IBM's tech smarts are bigger than Watson. When it comes to technical innovation, it's also at the forefront of smart grid technology — an area that IBM wants to make even smarter.
It's been investing heavily in its smart-grid business, a huge field that will generate an estimated $4.2 billion in annual revenue by 2015, according to Pike Research.
While GE and Cisco are also players when its comes to brands at the forefront of smart grid projects, IBM now boasts more than 150 different smart grid initiatives in major and emerging economies. In another significant win, it's now partnering with Progress Energy to bring smart grid tech to its operations.
Progress Energy, which runs utilities in the Carolinas and Florida that serve more than 3 million customers, is investing about $520 million dollars and leveraging IBM’s Tivoli and Rational software to make power distribution smarter and more reliable.
“Progress Energy’s smart grid efforts focus on improving the electric distribution network first, then cascading these improvements to the consumer,” said Guido Bartels, general manager for energy and utilities at IBM and chairman of the Global Smart Grid Federation. “We believe these efforts position the program as one of the more sophisticated deployments in the marketplace.”
With headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., Progress is a Fortune 500 energy company with more than 22,000 megawatts of generation. Their strategic goal is a balanced strategy for a secure energy future and includes aggressive energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system.
In a move that bodes well for IBM's smart grid partnership, Progress is pursuing a merger with Duke Energy which would create the largest utility in the country, serving 7 million customers in six states.
“We are really starting to see our clients broaden their thinking when it comes to the smart grid,” commented Michael Valocchi, energy and utilities industry lead for IBM’s Global Business Services Unit. “Last year, there was an uptick in the distribution part of the business. Now we are starting to see utilities put things together.”
The acumen of IBM and the commitment of a major utility anticipating near future needs of renewable energy sources and the impact of plug-in electric vehicles makes this initiative one of the most comprehensive — and smart — to date.