M2M Platforms

Verizon Converts Energy to a Managed Service

Verizon is stepping up its involvement with the utility industry and slapping on the "as-a-service" distinction with Wednesday's announcement of Grid Wide Utility Solutions, its new "Smart Energy-as-a-Service" platform.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has served the utility space with smart metering services for years now via partnerships and on its own, but today's announcement is banking on utilities' desire to turn all the communications functions of their networks over to the carrier. Jay Olearain, director of business development for energy and utilities in Verizon's IoT Connected Solutions division, says this will help the traditionally slow-to-upgrade utilities easily modernize their networks. (See Verizon Makes Integrated Services Push Around Cloud and Verizon Plugs In Current for Smart Grid Service.)

"It is mission critical infrastructures, so utilities take a very methodical approach about how to incorporate technology to modernize it," he says, adding that about half the electric utilities have deployed some type of technology to communicate one-way from the meter, while some have two-way solutions in place using private radio mesh technologies with elements of cellular for backhaul.

Verizon isn't necessarily positioning Grid Wide as a replacement for what these utilities have in place, but as a way to fill the gaps across their entire footprints. Large utilities most likely haven't covered their entire service footprint, he says. They could use Verizon to do "hard meter reads" in areas that are far away or insecure remotely rather than sending a technician out. The return on investment is obvious, he says.

The service is also for utilities that only have technology in place to do simple meter reads. Verizon says Grid Wide can remotely manage power quality readings and provide insight into the performance of the grid, so utilities understand how their infrastructure is performing and identify points of failure before issues arise. It can also turn a meter on or off when someone moves or doesn't make a payment. Grid Wide does all this over Verizon's wireless network, through its private network and in its cloud environment.

For more on utilities and the networks they operate, visit the new critical infrastructure content section here on Light Reading.

Since it's a platform-as-a-service, Olearain says Verizon can evolve Grid Wide's apps in the future. He suggests that analytics on the data extracted may be in the roadmap, as is certifying gas and water meter manufacturers.

Verizon has had Grid Wide in a pilot with several utilities over the past year, testing the technology and the per-month, per-meter cost basis business model, and plans to announce customers in the near future.

With this launch, Verizon is getting ahead of what could be a lucrative smart grid-as-a-service (SGaaS) trend. According to a report last year from Navigant Research, the SGaaS market will exceed $11.2 billion by 2023. Utilities spent $1.7 billion on SGaaS in 2014 alone. (See Utilities to Pump $11.2B Into Smart Grid – Study.)

Verizon includes utilities in its overall Internet of Things business, which it said brought in $165 million in the second quarter of 2015 and $320 million year to date. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is also making a big push in the utility market via its partnership with General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) to create smart energy IoT applications. (See Verizon Trumpets Network Densification Plans and AT&T Links With GE on IoT, Smart Energy.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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