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Forty-Five Mile Wireless Tech For the Smart Grid

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the enough-bandwidth-for-tradewars dept.

Wireless Networking 77

holy_calamity writes "San Diego startup On-Ramp Wireless has put together a proprietary protocol that sends data over 2.4GHz (like WiFi) but over distances of up to forty-five miles. Links using the technology are slow, 50bps at most, but could reduce the cost of smartgrid deployments. Connecting up home energy meters today requires using cell networks or unlicensed spectrum with much shorter reach."

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77 comments

Color me unimpressed (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587086)

With a 45-mile line-of-sight link, sending 50 bits/s is hardly an achievement, especially when the antennas used are not specified. With a data rate that is "roughly 100,000 times less than the average U.S. broadband speed of five megabits per second", each bit has roughly 100,000 times more energy than bits in an "average U.S. broadband" signal -- which has the disadvantage of having to traverse a non-line-of-sight path.

On-Ramp Wireless may have some interesting technology, but this is not the way to advertise it.

the interesting stuff would be to know how many (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587140)

the interesting stuff would be to know how many such nodes you could fit on 10km x 10km square and still have the one's in the corners able to talk to each other. and what kind of chips you need for it? because, cellphone networks sound much better suited for the power meter etc use mentioned..

Re:the interesting stuff would be to know how many (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588016)

I think the important issue here is for the outlier nodes. Ie, cities and towns are covered reasonably well but current technologies, even many rural areas. The hard part is the remaining 1% of nodes that are in hard to reach places, places where even cell technology doesn't reach well.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

tulcod (1056476) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587170)

My thought exactly. Why would you need 2.4GHz to send 50 bits per second? This better works on solar power, in the container of a nuclear reactor, even if you remove that big black squarish thing from the green plate. There are /very/ simple rules to design a radio frequency communication system, and this is impressively unimpressive.

Re:Color me unimpressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587224)

With a 45-mile line-of-sight link, sending 50 bits/s is hardly an achievement

It didn't say anything about needing line-of-sight, and it said it could be used in urban areas where there would presumably be lots of buildings obstructing the signal.

Besides which, line-of-sight isn't nearly as important as how much gain is needed. A high-gain system requires a highly directional antenna, and for a 45-mile link you're going to have nightmarish issues even just preventing the thermal expansion/contraction from knocking the data link out of alignment, not to mention the issues of wind, rain, and everything else that might knock one of the antennas out of line. Their system is supposedly very tolerant to noise, in fact TFA said that it could actually still communicate if the signal-to-noise ratio was less than 1. That indicates to me that they don't need very high-gain antennas, which would mean that the system would be much more robust and less prone to failure.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587656)

RTFA:

"There's no technology available for devices that just need a trickle of connectivity over long distance," says On-Ramp's chief technology officer, Ted Myers, who says that with a clear line of sight, On-Ramp's technology can send a signal 45 miles.

Re:Color me unimpressed (2)

macs4all (973270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587890)

RTFA:

"There's no technology available for devices that just need a trickle of connectivity over long distance," says On-Ramp's chief technology officer, Ted Myers, who says that with a clear line of sight, On-Ramp's technology can send a signal 45 miles.

That's because the idiots chose the 2.4 GHz ISM band for their carrier frequency. If they had chosen something down closer to the AM broadcast band (but using something more robust than AM, like Spread Spectrum FM), they wouldn't have had line-of-sight requirements. But they WOULD have had FCC Licensing requirements that they obviously wanted to avoid.

Re:Color me unimpressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588392)

Yeah, that's what I get for skimming pg. 1 too quickly and then doing a search on "sight" on pg. 2 and finding nothing.

Still, this isn't going to be line-of-sight, not in the real world. That figure was a best-case scenario. They'll be dealing with obstructions (buildings mostly), and their range will be less than 45 miles. But the idea is a network to give full coverage of the city, not a best-case point-to-point transmission:

A trial network in San Diego requires just 35 strategically located access points to collect data from smart meters and other devices equipped with On-Ramp's technology across a 4,000-square-mile area.

That's pretty impressive. And a utility meter doesn't require much data throughput; all they're sending is an account number, timestamp, and a read. 50 bps is enough for their purposes.

Re:Color me unimpressed (3, Informative)

macs4all (973270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587832)

in fact TFA said that it could actually still communicate if the signal-to-noise ratio was less than 1.

