Austin’s Smarter Grid
The universe has a sense of humor. This I know.
I was complaining yesterday about a power outage in my neighborhood, which forced me to go to Starbucks to get online and so I could get some work done.
The joys of being a worker from home.
I worked at Starbucks for a couple of hours (about as long as my Starbucks card bought me free wifi), then headed back to Turboville to see if the power was back on.
It was, thank heavens, but my phone was now out!
Perhaps I was meant to celebrate Thanksgiving early with my Canadian friends? This was clearly a sign from the universe.
This morning, I was up bright and early for a call with my colleagues in NY and London, and KABOOM, I hear the transformer blow…again.
As I looked out on the skyline of downtown Austin, waiting to see if Zeus was about to appear over the Texas capitol building, trident in hand ready to strike, I wondered what I had done to deserve all this.
So, that’s the buildup, and now you can see why I laughed out loud (with all due apologies to David Duchovy in Californication), when this headline hit my desk:
City of Austin Selects IBM to Manage New Billing System
Then the subhead: Decision Paves Way for Smart Grid Initiatives
I was JUST this morning joking with my colleagues that Austin clearly needed a smart grid. Too frickin’ funny.
So here’s the full story: IBM signed an eight-year agreement to install and manage a new utility services billing system for the City of Austin that is designed to improve customer service while preparing the city for its broader green energy initiatives.
The new billing system will support the City of Austin’s electric, water and waste-collection operations and other city operational fees.
It will have an open architecture, be compatible with other city systems, and be capable of providing real time access to information for customers and employees.
The end goal being to provide a single point of contact for customers through multiple communications channels for utility-based products and services.
Customers like me!
More to the point, the new billing system will also, when combined with new meters the city plans to deploy this fall, allow the city to begin implementing a smart electric grid.
By providing consumers with real-time information on their energy consumption, smart grids help customers better manage their energy usage and lower their monthly bills.
For utilities like Austin Energy, smart grids make it easier to detect outages and integrate cleaner, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
Though I don’t think I’ll need the smart grid to detect the recent outages, I am looking forward to potentially being able to take advantage of greener energy resources via the Austin smart grid.
Jeff Smith, IBM vice president for our Communications Sector Solutions, had this to say about the deal:
“The City of Austin has long been at the forefront of green energy initiatives, so we are excited to work with the city on this new billing system, which will lay the groundwork for the development of a smart grid in Central Texas.”
IBM and the City of Austin are members of the Pecan Street Project, a consortium of public and private partners including Austin Energy, Austin Technology Incubator, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, The University of Texas at Austin, Applied Materials, Cisco, Dell, Freescale Semiconductor, GE, GridPoint, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and SEMATECH.
The group’s goal is to design a clean energy infrastructure, business model and proving ground for tomorrow’s energy technology.
The new billing system consists of the Oracle Customer Care and Billing application running on IBM WebSphere and IBM Tivoli middleware.
IBM and Smart Grid
Infrastructure investments are at the forefront of stimulus packages around the world to spur economic growth.
Smart systems are transforming energy grids, supply chains, water management and the healthcare industry to name a few. Modernizing the power grid provides consumers with the information to understand their energy usage and take actions to reduce wasteful use and integrate renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
IBM is working with clients in nearly 50 smart grid engagements across emerging and mature markets. More about IBM’s vision to bring a new level of intelligence to how the world works — how every person, business, organization, government, natural system, and man-made system interacts — can be found here.