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Wireless communication companies are particularly happy with all the attention focused on the smart grid, since wireless networks can be tapped to help both utilities and consumers monitor and control energy consumption. That will benefit firms that are building wireless sensor technology, too — and Monday morning wireless sensor network startup Arch Rock plans to debut its own energy management software service, called Energy Optimizer.
While the San Francisco, Calif.-based company’s wireless sensor tech has been used by companies to monitor energy consumption in buildings since the company’s founding in 2005, this is the first time the startup is offering an energy management tool that will ride over its sensor networks.
It’s a good time to beef up tools to help customers use wireless sensors to control and cut energy consumption. The stimulus package is offering companies and utilities billions for energy-efficiency upgrades, and companies are increasingly focused on ways to cut energy bills in the down economy. For its new energy management service and sensor network, Arch Rock is targeting commercial and industrial building owners with a monthly energy bill of about $10,000 or more. The product, available in May, will cost around $10,000 for the hardware and a 1-year energy management subscription.
Sound like a lot? Arch Rock’s CEO Roland Acra tells us that in a slow economy customers are expecting a return on investment (ROI) of about a year. Using sensors carefully placed throughout a building, a company’s head of operations can see which rooms and divisions — e.g., the HVAC system, the lab, the server room — are using the most energy at what time of day. The energy management tool can help the manager to make decisions about where and when to cut energy consumption and how to stay on a set budget.
One particularly helpful aspect of the tool is enabling the company to determine how effective it is to join a local utilities’ demand response program. The management tool can recreate the demand response parameters and see if it’s a good decision to join the program or not. The sensor network and management service is also entirely based on Internet Protocol, including the wireless sensors which use a Zigbee/IP hybrid called 6LowPAN, so companies can more easily integrate it with existing networks.
Ultimately, building software and energy management services is a new approach for Arch Rock, which raised $15 million from venture investors NEA, Intel Capital and Shasta Ventures; other companies that have been selling building energy management services for years like Johnson Controls and Siemens have significantly more experience. There are also a lot of startups selling into this space, including Ember, which recently raised $8 million from a long list of investors. But the Energy Optimizer will likely make Arch Rock’s wireless sensor network tech a little more attractive to companies that are weighing their options for what type of network to install to monitor energy consumption.