When researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) helped install a peel-and-stick energy-metering system in a Wells Fargo branch bank, they weren't sure exactly what they would learn.
After all, the system from Whisker Labs an Oakland, California, startup was the first "beta-ready" technology to emerge from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2). As part of the five-year, $10 million program, select companies that have successfully met technical project-based milestones in the laboratory have the opportunity to test and demonstrate their products in a real-world environment within Wells Fargo's commercial real estate portfolio. The June 22 pilot installation at a branch in Aurora, Colorado, was designed to allow NREL to evaluate technology performance and demonstrate the benefit of this less-invasive submetering system in a commercial building.
"We wanted to see how it performed under real-world load profiles versus how it did in the lab, a unique opportunity as part of the IN2 program," said Meghan Bader, a program manager with NREL's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.
In the midst of the beta demonstration, Earth Networks announced on December 5, 2016 that it had acquired the startup. The company, which operates the world's largest weather observation networks, will create a new division for the energy-sensing hardware and software infrastructure.
"Our breakthrough device and software platform unlocks the full potential of a smart home by collecting and analyzing health intelligence data from both legacy 'unconnected' appliances and optimizing newer 'connected' appliances and devices," said Bob Marshall, chief executive officer of Earth Networks, based in Germantown, Maryland.
The successful exit affirms the purpose and value of the incubator.
"Through the IN2 program we were able to successfully test the technology within the NREL Systems Performance Lab," said Richard Adams, director of NREL's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. "Using NREL's laboratory, we were able to characterize the performance of the 'stick-on' power meters with typical appliance loads. The accuracy of the measurements relative to reference meters indicates potential suitability to applications such as measurement and verification, as well as fault detection and diagnostics of building equipment."
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