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April 21, 2010
Belkin International, the Los Angeles-based recognized leader in connectivity solutions, has announced the acquisition of Zensi LLC, a Georgia Tech College of Computing start-up company based on technology that senses and monitors energy use in the home and office.
The startup was based on technology developed by Shwetak Patel, a former Georgia Tech doctoral student and now a University of Washington assistant professor. Patel’s thesis research at Georgia Tech used a concept called “electrical signal disaggregation” to monitor the electrical activity at a single point then tease out the signal to pinpoint whether power is flowing to a refrigerator, a toaster or a light bulb. Even two light bulbs can be distinguished. At the UW, Patel’s group has expanded the idea to sensing water and gas. A device placed on the outside of the water or gas pressure regulator detects noise signatures. That information, combined with the consumption, allows real-time information about how much electricity, water or gas is being used at any instant, and by what device.
“It’s pretty exciting for us and for all the students that were involved,” Patel said. “The acquisition is a great example of academic research that will reach the consumer at a Best Buy, Target or other consumer electronics stores.”
Co-founders of Zensi include Matthew S. Reynolds (Duke University), Gregory Abowd (Georgia Tech), and PhD candidate Erich Stuntebeck (Georgia Tech). Patel and Reynolds will now contribute their expertise as consultants to Belkin’s technology development efforts.
“Of course, I'm quite proud and thrilled for Shwetak. I'm glad people are recognizing the value of the work he's done with us over the years,” said Abowd, Distinguished Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, who served as Patel's Ph.D. advisor. "One of the grand challenges for which Georgia Tech has committed itself to finding solutions is energy and sustainability, and Zensi's technologies provide a way for companies and consumers to monitor energy use more effectively."
Indicating a greater commitment in energy management, this strategic acquisition is part of Belkin’s expansion of its current Conserve energy management product portfolio. Belkin Conserve products, available worldwide, currently enable energy conservation in both homes and offices. Belkin said it expects to have a product within two years.