Smart-grid industry climbs the evolutionary ladder

As industries mature from the go-go startup era with a zillion different business models, you tend to see a lot of consolidation. Bigger, better capitalized companies snatch up firms with technologies and services that complement their own, and offerings become more well-rounded and standardized.

It’s a well-established transition pattern that moves toward greater economies of scale, and it’s one we’re increasingly seeing in the smart-grid sector.

The latest company to climb up the consolidation ladder is the smart-metering firm Itron, which has just announced plans to buy SmartSynch for $100 million.

The deal makes sense from a smart-grid industry perspective: where Itron provides the meters and modules for measuring electricity, gas and water use, SmartSynch provides the IP-based cellular communications foundation that can help connect those meters and modules into an “internet of things.”

Plus, the companies have already proven they play well together, having partnered on various projects for more than a decade.

“Utility customers are demanding more options and this is a combination that just makes sense,” says SmartSynch CEO Stephen Johnston. “Our companies share existing customer relationships, integrated technologies and a common culture that will enable us to pursue new opportunities.”

The acquisition puts Itron in good company, with several big names — including Toshiba, IBM and Siemens — having rounded out their smart-grid offerings by buying up other firms over the past year. Will all these developments help the grid get smarter more quickly and easily, though? Time will tell.


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