ZigBee watches the water flow - with new apartment submetering technology

With far-reaching implications for the apartment industry, submetering and water conservation, Wellspring and Ember team up to create industry's first ZigBee-based water submeter for monitoring apartment residence water usage...

Dec 4th, 2004

BOSTON, Nov. 30, 2004 -- A new wireless water submeter from Wellspring International aims to encourage apartment water conservation, reduce wet energy costs and help apartment building owners recover utility expenses using ZigBee-based wireless networking technology from Ember Corp., which made Red Herring's "Top 100 Innovators" list earlier this month.

Wellspring, a leading provider of wireless, point-of-use submeters for all building types, is developing the industry's first ZigBee-ready wireless submetering system using Ember's wireless semiconductors, software and application development environment.

Wellspring's ZigBee-ready Aqura® system will enable both apartment residents and owners to monitor their water consumption from anywhere in the building. It will wirelessly record and display consumption data at each water-consuming appliance within any multifamily residential unit -- regardless of age, type or plumbing configuration.

A self-forming, self-healing wireless mesh network of ZigBee-based Aqura submeters will provide real-time usage data -- including the number of "flow events" (showers, toilet flushes, dishwasher cycles, etc.), flow-time in minutes, hot and cold water usage, domestic hot water energy, leak diagnostics and tamper detection -- using a TV remote control-like meter reader. The readings will be automatically collected from the ZigBee network several times per day and uploaded to Wellspring's data and billing center; then made available to residents, apartment owners and third party billing services on the Web.

Wellspring selected the Ember platform because the technology is already proven in numerous real-world applications, and Ember's support that grows from their strong ZigBee experience. Ember is a promoter of the ZigBee Alliance, and its semiconductor system is now National Technical Systems' (NTS) "Golden Suite" standard for evaluating IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee-ready products for interoperability.

"We know when residents are responsible for and aware of their own utility expenses, consumption drops an average of 15.3%, according to a recent EPA-sponsored study. Wellspring's 100,000 meters installed with traditional one-way radios have fared better, averaging 26% savings," said Wade Smith, Wellspring CEO. "With ZigBee poised to become the wireless technology standard for building controls, apartment owners can more easily and affordably deploy water submetering systems to encourage water conservation, maintain their rents and recover utility costs. Ember's leadership in defining and promoting the ZigBee standard made them a natural choice for partnership."

ZigBee is a wireless, standards-based radio technology that addresses the unique needs of remote monitoring & control, and sensory network applications. ZigBee enables easy deployment of low-cost battery operated wireless networks much like the one Wellspring currently employs -- but with two-way communication and interoperability that will allow Wellspring to use its system as a foundation for other emerging ZigBee based wireless applications.

"With more than 100,000 wireless meters already in service today, Wellspring is a great example of real-world companies creating an 'Internet of things,' bringing intelligence and communications capabilities to unintelligent things like water pipes," said Venkat Bahl, Ember's vice president of marketing. "Integrating our ZigBee-ready wireless systems into its Aqura water submetering family will enable the company to innovate new functionality for managing other apartment utility consumption as well."

About Wellspring International
Wellspring International (www.wellspringwireless.com) is the world's most complete water and energy sub-utility offering metering systems -- as well as reading, and optional billing and collecting services -- for all building types. Wellspring is based in San Diego, California and Bristol, Pennsylvania.

About Ember Corp.
Ember Corp. (www.ember.com) develops wireless semiconductor solutions that help buildings consume less energy, manufacturing plants run with fewer breakdowns, and the country's borders and infrastructure remain safe and secure. Its vision is to help create an "Internet of things" by enabling the eight billion microcontrollers built into products each year to support low-cost, low-power networking applications in any industry. Based in Boston with offices and distributors worldwide, the company also was named one of Fortune Magazine's top "Cool Companies" for 2004.

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