Smart meter provider SmartSynch has announced it’s developed a new smart grid communication box that will transmit energy use data to and from utilities via public wireless networks. Called the Universal Communications Module (UCM), this new technology is intended to enhance smart meters, allowing utilities to wirelessly deploy smart grid programs like energy load control, real-time pricing applications, stand-by generator control and more detailed monitoring capabilities.
SmartSynch is one of the leading companies in the burgeoning IP-based smart grid space, already working with 100 utilities across the U.S. It already partners with AT&T to transmit utility communications over its wireless network. This new product would make energy information available to even more homeowners. Specifically, it could be used in tandem with older, traditional meters to send (but not receive) energy data to utilities. The company says that even smart meters are constrained by their bandwidth requirements.
The company will market the UCM to utilities looking to upgrade their systems and monitor their energy supplies more closely. With the information beamed immediately to their back offices, they will have the data they need to run demand-response programs — redistributions of power based on where and who needs it most — stabilize grids during peak hours, and deliver relevant information back to consumers so they can make more prudent decisions.
The first utility to implement the UCM will be Duke Energy, which says it will forgo smart meters altogether. Instead, it will use the box to collect data directly from household devices and appliances. The company provides service to about 60,000 homes in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is looking to expand into Indiana.
SmartSynch competes with companies like Silver Spring Networks, Ambient (which has a similar module on the market), GridPoint and Trilliant. Its investors include Credit Suisse, Batelle Ventures, Beacon Group, Endeavor Capital Management, GulfSouth Capital, Battelle’s affiliate Innovation Valley Partners, Kinetic Ventures, OPG Ventures and Siemens Venture Capital.