The Super Bowl blackout was traced to an electrical relay device recently installed to protect the stadium in the event of a cable failure. The relay device triggered, signaling a switch to open when it should not have, causing the outage.The Super Bowl and before it, Hurricane Sandy, are high profile confirmations that power is critical, managing electric grid reliability is a challenging undertaking and outages are deeply disruptive.

Coincidently, the week before the game, I was at a conference called DistribuTECH. Its the annual meeting of the electric utility industry with more than 8,000 professionals from 48 countries. It may be the largest gathering of smart grid technologies under one conference umbrella. Electrical grid reliability, security and management of energy demand are the primary technology themes behind smart grid. The industry is searching for better, faster, more granular control of its electric grid. It is working to transform the grid into a smarter, more reliable network with intelligent devices, M2M communications, automated operations and self-healing. Billions of dollars are being spent worldwide. Its the fastest growing segment in the power industry.

The worlds largest automation vendors, consultancies and software companies are developing, integrating and acquiring a multitude of technologies to deliver better solutions. No surprise that big data analytics are also a major part of this transformation. How else do you distill the massive amount of new data generated at such high volumes into usable intelligence and better grid performance? A large number of new companies have emerged with promising intellectual property. The landscape is filled with innovation. Investors have taken notice making substantial investments, and strategic buyers like Schneider, Oracle and Toshiba/Landis & Gyr to name just a few, have been recent movers.

Its a big deal. The importance of keeping the lights on means that smart grid, M2M, big data analytics and energy management will be front and center driving technology M&A until our electric grid is fully automated, reliable and cyber secure.