Eka Scores Smart Meter Partner Landis+Gyr

The quiet workhorse of home energy management will be the wireless networks that will collect and deliver important energy usage data over the pipes. Eka Systems, a startup that builds wireless mesh technology for smart meter applications, has recently gotten some due recognition through a partnership with one of the most well-known smart meter companies around: Landis+Gyr. Eka says it has secured a deal whereby the Swiss firm will use Eka’s wireless mesh meter software and hardware in its residential smart meter system.

It’s a sizable win for the 8-year-old Eka; Landis+Gyr is a huge, century-old company that has 5,000 employees and is a forerunner in the advanced meter infrastructure market. Eka is no slouch, either. Based out of Germantown, Md., the startup has reportedly raised around $40 million in funding to date. Its most recent round, for $18.5 million, which the company announced in July, was led by Flybridge Capital Partners and including the Angeleno Group, RockPort Capital Partners, The Westly Group and Metropolitan Investment.
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Eka Raises Funds for Wireless Mesh Meter Tech

Given the state of the antiquated power grid, there are dozens of options that will help the grid get smarter. One of those tech choices is wireless mesh networking, which can intelligently route information to and from distant meters in an efficient manner and is an idea that’s been getting more attention from investors recently. Eka Systems, a startup that designs and makes wireless mesh network technology for utilities, said this morning that it has raised $18.5 million in a Series D round of funding; the round was led by Flybridge Capital Partners and included the Angeleno Group, RockPort Capital Partners, The Westly Group and Metropolitan Investment.

Eka, which is based in Germantown, Md., installs its wireless nodes under the glass of electricity meters in buildings and then uses its wireless mesh network to constantly transfer information on the real-time energy usage, per building, back to the utility company. The company says its system can help power companies better manage electricity grids, produce close to real-time readouts of usage, detect outages quickly and let building managers figure out the exact energy usage of specific sections of a building.

This is the 8-year-old company’s fourth round of funding, so all in all, Eka has raised around $40 million, according to the Biz Journal; the company also reportedly hopes that this will be its last funding round before it starts generating profits.

Eka CEO Prakash Chakravarthi told us last July that his company’s wireless networking technology is different from competitors because it automates the entire process of managing a large network of meters. Eka competes with companies like Trilliant and Elster, but Chakravarthi says those companies offer closer to a managed network, similar to ISP’s compared to the Internet. Chakravarthi says that that setup isn’t the most efficient way to run wireless smart meter technology.

Build a Mashup, Win $3500

ScreenshotDaylife is a news aggregation site that I find more useful than Google News for exploring the current hot news: it does a good job of finding top stories and it’s easy to hop from one related story to another, or to see related topics, photos, and quotes. But web workers who can write code and have a bit of spare time might appreciate it for another reason: the chance to win $3500 by entering their Daylife Developer Challenge.

In addition to presenting the news on their own site, Daylife makes available a rich REST API for other sites to mine the same sources. For the contest, they’re looking for people to use that API to build and deploy sites. On July 25, they’ll pick the winner (as well as two $750 runners-up). For more details on the API and contest, visit the Daylife Cookbook site.

Nokia N95 software updated: more runtime, updated maps, N-Gage preview

Logo_nokia_115_40_1Nokia’s Europe site for the N95 is showing an update for the multi-media handheld computer, which brings some welcome updates for the flagship device. It’s version 20.0.015 if you’re keeping track and here’s a run-down on what inside the chewy center:

…battery, stability & performance improvements enabling you to run faster and longer – giving you up to three more hours of music (up to 30% increase, from 9h to 12h of music playback). This release also includes a new version of Nokia Maps which provides faster positioning, faster Map Loader, and free 3-day navigation. Free N-Gage demo games are included and other games are available via Download! With the Nokia Music Store now live in the United Kingdom, users can enjoy the convenience of instant over-the-air downloads, regardless of where they are.

