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No one wants to leave money on the table unclaimed. But that’s exactly what is happening to smaller utility companies throughout the United States today.

Here’s the situation: The federal government has earmarked $4.3 billion in stimulus funding to encourage utility companies to build out
smart grid programs.
Smart grids effectively digitize the two-way flow of electricity to its users, creating greater efficiencies by prioritizing usage based on need. It’s a massive green initiative for the feds that also will arm consumers with quantitative data on their energy usage so they can monitor and modify to reduce consumption. Hopefully,
smart grids will help slash the overall dependence on foreign oil as well.

The problem, however, is that tapping into the
smart grid isn’t a simple task, nor is it cheap. So while the major utility companies are able to take the steps needed to implement the new approach, smaller providers – while interested in making the move – lack the resources or, in some cases, the technical savvy to do so.

IBM and its partner eMeter are looking to level the playing field for these utilities. The two have partnered to create a
smart grid appliance that gives smaller providers an out-of-the-box product to implement
smart grid technologies at a fraction of the cost. The partnership is a great example of the sum being greater than its parts and exemplifies the unique relationship approach Big Blue is taking with select, vertically focused ISVs.

eMeter is a specialist and leader in its field. The company has developed a meter data management software platform that provides actionable information to utilities while also handing consumers a software portal application that lets them monitor their energy costs, usage and carbon output. As part of this deal announced this week, the San Mateo, Calif., company’s application has been bundled with infrastructure software from IBM (Tivoli remote monitoring and WebSphere application server) then preloaded onto IBM Power 7 hardware systems. The result is a much less complex appliance-like device to implement
smart grid, according to eMeter’s CMO Sam Klepper.

The pre-integrated approach reduces the cost of hardware configuration, testing and implementation for the utility company by as much as 60 percent compared with putting the solution together piecemeal, he said. The other gem is the price
tag. eMeter, which will take the joint solution to market, charges the utility companies between $5 and $10 per meter. The utilities can scale as they need.

“All of hardware and software licensing costs are in that one simple figure,” Klepper told Channel Insider.

To date, one third of eMeter’s sales go through the channel, with Siemens being the first partner signed on to sell and implement the new
smart grid appliance.

The eMeter deal epitomizes the unique partner model that IBM has promoted with select ISVs over the last several years. Big Blue identifies ISVs with potential, notably those specializing in a particular
vertical subset, and then works to create an integrated solution to take to market. In all, 500 such partnerships are in play today.

It’s a win-win, if you think about it. ISVs get the clout of IBM behind them, Big Blue gets to align with startups and other software players with great market potential, and the broader IBM channel gets another solution to resell. And maybe we can start to get our energy costs under control too.