March 27, 2006 7:40 AM PST

Upstart Arch Rock connects to sensor network

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Arch Rock, a start-up with roots at Intel Labs and the University of California, Berkeley, on Monday announced funding and described its plans to sell software for wireless sensor networks.

The San Francisco-based company secured $5 million in initial funding from Intel's venture investment arm, Intel Capital, as well as New Enterprise Associates and Shasta Ventures.

The founders are David Culler and Wei Hong, who both worked on TinyOS, an open-source operating system, and embedded database TinyDB, which were developed by a consortium led by UC Berkeley.

Arch Rock is one of several companies seeking to sell systems used to build and operate networks of wireless sensors that connect to the Internet.

The year-old company, which is working with some initial customers, will supply TinyOS-based software to run on sensors and the networking software to collect data and feed it to corporate networks, said Roland Acra, CEO of Arch Rock. In addition, the company will sell tools to write custom programs for sensors, he said.

"We're coming at (wireless sensors) from the Internet infrastructure approach," said Acra, who worked at Cisco Systems and was CEO of Procket Networks.

"The Internet has scaled really, really well," he said. "Now we have the hardware, networking and application infrastructure to bring those (Internet) constructs to the world of wireless sensors."

Acra said more-powerful embedded processors and improvements in power consumption make it more realistic for corporate customers to invest in wireless sensor networks.

For example, a bridge can be outfitted with sensors to monitor vibrations that may indicate structural damage, or vineyards can use sensors for monitoring temperature and moisture, allowing them to better plan harvests.

Many of the radio-equipped embedded processors, or "motes," can process data and run on battery power for months or potentially years, Acra said. Connections to the Internet can be established by using "mesh networks" that can create ad hoc networks without a single access point, he added.

"Until now, there have been isolated patches of sensor networks," he said. "Now I can make better use of the networking and push more of the capability to the edge."

Acra said that Arch Rock will seek to complement vendors that sell back-end software, such as IBM, BEA Systems and SAP.

Arch Rock's software will run on the motes themselves as well as on the "gateways" that route information from wireless sensors to corporate networks via the Internet.

In addition, Acra said the company is developing authoring tools for writing software scripts to run on motes. The tools will comply with common interfaces, including XML and Web services protocols, he said.

 

Correction: This article misidentified two investors in Arch Rock. The investors are New Enterprise Associates and Shasta Ventures.

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