Two major WiMax proponents have decided to team up.
Grid Net will partner with Sprint for communication and grid services for utilities. Grid Net has been promoting WiMax and other broadband technologies for the grid for some time. General Electric licenses its software and hardware reference designs, while Landis+Gyr inked a pact with Grid Net recently. So far, most of Grid Net's deals have been for Australian grids.
The Australians are Grid Net's early customers; Grid Net's software is being used in 2.7 million meters deployed in Australia and New Zealand. Also, the Australian government chose Grid Net as the software platform to be used in the devices in the Smart Grid, Smart City community located in New South Wales.
"We are like Microsoft because we license our software to people," said Andres Carvallo, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer of Grid Net.
Sprint, meanwhile, has been building up a smart grid practice to compete against AT&T, Verizon and other carriers. Even before it announced its push for WiMax in the smart grid, Sprint had more than 100 utility customers tapping its iDEN and CDMA networks for a way to hook up their smart grid devices.
"We want to be agnostic to the device and to the broadband technology," said Carvallo. With that, Grid Net touts the fact that its software is very scalable, extremely secure, and has real-time communication capabilities.
Last week at the Palace hotel in New York, Echelon announced the Echelon Control System (Ecos) software and ECN software. Echelon is thinking more along the lines of an app market, but is offering a similar product to what Grid Net is rolling out.
In a similar move, SmartSynch's GridRouter will cater to different protocols, so it can understand any communication protocol a utility wants to use. That way, any devices can communicate on any network, opening up the playing field to the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world.
Whatever software the utilities use, it will have to be open. Sun Microsystems, a hardware company, tried to license their software to others. Apple makes software for its own products, Carvallo said.
"But if you look at what has happened, the ones who have won are the ones who make stand-alone software. They aren't seen as competition," he said, on why Grid Net has an edge over the hardware companies trying to develop software.
Grid Net delivers cell-phone-carrier-like security to the grid. It makes the devices very intelligent. He used consumers' use of iPhones as an example. When you power on your cell phone, AT&T knows where you are and where to pass incoming phone calls to you. That's also how it knows how to bill you. If your phone is off, it goes straight to voicemail, and your phone number is attached to your credit card and your address.
"We have the same principles in our technologies. Therefore, we have a strict level of security. Right now, none of the metering companies can do that," said Carvallo.
Grid Net will publish their Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) and commercialize a kit at the beginning of next year so companies can write applications using their platform.