Big buildings already have plenty of energy management technology, and household energy efficiency is the focus of dozens of VC-backed startups and IT giants alike. But who’s tackling the small and mid-size commercial building market, or the “mushy middle?”
IBM has been talking for a long time about linking smart building technology and enterprise-wide sustainability. Late Thursday, it unleashed a slew of new products, services and partnerships aimed at cementing that role.
Echelon (s ELON) makes smart meter networks and building automation systems. Could it bring the two businesses together? On Wednesday, Echelon shipped its 2 millionth smart meter, adding recent contracts with a host of Danish utilities and partners to its big list of European clients — and, on the other side of the Atlantic, its contract with Duke Energy (s DUK). Duke CTO David Mohler has said he’d like to see smart grid systems link up with building automation systems that control air conditioners, lights, boilers and other energy-sucking devices. Could Echelon sync up its building networking standard LonWorks with its smart meter services?
While Michael Anderson, senior vice president of Echelon’s Networked Energy Services, i.e., smart meter business, wouldn’t comment on if Echelon’s was linking up buildings and smart meters just yet, he told us in a late-night Monday call from Helsinki, Finland: “The two technologies will come together very, very well. In the last six months it’s been nice to see customers approach us on this idea.”
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Energy harvesting — technology that can capture and store energy from external sources like the sun and movement — first took hold in wireless sensor networks in industrial settings. Picture a massive factory that uses a wireless sensor network to monitor vital machinery to make sure it remains in top mechanical shape, but instead of using costly batteries that have a limited lifetime to power the sensors, the vibrations emitted from the machinery also power them. While this technology is still gaining a foothold in commercial and industrial settings, it’s starting to look as if energy-harvesting wireless sensors could be entering the home, too.
One promising sign is the fact that the ZigBee Alliance, a trade group made up of stakeholders in the wireless networking industry, is developing a standard for devices that use energy harvesting to capture and store power. It should be published by the end of the year. The standard will define several ways that energy harvesting will work with Zigbee-based wireless sensor networks: It will determine the type of power that the harvester will provide — for example, a light switch that relies on the mechanical energy of a human flicking a switch will create short bursts of power to the network — and it will also help ensure that energy-harvesting devices made by different manufactures will be able to interoperate and will send data upstream over the Zigbee network in a predictable manner.
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HTC is easily the most prolific producer of Windows Mobile phones and their Touch line has pushed the limits of those phones. The Touch Diamond was probably the first WM phone that had a nice, big touchscreen, while the HTC TouchFLO interface pushed WM into the current age. The successor to the Diamond, the HTC Touch Diamond2, expands on the original with a faster operation of that special interface. TouchFLO on the Diamond2 really flows, as evidenced in a video by MobilitySite that shows all aspects of the device. Take a look at it and see how HTC is continuing to raise the bar in the WM world.