Europe has been cool to the idea of smart meters talking to each other with their own radios, the dominant model in North America so far.
Trilliant Networks is hoping a pilot project with Ireland's national utility, the Electricity Supply Board, might change that. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company is one of several piloting its technology with the utility, which has a multi-billion euro plan for renewable energy, electric transportation and smart grid improvements (see Ireland Inks EV Deal with Renault-Nissan).
ESB's smart meter plans will start with a multi-thousand smart meter pilot project, but could grow to a nationwide program costing as much as €1 billion. Besides Trilliant, the utility is testing technology from Hazelwood, Mo.-based smart meter maker Aclara, French telecommunications company Sagem and German smart meter company Elster.
European utilities have mostly relied on power line carrier technologies or cellular networks to link smart meters and enable the two-way communications between utility and customer that's one of the cornerstones of the promised "smart grid" to come.
Trilliant's "SecureMesh" technology, on the other hand, uses a version of the 802.15.4 wireless standard to network meters and utility communications collections points. That's the same standard underlying the low-power ZigBee protocol now gaining traction in the United States as a preferred way of connecting smart meters to in-home energy monitoring and control equipment.
Trilliant has shipped more than a million smart meters and other devices using the technology, and is working with about 200 utilities, including a high-profile project with Ontario, Canada's Hydro One. To get there, it has raised about $100 million from investors including Mission Point Capital Partners and Zouk Ventures (see Green Light post).
But the ESB pilot represents the first test of its technology in Europe, Eric Miller, Trilliant's chief solutions officer, said.
"We're at the point where they're testing and proving out the technology under the European communications environment," he said. "Assuming that goes well, next year they start to look at an initial rollout."
That could be an important move for Trilliant, given that it and its rivals are seeking to broaden their markets to a global scope.
Rival smart meter networking and communications startup Silver Spring Networks landed its first deal outside the United States last month, a million-meter project with Australian utilities Jemena Electricity Networks and United Energy Distribution (see Silver Spring Heads Down Under).