The quiet workhorse of home energy management will be the wireless networks that will collect and deliver important energy usage data over the pipes. Eka Systems, a startup that builds wireless mesh technology for smart meter applications, has recently gotten some due recognition through a partnership with one of the most well-known smart meter companies around: Landis+Gyr. Eka says it has secured a deal whereby the Swiss firm will use Eka’s wireless mesh meter software and hardware in its residential smart meter system.
It’s a sizable win for the 8-year-old Eka; Landis+Gyr is a huge, century-old company that has 5,000 employees and is a forerunner in the advanced meter infrastructure market. Eka is no slouch, either. Based out of Germantown, Md., the startup has reportedly raised around $40 million in funding to date. Its most recent round, for $18.5 million, which the company announced in July, was led by Flybridge Capital Partners and including the Angeleno Group, RockPort Capital Partners, The Westly Group and Metropolitan Investment.
Smart meters should run over wireless mesh networks, explained Eka’s director of products, Chris Irwin, because mesh can provide one of the cheapest available wireless communications for in-home technologies that utilities would support. Utilities could run connected smart meter services over wireless mesh for just a portion of the price, compared with using, say, a phone company’s cellular networks, Irwin says.
While the U.S. has been slow to implement smart meter technology, Irwin has seen utilities installing the technology a lot faster over the past year. That’s promising, because as Irwin notes, the industry has only really scratched the surface; of the nation’s hundreds of millions of homes and buildings, only a fraction have smart meter tech installed. And in order to build a truly smart grid, numerous additional steps still need to be taken on the hardware, software and networking sides before we can truly build out our ailing electrical systems. In a sign of better things to come, however, California utility PG&E said last month that it has partnered with smart grid networking company Silver Springs to deliver smart grid tech to 5 million customers.