GreenPeak: Battery-Free Sensor Networks Ramping Up in the U.S.

Batteries are the barrier to more buildings having wireless sensor networks that can help cut energy consumption, GreenPeak CEO and founder Cees Links says. Sensor networks need power to run, but batteries have a limited life and need regular maintenance, which adds to the cost and inconvenience of adopting a nascent technology. That’s why GreenPeak thinks its technology is so valuable: the Netherlands-based startup is pushing its battery-free wireless chips and network hardware that rely on harnessing tiny amounts of energy from things like movement or solar.

And Links tells us that the company is making a major push into the U.S. market, which he explains “has a growing awareness of energy being a precious resource.” GreenPeak says it has established relationships with several U.S. systems integrators and distributors, and is actively looking to work with more large consumer-electronics makers to get its technology designed into wireless sensor systems in the U.S market. The company is a fabless semiconductor company, which means its chip designs need to be integrated into the building blocks of the network.

GreenPeak, formed in July 2007 through a merger of two wireless companies, has a couple advantages compared to the competition. Its wireless technology is built off of the industry standard ZigBee, which is starting to gain traction with utilities, developers and gear makers. ZigBee is low power, low cost and relatively low bandwidth compared to other data networks, so is a good fit for the on-off functions of energy monitoring and turning down or dimming appliances and lights. Because it’s an open standard, the company can tap the development community and work with many partners.

The company is backed by €10 million from a long list of venture firms, including DFJ Esprit, GIMV, Motorola Ventures, Allegro Investment Fund, SenterNovem, IWT. Links also tells us that GreenPeak is also now in the market to raise a Series B round of funding, though that could be several months down the road.

Energy-harvesting is also a technology that has started to turn heads in the networking space. Because wireless sensor networks require very little power, they can run off of tiny amounts of energy harvested from almost anything — changes in temperature, vibrations, even “the flipping of a light switch,” says Links. EnOcean is another startup using energy-harvesting to power wireless sensor networks, and startup M2E Power is integrating kinetic-powered devices into consumer electronics.

The biggest boost to GreenPeak’s technology could be the fact that businesses and homeowners are starting to realize that the next-generation of smart energy buildings will require constant monitoring and managing of energy consumption. Energy used to light, heat and construct buildings makes up around half of greenhouse gas emissions. And always-on networks and the cheap silicon of the infotech industry means energy data could be as easy to control as an email account. If you want more information about the future of the smart energy home, check out our Smart Energy Home briefing which identifies Green Peak as one of 25 up and coming startups to watch.