There are a lot of options for constructing wireless smart grid networks (check out our list here), but a new startup emerged this week with yet another option that it says could significantly lower the cost of building these networks. On-Ramp Wireless launched its wireless network technology this week, and the 1.5-year-old startup says it can offer hundreds of square miles of wireless network coverage with less infrastructure and a lower cost than other wireless network solutions.
On-Ramp CEO Joaquin Silva describes the proprietary technology as built from the ground up for machine-to-machine wireless networking and the smart grid. In comparison Silva says cellular and wireless mesh networks require more nodes and have a smaller coverage area so are less efficient for smart grid applications. On-Ramp also already has one win in place: It’s working with California utility San Diego Gas & Electric for GridComm, its wireless smart grid network.
San Diego Gas & Electric is working with a variety of wireless partners, including Arcadian Networks and a yet to be determined WiMAX network provider. Silva declined to name the application or network portion that On-Ramp would provide for GridComm. Whatever portion it is, however, it will be part of the network that needs an expansive range with low bandwith requirements, as On-Ramp’s wireless tech doesn’t provide the high-bandwidth needs, of say cellular or WiMAX.
One aspect of the tech gives me pause: On-Ramp is working on a proprietary technology that isn’t standards-based. While many proprietary wireless technologies are being used for the smart grid, I think the future of the smart grid buildout will be either for standards-based networks, or using proprietary technology that has already gotten significant traction. As Adam Grosser, partner with Foundation Capital told me this week, the few major smart grid infrastructure players have largely been decided, and now it’s time to focus on next-generation applications.
Silva, of course, thinks there’s a market for his company’s tech, and says the range is so great for their wireless hardware that it can even reach underground — something that could be useful for the power grid. We’ll see how SDG&E plans to use the company’s tech, given the utility is waiting on a stimulus grant to kick off the network buildout, but if the application is as novel as Silva suggests, the company could find a way into the already crowded wireless infrastructure smart grid space.