Silver Spring Networks expands offerings and geographies


By Jesse Berst


Silver Spring Networks (SSN) became famous as a North American-focused communications company, but the Redwood City, CA-based, venture-backed startup has since developed into a full-line smart grid provider with growing international credentials.


For instance, many people do not realize the extent of SSN's move into distribution automation. Just recently, SSN has developed a communications module for one of the industry's most advanced faulted circuit indicators. The Sentient Energy Master Monitor 2 (MM2) attaches easily to overhead power lines. Communicating over the SSN network, it provides real-time information on the state of power lines. The MM2 is one of the new-breed, low-cost sensors that scavenge power from the power line itself and can be easily installed just by "hot stick."


SSN has also upgraded its GridScape network management application to support not just smart meters, but all sorts of sensors and devices.


And SSN has just announced its entry into a relatively new arena -- cloud computing. It will make various alerts, dashboards and reports available via a hosted solution called SilverLink. The company claims it offers "the industry's first insight-as-a-service." In fact, companies such as General Electric, SAIC and Calico Energy have been offering hosted solutions for some time that overlap with some of SilverLink's functionality.


Even so, SilverLink's tight integration with SSN's many other offerings will make this a compelling service for utilities that don't want the expense of building, coding and staffing a 24x7 operations center. We think SilverLink's "manager of managers" motto will resonate with many utilities. "The speed and specificity of SilverLink insights enable utilities to save time and money by liberating them from generic reporting systems and expensive custom integrations," said Don Reeves, Senior Vice President of Smart Grid Services and Operations.


The next growth market?

It's important for SSN (and for other companies in the smart meter space) to make inroads into distribution automation.  GTM Research predicts  the U.S. distribution automation market will rise from $1.75 billion in 2010 to about $3 billion in 2015, outpacing smart meters in money spent. Meanwhile, the smart meter market has slowed. SSN currently connects to roughly 12 million smart meters in North America, with another 6 million under contract. But Pike Research predicts U.S. smart meter installations will decline sharply over the next two years before picking back up.


As a result, SSN and its rivals also need to increasingly sell outside the U.S. -- and SSN has begun doing just that. In New Zealand, SSN is deploying a platform for metering and distribution automation for 45,000 customers of WEL Networks. In Europe, SSN is involved in several important pilots, including the Ecoisland Partnership, which seeks to make the Isle of Wight energy self-sufficient by 2020. SSN is also part of the team working on an innovative project in Southeast England to make wind easier, faster, and cheaper to attach to the grid.