Cisco, Silver Spring Networks and many others want to bring IP communications to the wireless smart grid, but what about the wired smart grid? Powerline communications — sending data over the same wires that carry electricity — is now accomplished through a welter of different proprietary technologies, and one of them will soon get more open. German engineering giant Siemens said last week it would open up its proprietary Distribution Line Carrier protocol for low-voltage powerline communications in January 2011, in hopes of allowing other vendors to interoperate with its metering technology known as AMIS. Other low-voltage powerline communications systems include those from smart grid and building controls vendor Echelon Corp. and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Still, none are as far along in end-to-end IP compatability for powerline communications as Cisco says it will be with the wireless technology it’s getting with its acquisition of Arch Rock.
Echelon (s ELON) makes smart meter networks and building automation systems. Could it bring the two businesses together? On Wednesday, Echelon shipped its 2 millionth smart meter, adding recent contracts with a host of Danish utilities and partners to its big list of European clients — and, on the other side of the Atlantic, its contract with Duke Energy (s DUK). Duke CTO David Mohler has said he’d like to see smart grid systems link up with building automation systems that control air conditioners, lights, boilers and other energy-sucking devices. Could Echelon sync up its building networking standard LonWorks with its smart meter services?
While Michael Anderson, senior vice president of Echelon’s Networked Energy Services, i.e., smart meter business, wouldn’t comment on if Echelon’s was linking up buildings and smart meters just yet, he told us in a late-night Monday call from Helsinki, Finland: “The two technologies will come together very, very well. In the last six months it’s been nice to see customers approach us on this idea.”
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