Intel Capital announced eight diverse investments yesterday at its annual CEO Summit in San Francisco. Amid the online video plays and Internet retail moves, there was a single cleantech investment. Intel, along with GE and Catamount Ventures, has invested an undisclosed sum into Grid Net, a smart-grid software developer.
The San Francisco-based startup was founded in 2006 and has built software for the power grid that is based on the telecom and networking worlds, using open standards and protocols. Like its peers and competitors in the industry, the company is working to create a power grid that is “self-healing,” “self-optimizing,” “open,” “resilient,” and “secure.” (Though, it’s worth noting that the company is not officially a member of the GridWise Alliance, one of the larger smart grid consortia.)
Grid Net announced a collaboration with GE and Intel earlier this year. Under that agreement, GE’s new WiMAX SmartMeter products integrate Grid Net's PolicyNet firmware and the Intel WiMAX Connection chipsets. One of Grid Net’s missteps could be that it is betting heavily on the continued expansion of WiMAX, a 4G wireless broadband standard. But WiMAX development has been anything but smooth, with Intel itself recently putting up a cool $1 billion to bail out a WiMAX carrier.
Intel is also not the only tech giant dabbling in smart grid plays. IBM recently formed a partnership with Australian utility Country Energy to deploy its Intelligent Utility Network Down Under. Meanwhile, Cisco and Oracle (and GE, for that matter) are working with Silver Spring Networks, a startup similar to Grid Net, as part of their Technology Alliance Program. As one of the biggest, dumbest networks in the country - our electrical grid - starts to smarten up, expect to see more big players looking to get a slice of the pie.