MPrest, the company responsible for creating the software platform used by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, is increasing its presence in the U.S. utility market.
Assaf Sayada, mPrest vice president of corporate development, told GTM the Israeli monitoring and control systems developer is planning to announce two new U.S. utility contracts in the coming weeks.
MPrest already has an office in New York and in March unveiled a deal with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to monitor the transformers installed at the Robert Moses Niagara and Blenheim-Gilboa hydro power plants.
The mPrest NYPA transformer control system took two years to develop and cost more than $3 million, according to The Niagara Gazette.
“Through our collaboration with mPrest we can now accurately predict potential failures through better diagnostics and prognosis,” said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, in a statement.
In a separate press note, issued last month, mPrest said it had “significantly expanded its presence in the North American utility market” and was “collaborating with multiple leading utilities in the United States.”
The focus of this collaboration was to deploy analytics, smart grid management and distributed energy resource management systems, or DERMS, it said.
For energy companies, mPrest offers a “system of systems” that can tie together information from diverse supervisory control and data acquisition platforms, said Sayada.
The company sees the utility sector as a major opportunity, he said. “The energy market is definitely our number one area of focus,” he commented.
Outside the U.S., mPrest is working with the Israel Electric Corporation, where it integrates sensor data from 600 sites, and Vector, a New Zealand gas and electricity utility.
Vector is using mPrest’s technology for advanced grid management, channeling spikes in renewable energy production toward areas of high electricity demand, thus avoiding the need for network upgrades.
This technology builds on the real-time decision-making capabilities that mPrest developed for Iron Dome, which entered operation in 2011 and is claimed to have a missile intercept rate of 90 percent.
“This will allow our consumers to decide what they do with the electricity from their electric car; they could sell it to someone else,” said Michael Stiassny, Vector chairman, on Israel’s i24NEWS this month.
“We’ll have peer-to-peer trading; we will be able to move electricity from your battery in your house, the battery down the street, your car, hot water," he said. "All those things will be able to be managed efficiently to maximize return to the consumer.”
While mPrest’s primary selling point in the U.S. electricity market is likely to be related to this ability to manage distributed energy resources, American utilities could also be interested in the software developer’s defense heritage as grid cybersecurity concerns grow.
This month, Britain’s National Cyber Security Center chief, Ciaran Martin, revealed that energy companies have been targeted by Russian hackers to a degree previously unsuspected by U.K. and U.S. officials.
And in June, the IT security firm Symantec warned that hackers belonging to the Dragonfly 2.0 group had been able to break into U.S. power company systems on more than 20 occasions.
In at least a handful of instances, the attackers gained operational access, meaning they could have potentially interrupted grid operations.
Speaking on GTM's The Interchange last month, Washington, D.C.-based security expert Dr. Paul Stockton said the only reason the U.S. has yet to suffer a major incident is because “adversaries who have the abilities to attack the grid have decided that the time is not right to do so.”
As previously reported in GTM, the U.S. Department of Energy is looking to bolster grid security by leveraging blockchain technology, among other measures.
Worries about grid security are being heightened with the deployment of distributed energy resources, because they offer additional threat surfaces that hackers can target.
In August, for example, a Dutch researcher uncovered 17 solar inverter vulnerabilities that hackers could use to remotely control plant output. Against this backdrop, Sayada said security is most certainly on the menu as mPrest moves into the U.S. utility market.
“We come with a very strong security background,” he said. “This is definitely an area we can address. We are adding the physical security part and also the correlation with cybersecurity.”