SmartSynch announced a communications platform based on Qaulcomm’s 3G technology for utilities to remotely offer applications in the field on Wednesday at DistribuTECH. The system uses Qualcomm’s Brew MP, which has been optimized for smart grid use, to deliver applications for everything from EV charging to voltage conservation over cellular networks.

“A utility can click a button and download it into their system and decide if they want to put it in one household or a million households,” said Campbell McCool, Chief Marketing Officer of SmartSynch. “It’s all done remotely.”

SmartSynch will be the repository for all of the applications that have been developed and price will vary, just as app prices for an iPhone differ at the Apps Store (which, unsurprisingly, is a trademarked term, so SmartSynch is grappling for another term for their own virtual app storefront).

It’s no small matter that Qualcomm is jumping further into the smart grid space. Although they have been dabbling in offerings to utilities, including partnering with Verizon to offer connected grid infrastructure, the fact that the chipset giant is sticking with cellular even as mesh abounds is a validation of SmartSynch’s approach.

On a side note, McCool also addressed the rumors that would seem to undermine SmartSynch, namely, that there had been massive layoffs and the company failed to close a round of funding. Some rumors had put the layoffs as high as 175 people. Instead, McCool said SmartSynch employs about 150 people and fewer than 10 had been laid off. “Some were redundant; we did a little restructuring,” he said. And the issue of missing out on funding? “Absolutely not correct,” he asserted.

As for the business basics -- mesh versus cellular -- McCool said it’s not that you couldn’t deliver the same apps using mesh, but that the cost of additional layers would make it prohibitive. McCool said the current cost of cellular was “well under” $0.50 per meter, per month -- and SmartSynch executives have told us it can be as little as pennies per meter, per month depending on volume.

SmartSynch has about 140 utility customers currently that will be able to download the applications. One of the first applications is PayGo Electric, which will allow customers to prepay for their electricity. But the applications will not just focus on homes -- they are expected to span the entire smart grid, from transmission and distribution to customer offerings.

“We’re so excited about this,” said McCool. “When we get into this higher bandwidth applications -- that’s where the promise of cellular for smart grid is a game-changer.”

In other news:

-- Verizon announced at DistribuTECH that it is teaming with eMeter to offer cloud-based meter data management for utilities. The service, which will be available sometime this spring, will leverage Verizon’s IP network to deliver scalable meter data management.

EMeter is one of the leaders in MDM, but it is up against some even larger competition, namely Oracle. The partnership with Verizon is a strategic decision to make it easier for utilities to jump into managing their data without the huge capital costs up front. For eMeter, that ideally means a bigger piece of the MDM market, which is expected to grow 300 percent to $221 million by 2014.

"Cloud-based meter data management solution will help utilities meet the next generation of energy management needs for both businesses and consumers," Gary Bloom, CEO and president of eMeter, said in a statement.

For progressive utilities, like Toronto Hydro, cloud-based services might help them scale up even faster than they already are, but more likely, cheaper offerings will allow come-from-behind utilities to scale up. Bloom told Greentech Media that he sees the gap growing between the front-runners and those that are late to the software game -- but this solution could help bring up that backend faster, to the benefit of everyone.