While the company didn’t announce how much cash they’ve taken in, we’re betting it’s not too small. The Series C round, led by Rockport Capital and the Angeleno Group, will be set aside for large scale deployments of their wireless mesh networking technology.
Eka, based in Maryland, sells wireless network technology to the utility, electricity and water industries. Its wireless mesh advanced metering system can help power companies better manage electricity grids. Advanced metering sensors and networks, which produce close to real-time readouts of usage, have dozens of nifty benefits.
One of the most interesting things about advanced metering is that it can pave the way for utilities to charge electricity users in a real-time pricing model based on supply and demand — when demand is high, prices rise, and when demand drops off, it becomes more affordable. Higher pricing can get users to conserve more and ease off an overburdened grid. Most utilities continue to charge a flat fee for energy, though many are moving toward variable pricing. The Commissioner of the California Energy Commission John Geesman recently said that smart (connected) meters will be rolled out in residential dwellings over the course of 4 to 5 years in California.
We’re not sure if Eka has utility customers that employ variable pricing yet (we’ll update this when they get back to us on it). Update: Some of Eka’s current commercial and industrial customers use variable pricing for energy costs.
“I think variable pricing will help accelerate our technology in a big way,” said Eka CEO Prakash Chakravarthi.
Drew Clark, IBM’s Director of Strategy for its Venture Capital Group said to us this week that set pricing is a holdover for the energy: “Variable pricing is a fact of life and the energy industry is moving there,” said Clark.
Advanced metering technology attached to a wireless mesh network has plenty of other useful applications, like detecting outages quickly and letting building managers figure out the exact energy usage of specific sections of a building.
Chakravarthi told us that his company’s advanced metering system is the only one available that automates the entire process of managing a large network of meters. Competitors Elster and Trilliant Networks are managed networks, similiar to ISP’s compared to the Internet, which he says isn’t an efficient way to run the technology.
“The utility has to manage the entire thing on their own. On that scale, network management becomes entirely complex,” said Chakravarthi.
Eka installs its wireless meter nodes under the glass of electricity meters in all the buildings in a set area, and then uses its wireless mesh network to constantly transfer information on the real-time energy usage, per building, back to the utility company.
“By using a wireless mesh network, large numbers of meters, for example, can intelligently route information to and from distant gateways in an efficient manner, giving consideration to the time-varying wireless link quality.” – Eka Networks ‘Mesh Overview’