Wellspring Wireless: Revolutionizing Utility Metering with Wireless Technology
Wireless technology has made life much more convenient for all of us; we can sit in a coffee shop and surf the Internet with our laptops; we can talk to someone in China on a cell phone, no wires attached; and, thanks to Wellspring Wireless, it is also possible to remotely check utility meters, including gas, water, sewer and electricity, without hiring a single meter reader.
Wellspring Wireless uses ZigBee two-way radio technology to measure utility use through more than 60,000 individual meters every day-in multifamily and multistory buildings, high-rises, garden/campus style complexes and more. Wellspring Wireless concentrates on “sub-metering,” which means the company can break down the utility metering of a building to determine the proportion of energy used by specific tenants and their individual appliances and building systems.
“Our feedback can help motivate changes that lower utility use,” says Wade Smith, CEO of Wellspring Wireless. “It’s an old business adage that you can’t control what you don’t measure. For example, imagine controlling your speed at 65 miles per hour with no speedometer. Now imagine lowering your energy use if you have no idea where your energy waste is happening.”
Monitoring and Remote Control
The ZigBee wireless protocol is used both for monitoring and control, allowing Wellspring not only to pinpoint, but also to fix problems that may occur remotely. “Say someone doesn’t pay their bill, or there’s a big leak in the building-we can send a radio signal to shut off the water valves rather than having to run around and manually shut them off,” Smith says.
Because of the energy-saving applications of Wellspring’s products, which include the Wellspring Aqura Water Meter and the Wellspring Energy Monitor, the company has what Smith calls a “great role to play” in the Governor’s Energy Independence Fund Initiative.
“A national study from the Environmental Protection Agency shows a 15.4 percent drop in utility consumption as a direct result of our sub-metering,” he says. In addition, the company estimates that most customers will see payback on their Wellspring Wireless investment in as short as one to two years.
Help from a Timely Investment
Wellspring Wireless (formerly Wellspring Acquisitions) began as a spin-off of American Standard in 1996, doing water conservation retrofits in existing buildings. “This business later morphed into the broad utility sub-metering company with a lead in ZigBee radio technology,” Smith says. “It was a very amicable split-American Standard gave my partner and me the right to use the product we had developed, as well as the logo, literature, etc.”
One of Wellspring’s products, a radio network for use by electrical utilities for which Wellspring has a patent pending, was funded by an investment of $190,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners in 2006. “Wellspring is currently working to refine this system and prepare it for electric utility metering customers who are committed to ZigBee. The constituency of prospective customers is growing, and our technology is gaining stature,” says Smith.
Two-Ways Are Better Than One
Smith says two things make Wellspring’s sub-metering systems stand apart from the competition. “The first goes back to our unique and patented water metering practice, which is intended for serving small loads, such as small apartments or appliances,” Smith says. “We offer a complete line of sub-metering applications-there is no application we cannot do, and we are the only company that can say that.”
Secondly, Wellspring stands apart because of their use of the ZigBee radio technology. “All other radio-based meter systems are one-way, but ZigBee is two-way,” Smith says. “The advantage of two-way is that all messages are acknowledged. ZigBee networks also change message routing and channel frequencies on the fly as required to make certain every message is delivered,” Smith says.
Smith says that Wellspring is a pioneer in the utility sub-metering application of ZigBee technology. Eventually, ZigBee will be used to turn lights on and off, to control temperatures, to control the acoustical environment of a building and monitor security-all remotely.
Wellspring Wireless currently employs nine full-time employees and one part timer. “It’s hard to say how large we will get,” Smith says. “At this point, we are focused on making a great product, serving our customers, advancing our technology and building our reputation. And with that, growth will come.”
Keynotes June, 2007
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