Why IT Will Take over the Smart Grid

Why IT Will Take over the Smart Grid

The stimulus bill recently signed into law allots $4.5 billion for creating a smart energy grid. Utility companies such as Xcel Energy and PG&E Corp. hope to get much of that money. But ultimately, expect big technology companies such as Cisco and IBM to lead the way toward creating the smart grid.

An article in Bloomberg notes that IBM and Cisco are already lobbying to get some of the funds from the stimulus bill, to develop a smart-grid project in Austin, Texas. Expect that to be just the beginning. Eventually, one way or another IT will own the smart grid.

Why is that? The key here is in the word "smart," not the word "grid." Ultimately, every object on the grid will have to be intelligent, and be capable of communicating with one another and with larger monitoring and control systems. In essence, the entire grid becomes an IP network, with smart devices connected to it. In turn, the grid is connected to specialized data centers.

That infrastructure sounds exactly like what is in place at virtually every major enterprise. And at all of those enterprises, the infrastructure is overseen by IT. That's why IT professionals rather than electrical engineers will be in charge of the smart grid.

IBM and Cisco recognize that, which is why they're actively lobbying to be involved in building the smart grid. And Cisco has already placed a stake in the ground here, with EnergyWise software, which can reduce IT energy use and carbon emissions by monitoring and controlling the electric use of network-connected devices. Here's my blog about it.

The upshot? IT will lead the way to the smart grid.