August 8, 2023

Why we need specialized solutions — not Jack-of-All-Trades platforms — to succeed at DERMS

Sahas Katta

CEO + Co-Founder

The distributed energy resource (DER) industry is working to modernize the grid with more connected software-based solutions. Utilities partner with distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) providers who specialize in managing consumer-owned DERs — that includes aggregating DERs, automating actions, engaging with customers, and equipping utilities with data for better operations and forecasting.

These DERMS software partner with Smartcar to leverage our unique expertise in standardizing EV integrations at scale. The relationship between Smartcar and DERMS allows each party to focus on doing what they do best, really well.

But some EV integration vendors are taking a different approach.

Instead of being a partner to DERMS providers, these vendors are encroaching into the energy industry as full-stack solutions that provide both backend integrations and utility-facing software.

We believe that this approach to the market is incorrect and in fact, slows down innovation in load flexibility. Capturing both ends of the market will stretch companies too thin, causing many details to slip through the cracks — unreliable integrations, unpolished consumer experiences, inefficient issue resolution, and erratic product roadmaps. You simply can’t go the distance in integrating with every EV out there while trying to partner with utilities and power their unique programs.

The energy ecosystem is most productive when players can prioritize their core competencies and come together to present complete solutions.

Utilities need dedicated engineering and energy expertise to scale a secure data infrastructure of customer-owned devices alongside strong customer-facing programs — but this is hard to do effectively with all-in-one platforms that build a little bit of everything.

With EVs, having a clear and consistent goal of building reliable integrations is necessary to overcome the lack of standardization in car APIs. When platforms choose to weave EVs into the grid as one of their multiple core offerings, it becomes harder to prioritize extensive coverage, reliability, security, and the vehicle owner experience.

Smartcar’s strategy is to empower DERMS providers with our expertise in building a connected car platform to manage loads from most EVs on the road today.

Purpose-driven solutions will bridge the technology gap.

A 2019 study by The Brattle Group found that smart technologies can enable residents to dominate the demand response market in the next ten years, allowing utilities to save over $15 billion in annual system costs with nearly 200 GW of load flexibility. However, 60% of this load flexibility capacity requires new technology solutions and incentives. This is where we’ve seen rapid growth in energy innovation over the last decade.

But the lack of standardization across devices, a volatile regulatory landscape, and growing soft costs deeply impact the momentum of grid modernization. A report by Energize Capital states that soft costs can account for 60% to 90% of the total cost for EV chargers, but purpose-driven software is helping equipment manufacturers and utilities reduce these costs through process efficiencies at scale.

The key to removing these bottlenecks lies in a partnership-driven ecosystem where all parties focus on their strengths and draw expertise from each other.

This approach is evident in the automotive space, for instance. At this year’s Automotive Elektronik Kongress (AEK), automakers discussed the need for OEMs to act as vertical integrators instead of full-stack players. BMW shared that less than 20% of software in their vehicles is coded in-house, while Nio said that their own developer resources only go to strategic focus areas like ADAS and Battery Management Systems.

DERMS and managed EV charging providers like Bidgely, AutoGrid, EV.Energy, and Rolling Energy Resources have the expertise to help utilities implement suitable distribution system technologies. Developer platforms like Smartcar can help organizations like this reduce the time and dollars spent on engineering tedious integrations with electric vehicles. In fact, we can maximize these cost reductions and ensure high-quality solutions with patented intellectual property that keeps everyone’s best interests in mind.

True partnerships drive innovation.

The DER space is what it is because of collaboration.

Utilities align themselves with regulators, policymakers, and program partners — whether that's OEMs, EV charging operators, or climate nonprofits and accelerators. Given the breadth of this ecosystem, what works for one program isn’t going to work for another. Customization and a nuanced understanding of the technologies at play are key.

Telematics is a relatively new technology for the utility space. There are many questions outside the feasibility of telematics, like brand-specific latencies, that programs need to consider as more device types and EV models emerge.

Working with a vendor specializing in technology that empowers you — and not competes against you — allows both parties to be transparent and agile. Workshopping tailor-made solutions to meet program objectives and stakeholder expectations becomes a step toward a joint goal. It’s a win-win.

At Smartcar, the relationships we’ve built in the industry add to the strength of our product. We support you with tools that help you communicate better with vehicle owners and prospective partners.

Smartcar is building the future of mobility — what exactly does that mean?

Smartcar provides standardized connected car integrations that are reliable and developer-friendly. This means we have a team of experts dedicated to future-proofing your program from an engineering and customer experience perspective.

Our platform for EV APIs gives DERMS providers and their utility partners a centralized set of integrations that allow applications to talk to over 28 EV brands and counting. But beyond that, we’re working to build a mobility ecosystem that’s ethical, open, and fueled by strong public and private relationships.

We empower developers with friendly API documentation and SDKs to integrate mobility apps with cars of any brand. Developer platforms do not facilitate the sale of customer data to others and neither does Smartcar.

We empower consumers by giving vehicle owners the choice to use their vehicle data for the apps and services that benefit them. We give consumers the right to review a specific set of permissions for each app and provide explicit consent before sharing that data. We believe that the best products do not come at the cost of consumer privacy.

From addressing climate change to improving transportation equity and boosting vehicle safety and comfort, creating innovative products and shaping new consumer habits are what mobility businesses do best. Smartcar is solely in the business of building a platform that allows innovators to make this happen.

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