One persistent question was heard repeatedly from major smart-meter manufacturers at last week’s DistribuTECH 2012: “Who are these guys?”
The guys in this case are the people behind Glen Canyon – an upstart smart meter maker that jumped onto everyone’s radar just days before the smart grid industry’s latest annual event kicked off in San Antonio. In multiple meetings with representatives of major incumbents (Itron, Elster, Landis+Gyr), one of the first questions to me and my Pike Research colleagues was what we thought about Glen Canyon (more on that below).
Why the great interest in Glen Canyon? Because the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based newcomer is offering to sell AMI smart meters for ridiculously low prices ($25 or less, according to reports). That would undercut typical prices by a wide margin, and that has rattled nerves among the incumbents.
Glen Canyon representatives told me their NEXGEN meters are made by Hong Kong-based contract manufacturer Computime at a factory in Shenzhen, China. The devices feature a communications package that includes an 802.15.4 wireless radio with a RISC-based 32-bit processor. A key element of Glen Canyon’s system is its AMI cloud service, which while interesting is not unique as other vendors, including SAIC and GE, have similar offerings.
At DistribuTECH, Glen Canyon announced a deal with Beijing Guozhiheng Power Management Technology Group for 1.5 million NEXGEN meters that will be deployed over the next 18 months. Not bad for a company just coming out of stealth mode.
If indeed GC can deliver at volume good-enough smart meters at cut-rate prices, then this could alter the competitive landscape. It will also kick off a price war, mainly outside North America where utilities anxious to deploy smart meters but unwilling to pay premium prices might be willing buyers. It’s too early to tell just how much ground shaking GC will eventually cause. For now anyway, the meter business has felt at least a minor disturbance.