(photo credit: REUTERS)
Instead of shooting down Hamas rockets from Gaza, the Israeli software developer behind the Iron Dome missile defense system, mPrest, is teaming up with New Zealand’s largest power utility to prevent summertime blackouts and cut down on carbon emissions.
By connecting multiple smart devices in an “Internet of Energy” platform, mPrest’s partnership with New Zealand’s Vector LTD indicates how many Israeli hi-tech firms are branching out and adapting defense-contracted technology to civilian use.
“It’s the most significant collaboration between Israel and New Zealand in years,” mPrest CEO Natan Barak said.
“The Iron Dome defense system has saved many lives. And now the renewable energy and smart energy management led by Vector will be life-saving.”
New Zealand’s Vector Ltd is also investing some $10 million in the Israeli start-up, in return for a minority stake in the firm, the two companies announced at a news conference at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Jerusalem on Monday.
Founded in 2000, the Israeli start-up is increasingly applying the Iron Dome’s software, such as its command-control system, to international settings. The company touts the system’s flexibility and ability – it is vendor agnostic – to incorporate new inputs and commands and the software is already used across platforms in Israel, India, Brazil and the United States.
With analog tools being the historic norm in a power grid – or different mechanical devices for monitoring temperature, pressure, usage, access control – utilities handymen face difficulty in connecting the dots and getting a larger picture. mPrest enters the picture by synchronizing the various devices; upgrading them to digital, installing sensors and putting them on a single information grid with smart meters.
“We are in the middle of the Internet of Things revolution,” Barak said. “That means that the prices of the sensors are going down, the prices of transmitting the data is going down – because of cellular capabilities. Everything, [every household and industrial device] is going to be connected.”
The company will also help prevent air conditioner related power outages by tapping into customers who’ve installed solar panels, wind turbines, and rechargeable batteries. If all these devices are connected to the same server, then the company can respond to peak demand by having customers rely on their own stored-up energy.
Earlier in 2017, Vector began to use mPrest’s services when it comes to gathering power grid analytics, along with monitoring solar panels and wind turbines. The software will initially be used in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city with a population of around 1.5 million, and the company hopes to expand its software use throughout the country and Australia.
Vector is the second largest shareholder in the Israeli company, as the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems owns half of mPrest’s shares.
For Vector’s chairman, the contract is a homecoming of sorts for Michael Stiassny, who is Jewish, and whose mother fought for Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.
An Israeli equity crowdfunding firm, OurCrowd, helped connect the two companies, and OurCrowd announced at the same time an expansion of its tech partnerships between Israel, Australia and New Zealand.
Aside from funding by Vector and OurCrowd, other investors in mPrest include GE Ventures, Angeleno Group, and Israel Electric Corp.
By using the mPrest software to gain efficiency, New Zealand’s power utility hopes to achieve its goal of reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.