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Electrical equipment manufacturer Cooper Industries expanded its Smart Grid strategy today with the acquisition of wireless networking provider Eka Systems.

The deal is significant because it shows just how hard it is for smaller wireless networking companies like Eka to compete in an increasingly crowded field dominated by generously-backed players like Trilliant and Silver Spring Networks — not to mention the SmartSynchs of the world using public networks for grid communications, or Grid Net, working to popularize WiMAX. There are simply too many companies vying to be the choice for beaming energy data between smart meters and utilities.

Eka’s wireless mesh technology will get a new lease on life as part of Cooper’s Smart Grid portfolio, cushioned by the larger company’s $1.1 billion in revenue. The latter already offers some energy automation systems, but nothing too advanced. Eka will buoy its real-time metering communications capabilities, making it much easier for Cooper’s utility customers to respond to fluctuations in demand or service disruptions like blackouts or power line damage.

The deal likely foreshadows more consolidation in the Smart Grid arena. In particular, large corporations not specializing in this sector seem to be shopping for startups that can supply them with the technology and expertise they need in one shot. A recent example of this is Cisco Systems taking a large stake in Grid Net. Word on the street is the IP giant may snap up Silver Spring before it has a chance to file for its anticipated IPO.

Based in Germantown, Md., Eka Systems had raised $40 million in capital from backers including Flybridge Capital, RockPort Capital Partners, The Westly Group, and the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund. Neither company has disclosed the financial terms of today’s acquisition.

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