For anybody who follows the push to find more efficient ways to power the United States’ infrastructure, one of the many political buzzwords is “smart grid.” Silver Spring Networks is one of those businesses working on smart grid technology and like many, this business started as a small startup with an idea and an uncertain future.
What is a smart grid? All electrical power is delivered through a grid, a series of power generators and relay stations that send the power to individual customers. Much of the technology that still governs the way the traditional grid is set up was devised in 1896 by Nikola Tesla. Although traditional power grid technology is now 115 years old, power companies like the reliability of these systems but with increasing pressure by Federal and State governments, smart grids are slowly being embraced.
A smart grid employs systems made by companies like Silver Spring Networks and allows the power grid to analyze power usage and adjust the grid so power isn’t wasted or delivered in an inefficient way. Technologies like those made by Silver Spring Networks bring the smart grid all the way down to the customer level. By giving customers data in real time straight from their portion of the smart grid, customers can see how much power they’re using and what the cost will be. They can also receive energy saving advice from the smart grid. Imagine if you received information from the grid telling you that by replacing your current light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescents you could save a certain amount of money per month. On top of that, Silver Spring Networks has developed technology that allows the grid to tell you if certain lights or appliances have been on for an extended amount of time wasting money.
If you think that would be a useful technology to have in your home, you’re not alone. Silver Spring Network has received venture capital funding from Northgate Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Google. Although they have lost money, that is projected to turn around in the near future. In the first quarter of 2011, Silver Spring Networks lost $1.3 million which is up from $22 million during the first quarter of 2010. What was once a small business has announced plans to file an Initial Public Offering healthily taking it out of the realm of a small business.
Silver Spring Network is proof that an innovative idea can rapidly propel a small business in to an innovator in emerging technology and when that happens, that almost always means profit.