10 Questions for Eka Systems CEO

Cooper Industries, which makes gear for the power industry, bought the assets of wireless smart grid tech developer Eka Systems this week. We chatted with Eka Systems CEO Dave Pauken today on the deal and the future of the industry.

FAQ: Smart Grid

President Obama has called for the installation of 40 million smart meters and 3,000 miles of transmission lines. That means 2009 could be the year that we finally start seeing real attention being paid to “Power Grid 2.0” — basically turning the electrical grid of the 60s and 70s into a modern network that uses microprocessors and software to work efficiently and to connect to renewable energy generation.

A build-out of the smart grid could also be one of the largest creators of wealth in the decade. As smart grid analyst Jesse Berst said recently, the smart grid will “spawn new Googles and Microsofts,” and is “akin to the transcontinental railroad, the phone system, the interstate highway system and the Internet.” Still confused? Here are the key players, the background and the latest innovative technology:

What is smart grid technology?:

As Foundation Capital put it recently in a note on the market: “A true Smart Grid enables multiple applications to operate over a shared, interoperable network, similar in concept to the way the Internet works today.” That means turning the current electrical network that has 14,000 transmission substations, 4,500 large substations for distribution, and 3,000 public and private owners into a network that communicates intelligently and works efficiently.
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Google’s Best Energy Bet: Organizing Energy Usage

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information — be it via search, email, online maps or mobile apps — but it could someday help you manage your daily energy consumption, too. At a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that as part of its recently announced collaboration with GE, the search engine giant is currently looking at designing tools to help consumers understand their energy consumption. Google has also been actively looking at utilities’ smart meter projects, he said, and at using its strong connection with consumers to play a role in consumer energy management. Read More about Google’s Best Energy Bet: Organizing Energy Usage

Eka Lands Smart Meter Deal with GE, too

Smart meter wireless startup Eka Systems has been steadily adding large hardware makers to its list of partners. Last month we spotted a deal to use Eka’s wireless mesh networking in Landis+Gyr’s residential smart meter system. This morning Eka says it has scored a deal with GE Energy to integrate GE’s I-210 meters with Eka’s wireless system.

With utilities increasingly adding in energy-efficiency technology like smart meters, GE has been working with various tech companies to provide utilities with the most intelligent gear and software; GE has also partnered with Silver Springs Networks, and Itron for its I-210 line. Eka champions wireless mesh networks, because mesh technology can provide one of the cheapest available wireless options. Utilities could run connected smart-meter services over wireless mesh for just a fraction of the price of using, say, a phone company’s cellular network.
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New Deals, Big Money for BitTorrent?

Update #2 @ 2.42 PM, Wednesday: We have received confirmation that the $25 million round is closed and Accel is indeed leading the round of financing. In addition, Bram emailed us and lets us know that he is still with the company. “I’m still happily here at BitTorrent, and there’s no plans for me to leave,” he wrote to us in an email.

Updated: BitTorrent has signed partnerships with major media companies like 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Starz Media and Comedy Central. These deals with the established media are perhaps a sign why the company is being able to raise more money. Of course, the digital download store is still not open.

Sources say BitTorrent, the company trying to monetize the peer-to-peer distribution software of the same name, is close to raising a substantial round of funding. The round is estimated to be at least $15 million and could be as high as $25 million.

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