It’s All about the Platform

April 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

IBM just published a new white paper in its series on the future of electric utilities, “Switching perspectives – Creating business models for a changing world of energy.”  In it, IBM trots out the usual suspects driving industry change – government policies for efficiency, conservation, and renewables; plus new smart grid, distributed generation, and storage technologies – then adds to those, “changing consumer demands” (perhaps a reference to recent news articles).  Per IBM, “consumers are demanding more from their relationships with their energy providers as they seek more control over their energy usage to conserve energy, save money and reduce their environmental impact.”

And IBM’s key to all this?  Participatory Networks that run on “multi-sided platforms” and link retailers, service providers, devices, applications, and end consumers.  These energy-industry platforms will be as transformative as the well-known platforms of the Internet and social networkings sites.  IBM expects platforms to develop in the electricity ecosystem in the “near future”, including electric vehicle charging, demand response, and carbon trading.

Beyond IBM’s analysis, I highlight two points.  First, such platforms are even more essential within utilities – not just as links to outside entities – because, to support smart grids and gain their benefits, multiple utility IT systems and applications must interconnect with multiple smart and even “dumb” meter systems.  Second, rather than coming soon, such platforms are already here today, as exemplified by award-winning utilities rolling out smart meters such as Toronto Hydro and CenterPoint and, in the central market context, by Smart Meter Texas™ and the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator.

IBM’s paper is available at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/bus/pdf/gbe03289usen.pdf

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