Modernization of the power grid is picking up steam globally, making it the ideal time to be a solution provider in this incredibly exciting and innovative space.

The market for grid management solutions in 2017 was more than $21 billion in the U.S. alone. That includes advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution automation (DA) and emerging distributed energy resource (DERs) use cases. The market will grow more robust during the next five years—by a CAGR of 23.715 percent—reaching more than $61 billion by 2022, according to the Northeast Group’s analysis.

In short, opportunity abounds for grid solution providers. But choosing the right path to market is a critical decision—as is choosing the right vendor to partner with as you go to market.

Below are the seven most compelling reasons to partner with Itron as you prepare your technology solutions for rapid adoption in this attractive market.

1. #1 Market Share

First, let’s talk U.S. market share. While there’s no obvious dominant IoT network provider to the U.S. utility industry, Itron has the largest single slice of the industrial IoT pie with 77 percent of the market for edge device communications among top utilities in the U.S. We can’t yet promise our third-party technology partners a majority of the market (no one can), but we can offer a big bite.

Nationwide, our radio frequency (RF) mesh networks support millions of devices in the field, and our customers include seven of the top 10 U.S. utilities, measured by number of installed AMI residential meters. Technology vendors looking for a big playing field are welcome to join our game.

2. Our Customer Base Wants More Applications

Itron’s utility customers have long-term visions for grid modernization. They’ve invested in building their own private, scalable networks, and now they aim to fully leverage their infrastructure to maximize returns. That means employing smarter, automated devices and systems for priorities like grid safety and reliability—Itron has deployed more than 90 million smart, connected devices globally, in some of the harshest environments imaginable. Our experience connecting devices and sensors makes us the ideal partner to enable smart city and industrial IoT solutions for things like electric cars, solar power, traffic monitoring and even just-in-time trash collection.

Our utility customers understand the financial and technical advantages of putting more devices on the networks they own. In fact, they direct their preferred vendors to utilize our network to allow integrated management of those devices. And all our technology partners share one distinct advantage: They don’t have to sell our customers on a solution AND a network. Our customers have already bought and deployed a scalable network, and they’re ready to put it to use for more valuable, business-model-redefining outcomes.

3. Our Customers Are Looking at Hybrid Networks

A recent Zpryme survey reported that only 6 percent of utilities feel “extremely ready” to support changes coming to the power grid with their current communications networks. Looking forward, 65 percent of U.S. utilities will use RF mesh communications for grid modernization.

These figures might seem surprising considering the ubiquitous coverage of today’s cellular networks. But while utilities may be willing to test a new grid technology via cellular communications, cellular in and of itself isn’t always a complete fit to enable systemwide connectivity as a long-term investment. For one thing, the pace at which cellular standards sunset—about eight years for both 3G and 4G—is too quick for the massive investments utilities must make in equipment and deployments. Plus, for security and reliability reasons, utilities are hesitant to completely tie themselves to public cellular networks that they may not fully own or control.

While cellular can be a complementary network option for some utility applications and use cases, a hybrid network that can intelligently fold in cellular and other technologies onto a proven mesh network platform is an approach that fits well with the majority of U.S. utility grid initiatives.  Within this strategy, our integrated technology partners are simply selling drop-in applications to an existing customer base on a proven network with continuous communications, redundancy and best-in-class security.

4. Our Customers Are Early Adopters

When it comes to adopting new technology, the long-standing joke about the utility industry is that it’s a race to be second. Now that the trial phase of grid networking is over in the U.S., the second-place finishers are lining up. But until recently, nearly all our customers were the brave, early adopters. That bodes well for our technology vendor partners for several reasons.

First, these leading utilities have the license and mindset to try new solutions. Second, they are further along the technology-adoption path. It’s a path that begins with a priority application that addresses a critical business need, such as AMI or DA. These investments then extend to support more advanced grid management applications, and then proliferate with emerging solutions that further cut costs and improve services for ratepayers.

Right now, competition is hot for grid management solutions. Providers have a big point of differentiation with our customer base. And regarding emerging solutions, well, the runway is open with our early adopters.

5. Put A Foot in the Right Door

There’s another trend we’ve noticed among our early-adopter utilities: They’re often testing technologies for a parent company with a portfolio of utilities. ComEd—a utility owned by Exelon—is a great example.

ComEd built a fiber optic backbone and extended connectivity to endpoint devices using an Itron RF mesh network. Following the success of this network with AMI and DA deployments, ComEd is moving on to test emerging applications, such as intelligent street lighting. Meanwhile, Exelon is rolling out the proven networking solution across several of the operating companies in its portfolio.

Vendors that prove themselves with bellwether utilities like ComEd have tremendous opportunities to scale.

6. We’re Building an Open-Standards Ecosystem

Itron is committed to building  utility networks with open standards to enable the development of a diverse and healthy ecosystem for smart grid innovation. Our recent acquisition of Silver Spring Networks, a leading open standards-based network provider for utilities, is a testament to our belief in open solutions. Our business strategy is not to lock customers into a limited suite of enterprise solutions. Rather, we want them to be able to choose technology vendors and solutions that best fit their needs—all within the integrated and secure environment of a private network.

We believe this kind of open, competitive platform is the key to driving innovation in the industry and ensuring our customers have the best options for pursuing grid modernization and creating a more resourceful world on their own terms.

7. We Make It Easy for Our Technology Partners

Itron’s partner programs make it simple for third-party vendors to seamlessly integrate devices and software applications into our networks. Because speed to market is so important, we offer streamlined support for the integration of mains-powered devices, battery-powered devices, and plug-and-play connectivity for network infrastructure gateways, bridges and IoT Edge Routers.

Plus, through our developer programs we provide a suite of tools and reference materials to help our technology partners ideate, iterate and prototype new grid management solutions.

Grid modernization is an enormous challenge, and we’re in it together with grid operators and technology providers. So far, we’ve grown in step with these partners, and as the pace of adoption increases we hope to enable more vendors to join us in our mission to create a more resourceful world.

Matthew Smith on Email
Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith has more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience in the energy, home computer and consumer electronics industries. At Itron, Matthew sets the global business and product strategy for the grid management line-of-business. This involves managing company initiatives to provide networking solutions that enable utility use cases such as FLISR, CVR/IVVC, demand response, distributed energy resource (DER) management and outage management. Prior to Silver Spring Networks Matthew worked at Greenbox Technology, an early leader in customer-facing smart grid applications, where he was head of marketing and sales. Matthew earned his MBA from the Presidio School of Management and his B.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh.