While remote, automated control of home appliances has always been an idea whose time has not quite arrived, the newest generations of wireless mesh technologies could make this long-awaited innovation widely affordable at last. And Zensys, a New Jersey company that sells radio-based mesh networking hardware that allows devices to be controlled remotely, is betting that consumers are finally ready to pay for “smart homes.”
The list of chores that can be automated is potentially limitless, and gets longer as houses get bigger and more complex. The basics are controls of lighting, security systems, watering, air-conditioning, and heating, but automation also can be extended to include pool management, child-safety controls, curtains, and appliances.
Venture capitalists have invested in several other companies in this sector recently, but Zensys could have an advantage over its competitors in that it has lined up relationships with an impressive set of home-control companies.
Its latest round of $150 million in financing, led by existing investor Crown Castle International, brings FiberTower’s total venture capital funding to an impressive $225 million.
What makes FiberTower attractive to investors is that it offers an alternative to outdated segments of existing wireless networks. FiberTower, whose products use a combination of radio and fiber-optic technologies, is targeting the infrastructure that connects cellular towers with the core communications network.
These connections, known as “backhaul” facilities, are facing the growing load brought on by voice, video, and other data. Increasingly, as the demands on the existing networks have taken off, conventional backhaul facilities are a source of bottlenecks and costly outages for network operators.
FiberTower launched its backhaul facilities in 2002 and now counts four of the five largest U.S. wireless carriers among its customers. It says it will use the latest funding to further expand its services. – By Andrew P. Madden