From rooftop solar to energy storage and smart metering, there are plenty of ways in which new technology is altering the electric utility business. But tech startups are even devoting attention to simpler aspects of the industry — such as checking for downed utility poles after a storm.
Developing a solution to that seemingly mundane problem helped spark an international partnership between St. Louis-based utility Ameren Corp. and Atomation, a tech company based in Tel Aviv that has become the latest Israeli startup — and the first outside of biotech — to make inroads into St. Louis and base its U.S. operations in the city.
At Ameren’s headquarters Friday, the two companies announced the launch of a pilot project that will examine outfitting utility poles with small sensors that wirelessly transmit information about any movement the poles make. If one of its two million poles were to develop a worrisome list or come down completely, the utility will become aware faster and with more precision than their current system allows.
But Friday’s announcement also served to more broadly welcome Atomation to town. Attendees included Gov. Eric Greitens as well as economic development officials from BioSTL, the organization whose GlobalSTL initiative helped recruit Atomation to St. Louis and facilitate their connection with Ameren.
The pilot between Ameren and Atomation will be conducted at an Ameren research center in Champaign, Ill., and will begin in February. Dozens of poles there will be outfitted with sensors, and the effort will be assessed at the end of the year.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch