7. Grid Automation Software: General Electric

Nobody should be surprised that General Electric is a major player in smart grid efforts – not to mention one with the cash on hand to run Super Bowl ads pointing out the fact. But beyond the smart meters GE is making, or the wide-area network WiMax radios it's deploying to support smart grid projects (see GE Offers WiMax Smart Meter Solution), the engineering giant is also a provider of a wide range of software aimed at helping utilities optimize grid operations, said Rick Nicholson, vice president of research for IDC company Energy Insights.

GE has been providing grid-management software to utilities for decades, with a most recent iteration deployed by utility American Electric Power in September. But the giant has been pushing into new smart grid fields, acquiring companies with software to manage field automation technologies, grid cybersecurity, and other aspects of smart grid operations.

GE is far from the only company looking to help make the grid smarter with software, of course, Oracle and IBM are providing similar services, and startup GridPoint has raised more than $200 million with the promise of providing a wide array of software to solve the smart grid's challenges of integrating home energy monitoring, distributed energy generation and plug-in vehicles into the grid. (see GridPoint Gets $120M, Buys V2Green and GridPoint to Manage Wind Power Battery Storage).

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