Mo’ better battery life is always a plus in my book, so that alone might make the upgrade worthwhile. There also appear to be some menu optimizations supported by, but not included in the software file. Once you’ve upgraded and restored data, grab this file for the menu bits.

Vid-Biz: South Park, Sarah Meyers, Britney

Comedy Central to Put All of South Park Online; just as it did with The Daily Show, the network will offer every clip from the hit animated series online, for free. (Reuters)

Sarah Meyers Starts Online Show; the new live, daily tech show is called PopSnap. (TechCrunch)

Britney Gets Mashed; fans being asked to make the pop star’s next video by remixing old footage (wonder if they’ll include video from this year’s MTV Awards). (MTV)

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Apple Spaces Needs Competition

Spaces Pager TAB
Leopard (OS X.5) was one of those big releases that while I was excited about it on principle, there weren’t many of the announced features that [on the surface] got me purring. The feature that garnered the most excitement for me was Spaces. I’m a longtime virtual desktop user and have gone through all of the offerings for the Apple platform. So the idea of having the functionality baked-in was an attractive one to me.
A sad side-effect to the news of Spaces however, was the announcement that a former favorite in this space – Virtue Desktops – would be shutting down further development. The story of Apple taking the best ideas and applications and baking them into the Mother Ship isn’t anything new – but generally the developers of these applications hang in there a bit before throwing in the towel. The most unfortunate part however is that competition is good for the consumer, typically resulting in better quality, more features, and plenty of options to fit any user. I completely understand being busy and not wanting to make time for a side project that would most likely be Apple’s victim, however I do wish the competition against Apple’s Spaces would make a fight out of it.
I don’t want to rehash all the gripes with Spaces that have accumulated around the internet these past couple of weeks, but let’s just say I agree with basically all of them. Mostly the issues stem from the ridiculous lack of configuration options. But the whole zooming me from one Space to another when I OPT+TAB is gonna send me over the edge one day in the not too distant future. Seriously. Why on earth would I want be bounced back and forth amongst my Spaces each and every time I want to work in a different application? My personal workflow has me using the Virtual Desktop concept as a division for my projects, not my tasks…But I digress. I do get it though – Spaces is meant to bring Virtual Desktops to the masses in a way that they can all get it. Unfortunately that leaves the rest of us starving for more.
The real shame here is that some great applications have faded into the background as Apple has released their own replacements. So those of us who loved those third party apps are left wanting when Apple’s solution doesn’t cut the mustard. When those great developers forsake their code – and consequently, their users – the spirit of competition and innovation in that particular application space is generally lost…Or at the very least, left up to Apple and their timeline to update. I’m fearful that Spaces is a prime example of this.
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HD-DVD reading and writing coming to a mobile near you

Sdl902a_hddvdToshiba is showing off a new HD-DVD drive capable of reading and writing on the new media. HD-DVDs are garnering attention for their high-definition video playback, but like Blu-Ray, the optical disk format is also perfect for storing large amounts of data; HD-DVD typically can store 15 GB per layer, which compares to a typical DVD at 4.7 GB per layer.

The new SD-L902A drive has an 8 MB buffer and is under 13 millimeters high, which makes this usable in laptops. The drive is also backwards compatible with DVD and CD formats. No word on price, but expect to see this drive available in early 2007. Considering that Microsoft’s HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360 is due in at $199, I’d figure this optical drive to boost your notebook price by at least $350 or more.

Update: Engadget shows other models including an external one. Hmm….an HD-DVD movie on a 7-inch UMPC screen? Overkill, but cool. 😉

Online Content is King

ClickZ: Online content consumption was the leading activity in October, according to the latest monthly report by the Online Publisher’s Association. Michael Zimbalist, president of the New York-based organization says, “People are treating the Internet more and more like traditional media, through which they consume movies, music, and news. Long-term trends continue to indicate that content will be the dominant source of people’s time online.” If traffic patterns of blog usage and my own traffic are any indication, the man is speaking the truth.