Why waste time driving around looking for a parking space when you can simply outbid someone?

World Sensing has come up with an application that lets drivers bid on available parking spaces in downtown urban cores via a handset. If parking is tight, the price rises. If you want to reserve it 30 minutes or more in advance, the price goes up. The system reserves a given spot by programming the electronic parking meter to refuse to accept a payment from any other debit card within the reservation period.

Ideally, it could reduce gas and fumes associated with idling and prevent traffic clogs, says Drew Clark, director of strategy in IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Venture Group.

The company is one of the pre-public, and often pre-venture, outfits that IBM is trying to highlight through its Smart Camp initiative. At Smart Camp, startups get an opportunity to pitch themselves and VCs ideally plunk money into them. The next one occurs in September in San Mateo. ("We beat them 92 to 1/Cogito Ergo Sum!" chants the Descartes cabin at Smart Camp.)

Clark's job is to talk to established companies, startups and regulators and try to figure out where IBM's technology might best fit in the market. IBM's VC group doesn't invest in companies. Instead, it mostly tries to make connections and introductions. Ergo, Clark can serve as a signal on where the market is going. Some of the things on his mind these days:

1. Expect to see servers and other high-powered computing devices out in the field as the smart grid expands. One of the primary goals of making the grid more intelligent is to be able to implement fine-tuned demand response or demand management networks. To turn power consumption up and down, however, requires a somewhat granular view of what is taking place inside of a home or office building.

Utilities thus will not be able to gather all of the data in real-time, process it, and then send signals out for turning down air conditioners or dimming lights. Instead, servers and intelligent edge switches closer to homes will access network-based databases and take the appropriate action.

Side note: networking has become one of the dominant themes of the year. As a computer giant, it is natural for IBM to promote it, but General Electric (NYSE: GE) also said that leveraging IT technologies and networking will play a large role in its next five-year plan for ecomagination.

"These are going to be quad-core processor servers," he said. "More and more data is being pulled out of the data center. The closer you get, the more granular a view you get...They [utilities] are starting to think about what sort of processing on the network makes sense."

2. We may see the evolution of parallel networks. Many utilities that have moved forward with plans to modernize their grids have adopted meters with low-bandwidth transmission protocols that check on energy consumption every 15 minutes. That isn't good enough for home energy management or demand response companies.

"Demand response companies will need sub-second signals," he said. "They need to take off kilowatts instantly."

To that end, these companies, particularly in deregulated states, may insert their own control boxes into homes and offices and rent fiber or bandwidth from commercial carriers. This network will interact with the utility's own network, but often operate as a separate entity.

3. Speaking of demand response, some utilities will offload that task to third parties and others will keep it inside. "Some of them want to control every inch of connectivity," he said. Larsh Johnson, president of eMeter, said recently that some utilities will begin to unfurl their own demand response networks next year.

4. Green IT remains a high priority in corporate America. To that end, IBM has linked alliances with SynapSense (data center assessment, monitoring and control) and Hara (software for monitoring resource consumption.) In many of these types of alliances, IBM provides sales contacts and layers on services.

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