Current Communications Group LLC, a provider of broadband over powerline (BPL) services, announced Tuesday a network of companies designed to help electric utilities better manage and troubleshoot their networks after installing BPL equipment.
The network of services is designed to give electric utilities another reason to offer customers BPL service, an alternative to DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem services. Using special equipment attached to powerlines, BPL providers can offer Internet service over the power grid. BPL modems can plug directly into power outlets.
BPL providers have begun a number of trials across the U.S. and elsewhere. Current Communications has about 50,000 BPL customers in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, and has trials operating in Maryland, Southern California and Hawaii.
Current Communications has partnered with five companies to offer so-called "smart grid" services for electric utilities to manage their networks. For example, some of the partners provide products to help utilities automatically read meters, without sending an electric company worker out to a house to read the meter. Two of the partners provide products to help utilities manage their networks during peak power usage.
The smart grid services are part of a "combination" of services that can make BPL attractive to utilities, said Dave Mulder, vice president of smart grid services at Current Communications. "While they're deploying (BPL) for the broadband side, it can also be very valuable to the utilities side," Mulder said.
Current's smart grid partners include:
-- Landis+Gyr Ltd., a provider of metering platforms for the electric utility market. Following a communication-neutral, open architecture strategy, the company offers mass-market automatic meter reading and two-way information-centric applications.
--- Sensus Metering Systems Ltd., a provider of metering products for water, gas, electric and heat utilities.
-- Badger Meter Inc., a manufacturer of flow measurement and control technology, as well as a provider of digital connectivity to automated meter-reading technologies. Its products are used to measure and control the flow of liquids in a variety of applications.
-- Corporate Systems Engineering, a provider of direct load control products, with more than 1 million load management devices in service in the U.S.
-- Comverge Inc., provider of products designed to reduce electric utilities' peak power costs and enhance grid reliability, including direct load control, automatic meter reading and grid management products.