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Verizon Offers Power Utilities Smart Energy as a Service

Ellen Muraskin

Verizon on Wednesday announced an Internet-of-Things platform service for power utilities that runs their meter monitoring, demand response, and distribution monitoring and control from the carrier’s cloud.

Verizon’s Grid Wide Utility Solutions service is described as an “easy onramp to grid modernization” and a way to optimize efficiencies from smart meters. The offering includes a wide range of cloud-based applications designed to reduce operating costs, extract and deliver business intelligence on energy consumption and quality, and improve customer service.

Verizon is inviting utility companies to retire their own aging servers and IT infrastructure, and make the leap off-prem.

“The industry has since realized that the coverage, reliability and security of public wireless networks have evolved well beyond anything that they can construct on their own efficiently and with scale,” said Jay Olearain, director of business development for energy and utilities, IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon, in a statement.

Over 50 million smart meters are deployed in the U.S., covering more than 43 percent of U.S. homes, according to a September 2014 report from the Edison Foundation. More than 1 billion are expected to be in use globally by 2022, according to a Navigant Research estimate in 2013.

In Verizon’s offering, pre-existing, utility-owned devices transmit their data over Verizon’s wireless network to the carrier’s own cloud environment. Preconfigured dashboards display outages and look for anomalies and outages in usage patterns. The service drives revenue through improved power distribution; automated budget assistance and bill management; and smart pricing and demand response programs. It cuts cost through reduced truck rolls, proactive maintenance, and accurate pinpointing of outages.

As with most IoT devices and apps, connectivity to remote sensors allows utilities to find out about outages before their customers do. According to power industry estimates, at least 60 percent of the time, that doesn’t happen. And utility-owned smart meters don’t simply count …

… kilowatts in Verizon’s solution; they sense power quality, giving power companies a picture of what customers actually experience.

Verizon claims more than 12 years of experience in developing and deploying IoT solutions, and remote management of millions of connected devices. IoT and telematics represent $165 million for the carrier in the second quarter and $320 million to date.

Jon Arnold, advisor to smart-grid research firm Zpryme Research, describes utilities as anything but early adopters. As regulated monopolies in their areas, “the whole idea of outsourcing is radical to them.” But near real-time usage monitoring and business intelligence, while holding potential for energy management, is not as critical an application as actual power-grid operation. And if they are going to amass and analyze the usage data, “Utilities won’t get their on their own,”  he says.

It will be interesting to see how fast power companies take Verizon up on its offer, and if Smart Energy-a-a-S is followed by similar cloud offerings for gas and water companies.


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