in one location, with various apps and social media connections. The user interface was designed by WillowTree Apps and the middleware was built by Green Energy Corps.
-- General Electric’s (NYSE:GE) big news came on Tuesday, with the launch of its Grid IQ Insight. The suite of software tools can pull data from multiple sources to both predict and fix grid failures like power outages or equipment malfunctions.
But news from GE keeps coming. GE is working with Southern California Edison on a custom centralized remedial action scheme (CRAS) solution to improve the efficiency of SCE’s transmission grid operations. The centralized approach will help SCE manage renewables across its grid. GE is planning on productizing the solution, but that will likely take years.
On Thursday, GE announced its partnership with On-Ramp Wireless into its advanced metering infrastructure portfolio. On-Ramp uses point-to-multipoint communications, which can cover not only long distances but also reach assets underground.
GE is also doing some rebranding of its utility products, such as its OMS and EMS. Rather than have them all as unique offerings, GE has rebranded its PowerOn suite of utility products to run on a single platform, according to Brian Bradford with GE Digital Energy. It’s not just a marketing ploy, he said, but a way to get utility clients to think about data analytics across their entire organization.
-- For EnerNOC (NASDAQ:ENOC), there was no big announcement at DistribuTECH, but rather a quiet shift in its business. For the most part, EnerNOC is still all about delivering demand response and energy services. But “we’re more than commercial and industrial,” said Brad Davids, VP of utility solutions for EnerNOC.
EnerNOC is also working with about a half dozen utilities to manage and run their demand response or energy efficiency programs. Davids compared it to other companies that have upstream services, such as Starbucks or Amazon.
Although most utilities will probably still opt for EnerNOC’s traditional turnkey solution, “some utilities don’t want to lose the relationship with their customer,” he said. In Australia, retailer ERM is the first utility to white-label the product. In 2013, also keep an eye on EnerNOC to expand its agricultural demand response and push into new international markets.
-- Powerit Solutions, a provider of automated demand response for industrial clients, continues to shift its Spara platform to the cloud. The new platform also links up changing utility data with shifting customer load in real-time, which allows for companies to shift load based on price signals.
“It’s really an evolution of our platform,” said Patty Solberg, product marketing director at Powerit Solutions. Although Powerit started out with a focus on the metals and food manufacturing verticals, it now focuses on channel partners to bring its platform to market. Powerit is expanding its technology as an embedded solution and works with system integrators and electrical distributors. The cloud-based Spara Hub will be available in February.