Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Autodesk Makes the Top 10 software companies that are "green"

Michael Kanellos: August 10, 2009
The Top Ten in Green Software

Green software is popping up all over. Here are our favorites.

A green technology analyst about a year ago told me there was no such thing as a green software market.

He was wrong.

While software developers arguably arrived late to the greentech party, their presence and importance grows daily. Like in the computer world, software largely exists to accomplish two goals: to make it easier to get complex data and to fine-tune the control over computers, industrial equipment and other devices. Understand and manipulate.

VCs, of course, love this. Two great coders, a case of Red Bull and positive word-of-mouth can launch a software firm into international prominence.

Where greentech and the computing world differ is how software is sold. Only some companies actually offer software as a discrete service or product. Many bake it into their existing offerings. Expect to see some of these applications get spun out into separate companies or see the parent companies transform themselves into software outfits. The list, however, does not include software from companies like Cisco or Triliant that seem more inextricably bound up in hardware.

Here are my favorites (in something approaching order):

1. eMeter The company, which has raised $57 million in two rounds, has created a system that crunches the data from electrical meters for the benefit of utilities. It can monitor power consumption, maintenance issues, trends, outages, billing management, etc.

It has an in-home thermostat application too, but it's not really the interesting part. It's how eMeter manipulates data for utilities that makes it valuable. Plus, it can pave the way for dynamic pricing schemes. Customers include Southern California Edison, TorontoHydro and CenterPoint Energy, among others.

2. Sustainable Spaces Sustainable currently gets its revenue from energy efficiency retrofits, but the heart of the company is a complex application that allows contractors to determine the optimal repairs for a building.

"It is an expert system for decision support in the field," said president Matt Golden. "We have software meetings all the time." A number of the company's employees came from Google. The company's next task is to certify third-party contractors (i.e., not those working on Sustainable's crew) to get trained on the system. The retrofit market may become as crowded as building management, but for now Sustainable has a head start.

3. Autodesk Product and building design. In terms of overall impact, the company will likely have a greater influence than anyone else on the list in terms of improving energy efficiency in buildings, reducing the amount of raw materials in manufactured goods, and replacing fossil fuels. But be honest, seeing Sustainable on this list is more of a surprise.

Honorable mention: Bentley Systems, which makes simulation and design tools for HVAC engineers.

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