Council Lead Partner Verizon has just announced a cloud-based service that does away with the large capital requirements of a smart grid. Instead of building and operating a citywide communications network, a utility can now simply "rent" time on the existing Verizon cellular network. Instead of buying and operating a server farm, a utility can simply "rent" Verizon's cloud services. And instead of buying and maintaining complex software, a utility can simply "rent" cloud-based applications.
The announcement is part of a larger trend we could call "smart city as a service" -- delivering cloud-based city services for a monthly charge. Verizon is far from the first company to talk about smart grid as a service, but it does appear to have one of the most complete offerings.
The service is most likely to appeal to municipal utilities and rural coops, at least in the beginning. For one thing, munis and coops are smaller and therefore cannot typically afford the expense of building out their own networks, running their own server farms or hiring high-priced technical talent to run everything. What's more, the Verizon approach lets them start small with (for example) one trouble area and gradually expand throughout the service territory as needed.
Although the concept seems equally valid for large investor-owned utilities (IOUs), many of them operate under regulatory structures that reward them for large capital projects, but not for operating expenses. Thus many IOUs may prefer to pay for their own network, their own servers and their own software if they can convince the regulators to allow it into their rate base.
Here's the larger message -- if you've been holding off from smart city projects for fear of up-front capital costs, you owe it to yourself to explore the "smart city as a service" option. In energy but also in many other smart city sectors, you can now "rent" what you need by the month.
Learn more about Verizon Grid Wide Utility Solutions.