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IBM, C&W Partner On UK Smart Energy Cloud

Big Blue and its telecom ally hope to capture part of the British government's $13 billion plan to put smart meters in every home.

IBM has teamed up with Cable&Wireless Worldwide with an eye to getting a piece of the UK's plan to put 47 million smart energy meters in British homes by 2010.

Part of the plan calls for the creation of central server hubs that send and receive data from the smart meters, which are designed to let utilities companies monitor energy use more precisely and help consumers reduce their power bills.

IBM and C&W said they plan to build a hub, which they've labeled UK Smart Energy Cloud, based on IBM's Informix database technology and Tivoli infrastructure management software and C&W's networking systems.

"As we start the journey towards a low-carbon economy smart meters will drive a wave of change in the energy system and are set to become an increasingly important part of the nation's critical infrastructure," said Laurence Carpanini, director of Smart Meters and Smart Grids for IBM UK & Ireland.

"With this collaboration, we can provide the UK with a flexible, intelligent solution based on proven technology. We can support the national Smart Meter Implementation Programme and help communities become smarter, more connected and in turn, more sustainable," said Carpanini.

C&W officials said they needed to partner with a broad-based IT products and services company like IBM to present a complete solution for the program.

"We believe a collaboration of this kind is the most natural approach to achieving an end to end solution for a complete smart metering roll-out and making smart grid a reality. The challenge is for smart meters to reach the entire UK population and this will require a combination of enabling solutions, such as GPRS, radio, and Power Line Carrier to make sure it's cost effective," said Matt Key, managing director for Enterprise at C&W.

IBM has spent billions of dollars over the past decade building out its portfolio of database and analytics software—through buyouts of specialists like Informix and Cognos and through in-house efforts—in order to better position itself to compete for deals like the UK smart meter program.

In this case, however, the company will have competition. BT, Vodafone, and Telefonica 02 UK have all reportedly teamed up with infrastructure partners to bid for pieces of the program, which is expected cost about $13 billion in total. The cost of installing the smart meters alone is pegged at about $550 per household.

IBM shares were up 1.67%, to $158.49, in opening trading Monday.

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