On-Ramp aims to raise $30M for low-power wireless tech

Finding a better, low-power way to send data over long distance is crucial for tracking energy use and monitoring the health of an electric grid. On-Ramp Wireless has been tackling this challenge and now aims to raise nearly $30 million to commercialize its technology, according to its regulatory filing on Thursday.

The San Diego startup has raised about $10 million of the $30 million round so far. It raised $11.5 million only a year ago. In March this year, the company told Xconomy that it had raised $37 million since its inception and was planning to start a new round.

On-Ramp says its radios can find and receive signals that are too weak for competing technologies to detect, and they are able to send those signals using less power. The heart of the technology is a set of algorithms that increases the sensitivity of the radios to capture the weak signals.

The startup, founded in 2008, told Technology Review last year that it only needed to use 35 access points to connect with smart meters and other network devices over a 4,000 square-mile area when a competing wireless technology would require over 1,000 access points.

On-Ramp is marketing its technology not only for smart meter rollouts but also for tracking the performances of a variety of industrial equipment over a large and sometimes remote region, from transmission networks to gas pipelines. The company says its wireless technology will work well to monitor power lines buried deep underground.

The company’s technology isn’t meant to send massive amount of data, and it’s engineered  to connect devices that operate at less than 50 bits per second. But it could complement other wireless technologies such as WiFi, cellular or WiMAX or compete against them in a smart grid buildout, depending on how utilities design their networks. Other wireless technology developers competing for utilities’ attention include Silver Spring Networks, SmartSynch (now part of Itron), and Trilliant.

On-Ramp has been working on a trial in South Korea in a smart meter project with Fountain Springs and Korea Telecom. Last August, On-Ramp announced that it would sell its wireless equipment in North America and the United Kingdom through Science Application International Corp.

On-Ramp’s technology sounds solid, but whether it can price the tech competitively will be just as important for the company. As a startup, it also will have to show that it will be able to stick around to help its customers to deal with any repair and maintenance problems.