Why it's Fierce:  Full Spectrum is taking advantage of the wireless industry's increasingly tight relationship with vertical industries, such as healthcare, transportation and energy. The company works directly with utility companies to give them wide-area wireless coverage for mission-critical activities. In essence, their equipment and software help take smart grids to the next level by giving utilities expanded wireless coverage over a wide area.

The company takes advantage of the 802.16e WiMAX standard, but uses software-defined radios and cognitive radio technology to get WiMAX to work in low-frequency bands, from 40 MHz to 958 MHz. In order to monitor their grids in remote areas, utility companies need ubiquitous, high-speed coverage that wireless carriers have yet to provide, says Clifford Lavine, Full Spectrum's vice president of business development. Consumer wireless networks, he argues, are focused on downloading content, whereas the networks Full Spectrum creates are focused on the utilities' needs to upload and route massive amounts of data about their grids. Full Spectrum provides the utilities with a private wireless network using licensed spectrum that can work across dispersed geographies. The company also takes advantage of the utilities' existing infrastructure for placement of the radios and for backhaul.

Utilities then install the company's equipment and Full Spectrum works with them to provide any customized software enhancements they need. The ability to communicate with disparate parts of an electrical grid using a broadband wireless, wide-area network allows the utilities to optimize their grids by checking on voltage and temperature sensors and other equipment. The utilities can even route power and solve outages in real time.

If creating a smart grid is critical to the country's infrastructure, companies like Full Spectrum are laying the groundwork for how it will be built. The firm currently works with five utility companies and received its last round of financing this past September.

What's next: Full Spectrum is not focused on seeking additional financing right now, and is looking to scale up to meet the demands of its utility partners.