IBM, for example, is immersing itself heavily in the smart-grid space. For example, the Mediterranean island nation of Malta recently inked a $91 million deal with IBM to build a "smart utility" system that will digitize the country's electricity grid and water system. Big Blue and its partners will replace Malta's 250,000 utility meters with smart ones. The devices will enable Malta's electric utility, Enemalta, to monitor electricity use in real time and set variable rates that reward customers who cut their power consumption. A sensor network will be deployed on the grid, providing information that will let the utility more efficiently manage electricity distribution and detect potential problems. IBM will provide the software that will aggregate and analyze the data so that Enemalta can identify opportunities to lower costs and reduce carbon emissions.
Additionally, Google recently dipped its toes in the smart grid waters by unveiling the Google PowerMeter, a tool designed to show consumers their home energy information in nearly real time, on their computer. In addition, the company is planning to create a services organization that will specialize in analyzing consumer electricity usage and suggesting changes to lessen their drain on the electric grid, according to Ed Lu, a member of Google's engineering team.
Moreover, Cisco is http://venturebeat.com/2008/10/14/cisco-attempts-to-prove-that-big-compa... " target="_blank">quietly working on smart grid technology. The company recently awarded $250,000 to two German computer science students and a Russian engineer who proposed an IP framework that would allow devices to ask for power from the grid only when they need it, rather than passively consuming whatever is sent over. A spokesperson for the company said the idea "will potentially revolutionize how power is managed."
Meanwhile, lesser-known companies are taking part. Silver Spring Networks appears to be a smart-grid success story already: The company, which has financial backing from Google, "boasts a backlog of orders for meters and related technology worth $500 million," according to BusinessWeek. Silver Spring offers an array of smart-grid software and networking infrastructure, leveraging the IP networking protocol.