Silver Spring Networks has a lot of data flowing through its smart meter networks. Typically, the utilities it works with access that data via control screens in network operations centers, with access granted to the people who actually run the networks themselves: “power users,” to use a phrase from the industry.
But there are a lot of other people besides power users who could really use the data that those millions of smart meters are collecting and analyzing. The list ranges from utility executives and smart grid architects looking for grid operations insights to the harried customer service rep who’s trying to tell an angry customer on the phone whether or not their smart meter is working.
On Wednesday, Silver Spring launched a cloud service, called SilverLink, which could make answering these kinds of questions a bit easier. The subscription service, built on top of existing Silver Spring networks, collects data like meter read and export status, remote operations and network infrastructure performance, and the like. It then presents that data, in both dashboard views for the interested, non-power user, as well as in a network operations center format that can integrate with utility “event management” systems like outage and workforce management systems.
In short, it’s a move to bring the data Silver Spring is collecting from some 12 million smart meters using its networking and software to places beyond the custom-integrated, business-department-siloed world of utility IT operations, and into the easier-to-use format of web services.
SilverLink is already being used by big Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco, as well as some other Silver Spring utility customers that haven’t been named yet, Anil Gadre, Silver Spring’s executive vice president of products, said in an interview.
Right now SilverLink consists of the data console view and the operations center integration, but Silver Spring is looking at more things it can deliver from the cloud, he said -- as well as opening up APIs to utility IT staff to work on tweaks of their own.
Hosting services in the cloud is nothing new to the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup, of course. For example, Silver Spring’s CustomerIQ utility customer interface platform is cloud-based, and allows both utility customers and customer service reps to look at the same data, Gadre said. Oklahoma Gas & Electric is using the system to deploy one of the first commercial-scale, smart-meter-and-smart-thermostat-controlled household demand response programs in the country.
Nor is Silver Spring alone in bringing cloud-based services to utilities. Home automation systems from startups like EcoFactor and Tendril to corporate giants like Verizon and Honeywell are based in the cloud, for example. At the big-data end of things, cloud computing platforms from the likes of Ecologic Analytics and Aclara, or partnerships like Verizon with eMeter and Itron with IBM, SAP and Teradata, are tackling the challenges involved in managing massive amounts of new smart meter data.
Not all clouds are created equal, of course. Gadre noted that the kind of tight operational integration that Silver Spring does with meter data management software partners like Oracle, eMeter or Ecologic Analytics, for example, is several levels of complexity higher than the data presentment it’s doing via SilverLink.
But there’s no doubt that finding cheaper and easier ways to share smart meter data could help utilities make better use of the investment they represent. A utility survey from Oracle released last month found that a significant number of utilities that have deployed smart meters aren’t putting their data to use for business processes and decision-making.
GTM Research will soon be publishing a report on big data, the cloud, and the smart grid. To learn more, contact Tate Ishimuro at firstname.lastname@example.org