Name: Eka Systems Inc.
Funding: The company, which has been funded by private investors, hopes to raise $10 million in a first round of institutional funding by the end of the year.
Big idea: Eka makes wireless meter nodes that are installed under the glass of electricity meters to monitor and constantly transmit information about electricity consumption to a utility. An alternative to manual meter readers and mobile or "drive-by" meter readers, which take readings only once a month, Eka's technology creates a wireless fixed network for "always-on" automated meter reading.
How it works: The miniature meter nodes are composed of a circuit board, a radio, a microprocessor and memory. The nodes at neighboring homes or businesses "chatter," relaying information to each other, creating a local area mesh network, which in turn communicates with a larger wide area network and with the utilities. "A utility can read the meter whenever it wants to read it," said Henry Aszklar, vice president of marketing. "It doesn't have to wait for the mobile device to drive by the home." The technology works best in suburban and urban areas where meters are a maximum of 1,500 meters apart, said Aszklar. It does not work well in rural areas.
Where the idea was hatched: "The concept of mesh networking is everywhere from military applications to broadband," Aszklar said. Eka's co-founders focused the idea on electric metering. "Only about 30 percent of the market is covered by an AMR [automated meter reading] system," he said. "It's relatively open territory and there are a lot of meters, roughly 300 million in North America, so you have a large market and an opportunity to provide the market with something very useful that it doesn't have a solution for today."
Example of use: Eka's meter nodes can tell a utility where power outages are occurring so restoration crews can make repairs more quickly and monitor rates of use so utilities can implement "time of use" rates, charging customers different rates for peak and off-peak electricity usage.
Big-name customers: Lenenergo, the utility company for St. Petersburg, Russia is Eka's largest customer. Other customers include Dominion Virginia Power and Emelec, an Ecuadorian utility company.
Price: Nodes for complex industrial meters cost about $400 per unit. Residential meter nodes cost between $50 and $100 per unit.
Who's in charge: Prakash Chakravarthi, president and chief executive; M.B. Anand, chief technology officer; Henry Aszklar, vice president of marketing; and Vladimir Rizberg, vice president of business development.
Web site: www.ekasystems.com
Partners: Toshiba, Hunt Power and First Point.
What the name means: "I think in a particular Indian dialect it means 'unique,' " Aszklar said.
Where will you be in five years?: "I think in five years we will be a large device networking company . . . but also expanding our product to other industries such as building automation," Aszklar said.
-- Andrea Caumont