On-Ramp Wireless ramps up funds for smart grid

Updated: A wireless smart grid networking technology that is supposed to be able to reach many miles with less infrastructure and at a lower price point than competitors, is ramping up funding. That would be startup On-Ramp Wireless, which according to a filing has raised $11.5 million of a planned almost $15 million round.

On-Ramp’s tech is intriguing from a technology perspective, and the company says it’s using wireless a version of WiFi combined with smart algorithms to be able to send a small stream of data signals over some 45-miles with lower power. The company’s software can interpret weak signals, which is why it can send the data so far and still keep the network running, and the company can even put the wireless tech underground to monitor power lines deep in the earth.

The technology — called Ultra-Link Processing — could be a good fit for smart grid devices that use 50 bits per second or less, which is far less data being used by broadband networks. On-Ramp CTO Ted Myers told MIT Tech Review this week, that its trial network in San Diego uses only 35 access points to connect with smart meters and other network devices over a 4,000 square mile area. In comparison, says Myers, PG&E is using over 1,000 access points over the same size space.

However, from a commercialization standpoint, On-Ramp is in a much earlier stage than some network players like Silver Spring Networks, SmartSynch, and Trilliant. These companies have raised far more money, and have commercial deployments. On-Ramp, on the other hand, is working on a Department of Energy-funded trial project with San Diego Gas & Electric to embed its tech on underground distribution circuits.

While last year I would have said I’m not sure if there’s room for more smart grid network infrastructure players, it seems like smart grid network installations in the U.S. have slowed down and startups offering lower cost networks options have emerged, like Power Tagging and On-Ramp.