Cisco: All bets on smart grid
Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal – by Mary Duan
From the time an electron is born to the time an electron is consumed, Cisco Systems Inc. wants to track it, understand it and help producers and users get the maximum benefit from it. And Silicon Valley’s networking giant is placing a large bet on the premise that the smart grid will eventually be bigger than the Internet.
It’s a bold marching order for Cisco Executive Vice President Laura Ipsen, who was recently named general manager of the Smart Grid Business Unit.
Ipsen said for every intelligent thing that is connected — from a clothes dryer to a plug-in electric vehicle — there will be a lot of data flowing that has to be managed and secured with “ruggedized and resilient” routing.
“It’s potentially billions of things that will be connected. It’s wind and solar and hydro and hybrid vehicles,” Ipsen said. “The smart grid of the future may be bigger than the Internet.”
Cisco tagged Ipsen to lead its new Smart Grid Business Unit, whose mission is enabling industry migration to an IP-based infrastructure for smart grids and energy management applications. The business unit already has assembled a 25-member smart grid ecosystem of technology companies, system integrators and service providers, including Accenture, Oracle Corp., General Electric Co.,Wipro Technologies and SecureLogix Corp., to work with Cisco to develop open solutions to make the smart grid a reality.
Cisco’s move into the smart grid arena is being driven by the utilities, Ipsen said. The company has been working with the utility sector from Cisco’s IT side for years, but in the past 18 months, the utilities came to Cisco for help in the development of a smart grid network.
Ipsen previously developed Cisco’s public policy agenda and helped advance governmental policies in support of broadband and IP-based technologies. She said Cisco’s stance is that unless the world builds out a smart grid, renewable energy will not be as effective.
For an industry built for sustainability — the utility industry — the smart grid makes sense. Cisco wants to provide the vision and architecture that will enable end-to-end distribution, while also helping commercial and residential customers better understand how their businesses, homes and devices use energy.
“The whole goal of the utility industry is to make sure the lights stay on. In California in particular, companies are very eager to pursue innovation but not at the cost of disrupting their businesses or their customers,” Ipsen said. “If you introduce infrastructure into the grid, it has to be durable. They don’t just plug things in overnight.”
Cisco currently is working on a number of smart grid pilot programs, including projects with Florida Light and Power to give residential customers a “green dashboard” for how power is used in the home. Cisco also is working with Duke Energy and several European-based utilities on other programs to make sure the pilots are replicable.
“We’re in a lot of pilots, but we want to avoid death by pilot,” she said. “We need to achieve solutions for the smart grid, not just make PowerPoint charts.”