Forget MDM, it's all about MDA, claims eMeter CEO
By Jesse Berst
In my smart grid insider series, I relate insights from one-on-one conversations with utility and vendor executives and other experts. I sat down with eMeter CEO Gary Bloom earlier this month when we were both in Amsterdam for Metering Europe. I got an interesting perspective on the once-and-future meter data management (MDM) market.
Bloom, who learned at the knee of Oracle's Larry Ellison, has the same swagger and the same understanding of Big Data. He launched our tete-a-tete by proclaiming that eMeter is pulling away in the MDM space. He says it is because "we are the only ones who can do it at scale."
Bloom asserts that eMeter's software differs at the architectural level. He would have us believe that no other MDM solution can perform when there are millions of meters being read at short intervals. Without naming names, he claimed that several nameplate MDM projects by other vendors are faltering. They are fine at the pilot scale, but choke at volume. (My take: I'm guessing that companies such as Oracle and SAP will manage to figure it out, thank you very much. They've worked on a few other Big Data problems over the last 20 years, including many that dwarf meter data management.) Also see: How a smart grid and data analytics from Bell Labs are empowering Chattanooga.
Bloom is loathe to give any credit to any competitor for any reason at any time. Yet even he admits that other companies will eventually learn to scale. But Bloom thinks the entire category is set to evolve into something even more important: meter data analytics (MDA).
Today's MDM systems just handle meter-to-cash. That is, they grab the data, perform basic data management functions, and send it along to the billing system.
The real value is in the analytics... and that's where eMeter has an even bigger advantage, Bloom maintains. He says eMeter now offers "off-the-shelf" analytics that previously required large amounts of time and millions of dollars in consulting fees from the likes of IBM.
We will have to wait to see if eMeter is as far ahead of the pack as Bloom contends. But it is not too soon to predict the meter-to-cash piece will become just the table stakes in this high-risk poker game. The big pots will go to those who can unlock value through meter data analytics.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com. He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Energy & Environment directorate.