Ambient, Itron team up for end-to-end smart grid play
Ambient added another metering firm to its stable -- one whose size and global scope may well expand Ambient's footprint, Ambient CEO John Joyce told us yesterday. The smart grid networking integrator/operator works with Echelon for electric utilities, and Badger for water and gas utilities. “We're incorporating both the PLC technology and the RF technology into our network,” so the new agreement with Itron helps, said Joyce. His firm holds patents on PLC equipment and has long been a leading contender in the business with deals doing trials at Duke Energy and Consolidated Edison. Itron was an attractive business partner since “it's a global company that has a significant legacy system product in the field here in North America as well,” said Joyce. “We believe with the Itron/Verizon/Ambient name, we can offer a full solution to the utility.” Ambient has a joint-marketing agreement with Verizon as does Itron. And Ambient's X-3000 node -- a newer, lighter version of the X-2000 -- is certified for the Verizon network. It is designed to be deployed at the transformer where it can give a utility “a real-time view into its distribution grid,” including current and voltage sensing, thus the grid can be better managed, said Joyce. Ambient in April signed a supply and alliance pact for smart grid product development and deployment with Bel Fuse, a designer and maker of products used in networking, telecom, high-speed data transmission and consumer electronics (SGT, Apr-15 <http://www.smartgridtoday.com/members/159.cfm> ). The 40-employee Ambient would clearly like to do business around the world, but it sees plenty to be done with Itron's “significant” deployments in North America, Joyce noted. “We see this as a way to enhance our Ambient technology/product as well as to offer Itron a solution that will benefit its existing customers.” As a matter of fact, the partnership began a couple of months ago, Joyce recalled, when Ambient and Itron created a way to incorporate into a utility's smart grid platform older Itron technology. “That was the initial focus,” he explained -- taking some meters that were deployed and still part of the rate base and incorporating them into the evolving smart grid so as not to create stranded assets <http://www.smartgridtoday.com/public/department40.cfm#strandedasset> . The pair found their engineering teams could pull into the communications network more regular reads than were happening in a drive-by system and bring the data back to the central office. “That led to looking at different ways to incorporate Itron's core consumer and commercial AMI technologies with Ambient's high-capacity communications network for a complete utility-to-the-home smart grid solution,” said Joyce. Ambient has been focused for a decade on “the digital communication backbone and the element-management system” that delivers advanced metering and other smart grid initiatives, Joyce reminded. In addition to Ambient's X-3000 node, the pact with Itron includes Ambient's network management system. Itron is contributing AMR and AMI technology. Ambient sees “huge” opportunities working with both older and newer Itron technology, Joyce said. Itron and Ambient are set to jointly market their collaborative offerings to utilities. BOTTOM LINE: That mention of stranded assets goes to the heart of a deep concern for utilities as they feel the pressure to replace equipment that, as we sometimes say, “ain't broke.” It's an issue we are probing in ongoing reporting including an interview in today's issue with a key Trilliant executive.
I think here's the key part for Ambient and Duke: ----------------------------------------------- San Jose, Calif.-based Echelon Corp. supplies the smart meters for that deployment, and recently announced a similar open-ended deal with Duke for an initial $15.8 million smart meter order that could expand to as much as $150 million (see Echelon Expands Smart Meter Contract With Duke Energy).
The idea is to link Echelon's smart meters, which use powerline carrier technology to transmit data over low-voltage power lines, to Ambient's communications nodes that typically sit at the transformer. -----------------------------------------------
NO ITRI sales happening here. They want the Echelon meter on Duke. If you are pro-ITRI I have to say it's time for you to read the links better...