Oracle announced it will acquire DataRaker, a cloud-based utility analytics company.

The need for big data solutions is growing quickly for utilities as smart meters deliver millions of readings and distributed intelligence on power, gas and water grids need to be processed and analyzed.

The market is growing quickly, according to the new report The Soft Grid 2013-2020. GTM Research forecasts that electric utilities will spend $322.5 million on analytics in the U.S. alone in 2012, a figure that will reach $1.4 billion by 2020.

“Big Data created by smart meters and sensors has presented utilities with an enormous opportunity to improve operations and deliver better customer service by acting on the unique insights that can only be found by understanding the massive amounts of data coming from their customers and networks,” Rodger Smith, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Oracle Utilities, said in a statement. “With DataRaker, Oracle can provide customers a complete and integrated set of products to further unlock efficiencies and create data insights that maximize business value.”

DataRaker describes itself as a software-as-a-service company providing data analytics for utilities, primarily crunching data from smart meters (the firm prefers the term "fixed meter").

The Sausalito-based company has 24 million smart meters under contract (about 18 million of which are already installed) and is working with large utilities including PPL, PECO and Kansas City Power & Light. Many of DataRaker’s customers already have MDM systems and are using DataRaker to provide deeper analytics than current systems provide.

“DataRaker’s cloud-based analytics, when combined with Oracle Utilities solutions, are expected to transform meter, customer, network and asset Big Data for improved decision-making capabilities,” Oracle said in a statement. Oracle will integrate DataRaker’s platform into the Oracle Utilities applications portfolio.

Oracle is painfully aware that there is a disconnect between collecting data and actually doing something with that information. In a report issued earlier this year, the software giant noted that utilities rate themselves at 6.7 on a scale of 1-10 as being “somewhat prepared” for the exponential growth in data. Less than half of utilities installing smart meters have meter data management software in place.

While companies like Oracle always think more data is better, utilities often don’t take the view that more is better; instead, it needs to be the right data. That sentiment, however, is likely to change in coming years, which is what Oracle is banking on with this latest acquisition.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.