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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cisco to Buy Wireless Smart Grid Firm

Cisco Systems (CSCO) is expanding its foray into smart-grid technology, which helps utilities and consumers manage their electricity supply and consumption by providing realtime information about power usage, generation, and pricing. The company Thursday said it plans to buy a startup, San Francisco-based Arch Rock, which is developing wireless-networking equipment based on Internet Protocol for the electrical grid.

Cisco has built its business around making equipment that uses the same standard. The San Jose, Calif.-based company sells wireless routers, data storage devices and other equipment that makes it possible to make phone calls and browse the Internet. The network-equipment giant has long expressed an interest in entering the smart grid, but has mostly kept mum about its plans while many startups and some tech giants, such as General Electric, launched products and announced sales.

That's changed in recent months, as Cisco began discussing its smart-grid products. The company in June introduced a device to allow consumers to view and manage their electricity use. Cisco also made a big splash yesterday when it announced a technology development plan with Itron (ITRI), a long-time meter maker based in Liberty Lake, Wash. The pact brought together two big players in their respective fields and set them up to compete with the likes of GE (GE) and Silver Spring Networks, a private company in Silicon Valley that is reportedly working on an initial public offering.

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