Smart Grid provide energy to USPS

GridPoint says it has scored a deal to provide its energy management system to potentially 2,250 United States Postal Service locations in the U.S. USPS (United States Postal Service)  needs all the help it can get when it comes to reducing costs, and has been working on reducing energy use in its facilities by 30 percent by 2015. Using GridPoint’s energy management tools, USPS will be able to track, monitor and manage the energy consumption in its buildings.

A year ago GridPoint bought up stealthy Canadian energy management startup Lixar SRS, which had developed software to help businesses and consumers manage energy use. Lixar’s interface and design had gotten praise from its users, and at the time of the acquisition GridPoint said it would use the Lixar tool to “enhance its enterprise-class software.”

Buying up energy management players has become a bit of a trend for the larger smart grid infrastructure companies. Wireless network player Silver Spring Networks acquired Greenbox, and demand response company EnerNOC has bought up five various energy management startups.

For GridPoint, and these other smart grid firms, a contract like the one with USPS is a solid win. The organization has thousands of locations across the U.S., which means more sales, but also an interesting test bed to pilot the system at similar sites but with different geographies (energy consumption trends can be very regional). USPS has also been experimenting with green cars, and Bright Automotive, which makes a plug-in hybrid car called the IDEA, has a contract to retrofit a standard postal service fleet vehicle with its electric drive train and test the vehicle in Washington, D.C., for a year.

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Big companies into Smart Grid

Today I saw something interesting, really big companies are really into this smart grid wave , what’s going on in the next years in this field?

Intel and Cisco are  launching in on smart grid projects, starting off with partnering up with other companies to run pilot tests of several different types of home energy management devices in Oregon. Being part of the smart grid is becoming a must-do for technology companies, particularly those with a stake in communications and device management, since we’ll continue to (slowly) see progress toward a fully integrated electrical grid that links consumers to their utilities with real time energy information an pricing. Intel’s take is that while the smart grid will be one big beast, we have a need for many different types of home energy management systems. And that’s where it’s starting to take a bigger role.

Intel already has created its own home energy dashboard concept device, and showed it off at CES 2010. As I stood at the booth checking it out, there were several people asking what it was, what it did, why we needed something like this, which proved that we have a long way to go before knowledge about and desire for devices such as these filter into mainstream consciousness. That’s one reason why Google’s PowerMeter and its partnership with The Energy Detective device is exciting – a company with that kind of reach among consumers will help get these other devices off the ground as well.

In addition to its own home energy dashboard device, Intel has partnered with Open Peak, which has already created OpenFrame 7, another device I saw at CES 2010 and is part of a pilot project. And according to CNet, Intel is also looking at getting its chips inside other devices linked into the smart grid, such as servers for grid substations.

Cisco wants to push forward the adoption of Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications standards for smart grids. As Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of Market Management at Cisco put it in our conversation last week, IP is the obvious future for the smart grid. To that end, members of Cisco’s ecosystem will all take part in supporting interoperability testing and moving the industry to an IP-based infrastructure for smart grids and energy management applications.

A buzz topic in smart grid news of late has been security. Cisco is also looking closely at the issue with this announcement. The company states that it is going to offer security services that include everything from utility compliance and physical site security vulnerability assessment, to security of the physical and networking designs from energy source to utilities to consumers.

A list of the companies who are part of the ecosystem can be found at Cisco’s site, but some of the names you’ll recognize off the bat because we’ve talked about their presence on the smart grid scene before, include Verizon as a connectivity provider, GridPoint and Itron as technology vendors, and Capegemini as a system integrator and consultant, just to name a tiny handful.

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