Cisco investing in smart grid start-up

Start-up GridNet now has another feather in its cap in terms of big-name investors. Others include GE Energy Financial Services and Intel Capital.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read

Cisco is continuing its interest in smart-grid infrastructure and management with an equity investment in GridNet, the smart grid start-up announced Thursday.

The sum of Cisco's investment in GridNet was not disclosed, but the start-up now has another feather in its cap in terms of big-name investors. In addition to the Cisco investment, GridNet's investors now also include GE Energy Financial Services and Intel Capital, as well as several other venture capital firms.

GridNet, which has offices in San Francisco and Sydney, has an array of smart-grid products including two software platforms. One is a smart meter integration system for residential home use. The other is a real-time platform for utilities and suppliers that offers automated integration and distribution of power supplies, as well as tools for electricity demand management. The infrastructure is built to meet "regulatory and governmental Smart Grid interoperability and cybersecurity standards," according to GridNet.

That's an interesting assertion to make considering smart-grid technical standards, though urgently needed, are still in the infancy stage of being set. But with Cisco now as an investor, it might be a good bet that GridNet will, in fact, become a standard trendsetter.

Cisco announced in its first quarter 2010 earnings report that it had formed a "Smart Grid Technology advisory board," as well as established an industry organization called Smart Grid Ecosystem to lobby for the adoption of an IP standard for smart-grid communications. The organization includes other major players like Oracle and Siemens among its members.

In October 2009, Cisco partnered with German electricity company Yello Strom to launch a smart-grid pilot project in 70 German homes and businesses. The system can autonomously respond to changes in power supply and demand on the utility side, as well as integrate with homeowner tools for monitoring and regulating use.

At the time, Christian Feisst, industry lead utilities for the Cisco Internet Solutions Business Group, said in a statement that smart grids were an obvious next step for Cisco given its core strengths.

"The control of electric current is very similar to the management of information flow, so smart grids operate on principles similar to those behind the Internet. The exception is that electricity systems have a much greater number of nodes. This is where we are able to apply our expertise, integrating and processing crucial information that helps enable electricity consumption to be optimized," he said.