Meter giant Itron (s ITRI) has made a rare smart grid acquisition. On Wednesday afternoon Itron announced that it plans to acquire smart grid cellular networking company SmartSynch in a deal worth around $100 million. SmartSynch has championed the use of cellular networks for utilities’ smart grid projects and says it has 130 customers, including nine of the top ten utilities in the U.S.
By my calculations the 12-year-old company, based in Jackson, Miss., raised its first venture capital rounds from Nth Power, Siemens Venture Capital and Kinetic Ventures back in its first couple of years of existence, and by 2003, had raised $35 million in venture funds. Then more recently, the company followed up with $20 million in 2008, another $11 million in debt and options two years ago, and another $25.67 million in debt and options a year ago. So at least $90 million in funding.
Beyond its cellular smart grid network tech, SmartSynch in recent years has created a developer program with Qualcomm, worked on a prepaid electric meter service with startup PayGo, and launched its universal smart grid router in late 2009.
While SmartSynch has a lot of meters installed at commercial and industrial sites, its residential deployments have been fairly sparse to date. Those include a 10,000-home trial with AT&T and Texas New Mexico Power set to expand to 231,000 meters in the next five years, as well as partnerships with Verizon and Sprint.
It’s clear by now that cellular networks will make up a significant portion of utilities’ smart grid plans. In recent weeks Silver Spring Networks and Cisco also said they will be using cellular for a portion of the grid. Itron competes with Silver Spring Networks and others for smart grid networking, as well as being a giant smart meter maker. Itron’s shares shot up 6.5 percent in afterhours trading.