Trilliant snags $106 million for smart-grid networking

Smart-grid communications company Trilliant brings on GE and ABB as investors to expand use of radio-based mesh networking technology.

If the smart grid grows like the Internet did, then Trilliant--and a few other competitors--want to build the data pipes.

Silicon Valley-based Trilliant on Thursday said that it has raised $106 million in late-stage funding to expand its smart-grid communications business.

Trilliant advocates a mesh network design for the smart grid where devices can communicate via multiple points on the network.
Trilliant advocates a mesh network design for the smart grid where devices can communicate via multiple points on the network. Trillian

The company makes mesh networking equipment for utilities to carry information through the many corners of the grid, including local neighborhood networks as well as long-haul jumps.

The funding came from two large grid equipment suppliers--General Electric and ABB--as well as venture-capital company VantagePoint Ventures and Investor Growth Capital. The money will help the company expand, including outside the U.S., said Eric Miller, senior vice president of solutions.

Trilliant also announced that Central Maine Power will use Trilliant's SecureMesh communications network for neighborhood area networks. Miller said that even though many smart-grid programs are only pilot tests, the company is seeing a lot of business and that its next step, business-wise, could be going public.

Trilliant's mesh network uses different radio frequencies depending on the distances and works with Ethernet-based protocol. The company last year bought SkyPilot for long-range networking , which it has integrated with its neighborhood-area technology.

But there's a protocol battle going on among different smart-grid communications companies.

Some communications companies are proposing using the cellular network to transmit data, while other companies, such as GridNet, are betting on WiMax for long-distance data transfers. Trilliant competitor Silverspring Networks also uses a radio network.

Utilities and equipment companies are testing out various communications technologies, which will help decide which protocol becomes dominant. Miller said that it can differentiate itself from competitors by being low-cost with a unified communications infrastructure.

 

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