2. Smart Meter Networking and Communications Provider: Silver Spring Networks

In the field of giving smart meters new ways to talk to one another, Silver Spring Networks has captured the interest of investors and utilities alike. The Redwood City, Calif.-based startup has inked deals with utilities including Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Florida Power & Light, American Electric Power and others.

All are adding Silver Spring's RF mesh, IP-enabled networking technology to smart meters made by other companies, with the goal of allowing meters to send data from one another to collection points that connect with utility "backhaul" networks – up to 5,000 meters per collection node, the company says.

Silver Spring expects to see about two million meters with its technology deployed by the end of 2009 (see Green Light post), and as of this spring had about $500 million in backlogged orders, a figure that could quadruple by the end of this year, CEO Scott Lang said recently. To bring its technology to market, Silver Spring has raised about $167 million since 2007, including $90 million since October (see Silver Spring Grabs $75M and Green Light posts here and here).

But while Silver Spring has led in terms of mind share, another smart meter networking company has outpaced it in terms of deployments so far. That's fellow Redwood City, Calif.-based startup Trilliant, which announced its millionth device deployed in January. Using an altered version of the 802.15.4 wireless standard to allow meters to mesh with each other and with concentrator points, and fueled with investments including a $40 million round from MissionPoint Partners and zouk ventures, Trilliant has landed deals with more than 100 utilities, including a multimillion meter deployment underway by Ontario, Canada's Hydro One.

And then there's SmartSynch, the Jackson, Miss.-based company that deploys meters with devices that allow them to communicate over existing cellular networks. With a recent announcement that it would partner with AT&T to bring that technology – until now limited to commercial and industrial clients -- to the much larger residential market, SmartSynch could present a challenge to the dominant RF mesh paradigm.

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