Companies are springing up that seek to capture some of the market for smart meters. Obviously, this market has not been fully developed but has a huge potential. Forward-looking business leaders are marketing their products for consumers that want to have more control over their energy consumption.
Wireless technology plays a key role in the development of smart meters for the home as do the development of sensors that can enable a power provider to manipulate the power supply when necessary and create a level of transparency into the power grid that currently isn’t there. Below are descriptions of products from five different start-up companies that all use wireless technology:
Eka Systems has been around for eight years and specializes in developing wireless mesh networks that help automate the process of delivering power to the consumer in the most efficient manner. In a wireless mesh network, information distribution is decentralized; eliminating the need for a centralized server or other expensive hardware that would normally be responsible for disseminating information throughout a network. The wireless mesh network takes care of the routing tasks itself; radio nodes using low-power transmitters automatically transmit data to receptors that are located close by.
Eka Systems’ wireless mesh network will be used to constantly provide information, in real-time, regarding customer energy consumption by transferring it back to the utility company. Within each apartment building, or office building, or neighbourhood, the mesh network takes care of routing the data to a central data collector for the entire site. Then, the data collector transfers the data for the whole building back to the power company.
EnOcean is a German firm that was spun off of tech-giant Siemens in 2001. The company makes wireless sensor networks that use “energy-harvesting” technology in conjunction with low-powered radio frequencies in order to increase efficiency for energy consumers. The sensors can be used to detect whether anybody is within a room and turn off the lights if there is not, or can transmit monitoring information such as temperature, lighting, and appliance use throughout an entire building.
EnOcean’s “energy-harvesting” technology works by harnessing tiny amounts of power – from vibrations, temperature variations, or changes in air pressure – into electricity to be used by the network. The sensor networks essentially harness power where it was completely ignored before.
Ember was founded in 2001 and makes the essential components of ZigBee wireless networks. ZigBee is a wireless standard that allows smart grid components to communicate intelligently without human intervention. The protocol has gained a lot of momentum for use in smart grids because of the very low power requirements, low bandwidth, and low cost.
SmartSynch has developed technology that allows smart meters to work on infrastructure that is already present such as cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Power companies that choose SmartSynch’s technology can deploy a smart meter network quickly and cheaply without having to install expensive backbone infrastructure in many cases.
MMB Research began as a small group of ZigBee wireless developers who were consulting so often on the deployment of ZigBee compliant software and services that they decided to form a company focusing on this. As ZigBee continues to emerge as the leading wireless smart meter standard, more and more companies will have a need to develop products that conforms to the standard.
Eka Systems, Inc
20201 Century Boulevard
Germantown, MD 20874
801 Boylston Street
5th Floor Boston, MA 02116, USA
343 Congress St., 5th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02210
4400 Old Canton Road Suite 300
Jackson, MS 39211
35 Prince Arthur Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1B2