Is bigger necessarily more efficient? It all depends on circumstances. For example, an Amazon certainly enjoys an economy of scale no brick-and-mortar local bookstore can … as fallout in the book-selling business has proven. On the other hand, when conditions on Earth changed dramatically, the mighty dinosaurs that ruled for millions of years found themselves replaced by the smallest of proto-mammals.
Which begs the question: how will the smart-grid industry evolve over time? Will it come to resemble the internet — which would offer a certain logic, considering smart grids are envisioned as the “internet of things” — where some giants (ie, Google, Facebook, etc.) dominate but there’s always opportunity for new leaders to emerge? Or will it look more like the current utility landscape, which tends to be populated by a cast of long-established leaders (Britain’s “Big Six” energy firms, for example) with little room for new competition?
Being so early in the game, it’s hard to make predictions. For now, the answer seems to be, “A bit of both.” On the one hand, every day reveals more startups and new innovations that could be the “next big thing.” On the other hand, the giants are definitely swallowing up a lot of little guys. (Think of the recent viral photo of the giant weta eating a carrot.)
Earlier this year, Toshiba acquired Swiss metering firm Landis+Gyr for a whopping $2.3 billion. And today, IBM aimed to extend its “Smarter Cities” reach further with the addition of Cúram Software Ltd., which helps governments improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accessibility of social programs.
Technology giant Siemens, too, is shelling out big bucks to grow even bigger in smart-grid and clean-energy technologies. Last month, it expanded its stake in the UK marine-energy firm Marine Current Turbines Ltd. And today, it added even more weight with the announcement it’s acquiring the meter data management company eMeter for an undisclosed amount.
The deal, expected to be completed later this month, adds eMeter’s software to Siemens already substantial smart-grid portfolio.
“Ever-increasing demand for more efficient power supply networks for cities and utilities make this acquisition even more important,” said Jan Mrosik, CEO of the Smart Grid Division of the Siemens Infrastructure and Cities Sector.
From an efficiency business perspective, today’s technology and services giants are clearly on a “bigger is better” roll.