Cisco Snaps Up Smart Grid Wireless Sensor Maker Arch Rock

Networking juggernaut Cisco has made no secret of its intention to take a leading role in the evolving market for smart grids — technology that establishes an intelligent monitoring system on an electricity distribution grid. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) took another step toward its goal Wednesday with the acquisition of Arch Rock, a specialist in wireless sensors for smart grid applications.

“Arch Rock’s wireless mesh technology enhances Cisco’s IP-based, end-to-end smart grid offerings,” said Laura Ipsen, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Smart Grid business unit. “This acquisition further positions Cisco as a strategic partner to utilities working to better manage power supply and demand, improve the security and reliability of energy delivery and optimize operational costs.”

Smart grids are a green technology that promise to route power more efficiently. The idea is to use sensing, measurement and control technologies and two-way communication with the electricity production, transmission, distribution and consumption portions of the power grid to enable a dynamic response to changes in grid conditions. Under such a system, consumers could use smart grid-enabled appliances, like washing machines, that could monitor grid conditions and run themselves when power demand and price is low and turn themselves off in periods of peak energy use. It’s not limited simply to home appliances either. Factories could make use of the same technology.

Arch Rock, a privately held firm based in San Francisco, specializes in wireless sensors that connect smart meters and other distributed intelligent devices over a multi-way wireless mesh network. Cisco did not disclose details of the transaction, but said it expects to close the deal in the second half of 2010.

The Arch Rock acquisition comes just a day after Cisco announced a strategic alliance with smart meter specialist Itron, based in Liberty Lake, Wash. Cisco said it would collaborate with Itron to develop an IPv6-based communication platform for smart metering.

Under the terms of that deal, Itron will license Cisco’s IP technology for use in its OpenWay meters. It will also distribute Cisco’s networking equipment and software as part of its smart meter deployments.

Cisco has been pushing into the green power space for nearly two years.

In January 2009, it unveiled its EnergyWise initiative, with the aim of helping its enterprise customers more efficiently manage their energy consumption.

In July of 2009, it took that a step further with the announcement of its Smart Connected Buildings initiative, intended to connect building systems together so they can be controlled and managed for power utilization and efficiency. At the time, Cisco executives said the new market would be worth $12 billion over the next several years.

In May of this year, Cisco followed up with new routers and switches designed for smart grid deployments. And in June, Cisco signaled that it wanted to bring the technology to homes as well as the enterprise, when it debuted the Cisco Home Energy Management Solution. At the same time, it introduced the Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager 6300 and the Network Building Mediator 3.1 for managing power within office buildings.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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