Cisco Invests in Smart-Grid Management Vendor

Cisco doesn’t fall in love with technology, but it is enamored of big market opportunities.

As such, Cisco’s unspecified investment in smart-grid management vendor Grid Net shouldn’t be construed so much as a bet on WiMAX than as a hedged wager on utilities requiring more than relatively low-bandwidth wireless mesh networks to carry all the aggregated traffic that will be generated by multitudes of embedded devices.

Oh, and Cisco probably liked Grid Net’s existing partners, which include previous investors Intel and General Electric. Both companies stand to benefit from Grid Net’s success, and from the proliferation of WiMAX somewhere other than in the 4G networks of wireless operators, most of whom are gravitating toward LTE, WiMAX’s nemesis.

Bear in mind, too, that utilities — who can’t have their networks go down — are inherently cautious entities that prize reliability above all else. They tend to avoid doing business with startup companies, favoring tried-and-true suppliers such as GE. That GE already was in Grid Net’s corner no doubt figured favorably in Cisco’s calculations.

One other factor played a role, too. Grid Net competes against Silver Spring Networks, an IPO-bound vendor of smart-grid management systems that Cisco views as a looming threat, what some have even called an aspiring Cisco of the smart grid.

Not surprisingly, Cisco wants to be the Cisco of the smart grid.

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