Why Dell is exploring smart grid opportunities

The convergence of information and communications technologies (ICT) with the traditional operations technologies (OT) is an ongoing smart grid trend.   Within the U.S. -- and its more than 3000 electric utilities -- smart grid investments are increasingly focused on optimizing grid operations through machine to machine (M2M) communications and forays into data analytics for applications ranging from revenue assurance to voltage conservation.

This ICT/OT convergence trend is encouraging new entrants into the vendor ecosystem that supports electric, gas and water utilities. One of the latest entrants is Dell Computers. Dell made two announcements recently that illustrate how ICT companies are exploring smart grid market opportunities. 2013 will be the year to watch their strategies and progress.

Dell recently unveiled their Smart Grid Data Management Solution which combines high-performance computing, networking and storage to manage data for review and action in utility operations. Leveraging domain expertise, and the PI System from OSIsoft, they developed and tested a reference architecture in a simulation environment that modeled a utility's transmission grid operations.

This is a noteworthy collaboration between a traditional ICT vendor (Dell) and a traditional OT vendor (OSIsoft) that is focused on grid operations. Dell’s solution coupled with OSIsoft’s provides faster updates and makes actionable data available to staff, applications and business systems and is an excellent example of how M2M communications and data management technologies can become ubiquitous in the smart grid.

But Dell has also signaled its intent to get involved in the consumer side of the electricity value chain by joining the Pecan Street Inc. Advisory Board.  Pecan Street is an energy and smart grid research and development organization, and serves as a living laboratory with a community microgrid characterized by residence-based solar generation, electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficiency and energy management solutions for homes.  The project is conducting research in the brave new world of consumer/prosumer evolutions and their energy interactions through data analytics.

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