This device can unlock electrical data from whole neighborhoods

Copper Labs just launched a neighborhood-level detector that wirelessly unlocks data from utility meters at scale, without the need for retrofits. Consumers will be able to access that data in near real time so they can tailor their electricity use as they charge their EVs and increasingly electrify their homes in order to save money.

Copper Labs already has a household-level detector deployed in up to five US states that’s offered to customers by such utilities as National Grid and Xcel Energy. It’s a small white box that plugs into a 120v outlet – it looks kind of like a Wi-Fi extender – and it uniquely bridges both “smart” advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters and automated meter reading (AMR) meters with the consumer’s Wi-Fi connection.

The Boulder-based company manufactures both its household- and neighborhood-level detectors locally and can make them bespoke, based on what a utility’s and region’s needs are.

The neighborhood-level device (pictured above) is about 6 x 6 inches in size, and it can be pole or roof mounted.

When I asked Dan Forman, Copper Labs’ CEO, why the company decided to launch a neighborhood-level detector, he explained that collecting real-time data from hundreds of homes at once is actually more efficient. He said utilities will be able to roll it out much faster and at a fraction of the cost of traditional smart meter deployments. He said:

Utilities need better solutions right now, and we’re raising our hand.

But in contrast to the widely held belief that the United States needs to overhaul its grid, the folks at Copper Labs believe that smart grid deployment would lock in technology for 20 or more years that would date, thus perpetuating the problem of having an outdated grid.

So they’re in favor of more nimble solutions. They want to “put the brain in the cloud,” as Forman says, and better use existing meter technology with devices that can be continually updated, like the ones Copper Labs makes.

When I asked Forman how providing utilities with smart, real-time data helps consumers, he explained that when consumers can access their data on a mobile app, it helps them to better plan and manage their budgets. For example, if your app shows you that it’s insanely expensive to charge your EV between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., chances are good that you won’t do it unless you absolutely have to. Or as Forman put it:

If you engage a consumer with actionable insights, they’ll respond. If you proactively engage them, you turn them into partners, not ratepayers.

Photo: Copper Labs

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