Yes. Sharp-cutoff bandpass filters, Autocorrelation and chopper-stabilized amplifiers can make it possible to pull signal that is way below the noise level. This is done in certain low-signal-level sensor applications and deep-space communications all the time.

The trick is, it used to call for massively-expensive discrete operational amplifiers. Now, such op-amps can be had for pennies.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587228)

Nothing in the article mentions either a line-of-sight link, or that any special antennas are required.

This isn't a new wireless broadband technology, this is an example of a technology which solves a very specific problem. It's not one that most normal people will ever encounter, but that doesn't make it a bad thing.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587562)

Exactly. It sounds like the goal is to use commodity hardware (read: cheap) but with extreme error correction levels to handle attenuation factors hundreds of thousands of times greater than traditional wifi (at the cost of bandwidth which isn't needed). They could probably make the things for $15 a pop and cover the whole country with $500k worth of hardware (plus installation, plus profit).

Re:Color me unimpressed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587318)

I know. I'm much more impressed by the fact that you can suck 10 10-inch dicks at the same time.

Re:Color me unimpressed (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587474)

Typical wifi ranges with a clear line of sight are, what, 300 feet or so? 5280 * 45 / 300 = 792 times normal wifi range. With signal strengths dropping off proportional to distance squared, that's an attenuation ~630k times greater. And you're complaining about 1/100,000th the bitrate?

Furthermore smartgrids don't need high bitrate. It's irrelevant to them. So what's the point? What they need is a widely deployable, low cost solution.

Re:Color me unimpressed (2)

poptix_work (79063) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587990)

It really depends on the antenna required. I've run 50 mile links with 802.11g/2.4ghz that ran at full speed -- it's not difficult. If this product does it without requiring 4 foot antennas 250-300' in the air on both ends.. great.

Re:Color me unimpressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587478)

Internet at the speed of handwriting!
Watch as the digital calligrapher painstakingly draws each character in perfect script.

Re:Color me unimpressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587732)

With a 45-mile line-of-sight link, sending 50 bits/s is hardly an achievement, especially when the antennas used are not specified. With a data rate that is "roughly 100,000 times less than the average U.S. broadband speed of five megabits per second", each bit has roughly 100,000 times more energy than bits in an "average U.S. broadband" signal -- which has the disadvantage of having to traverse a non-line-of-sight path.

On-Ramp Wireless may have some interesting technology, but this is not the way to advertise it.

You have missed the point of the technology completely. The idea isn't to have speed & distance. The idea is to have distance at a low cost per node. When sending information like power usage, it doesn't need to be blazing fast at 1Mbps (or even one tenth that speed). The large coverage area that this technology can provide, will make a smart-grid not only cheaper, but faster to deploy across large rural areas that lack internet access or other wireless technologies.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587978)

Maybe I'm missing something here....

45 miles cheaply doesn't seem reasonable. Especially when we're talking line of sight. That's a near 1200ft tall tower. I don't think constructing 1200ft tall transmitter towers is going to be all that effective. If this thing is being used in a smart grid like it's stated in the article, then 45 miles is a pipe dream. They'll get about 20-25 miles line of sight if there's a relay tower that's 100 meters tall.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588108)

If I've missed the point completely, it's because it wasn't the point of the article. It's not fair to the reader to emphasize speed & distance in the article, and then complain that the reader didn't get the point of distance at a low cost per node. The lead of the article (that's the first sentence, for those who skipped freshman English) should emphasize what the article is about, and this article's lead is all about distance. Cost isn't mentioned until the fifth paragraph.

This AC's complaint is a good example of why it's important to learn to write well if one is a technologist. One can have great, world-changing technology, but if you write poorly, no one will ever hear about it.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587786)

This is absolutely nothing new.

You have always been able to trade bandwidth to distance in any radio link. Having said that, there are certainly telemetry and remote-monitoring and control applications aplenty.

But revolutionary, it is not.

Re:Color me unimpressed (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587970)

The 2.4ghz range is full of noise from wifi to microwave ovens. It also is readily absorbed by humidity/water.

No one actually uses 2.4ghz except home based wifi because it's such a bad frequency to use. It's the dumping grounds for ad-hoc networks.

Long range .. for 2.4GHz (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587144)

I hope this isn't another service which may impair other devices working in the 2.4GHz range. That's got to be a strong signal.

Re:Long range .. for 2.4GHz (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587456)

I think that's the point. It's probably not a strong signal. There are rules you have to play by if you want to run in the unlicensed spectrum. If they can manage 45miles (even at very low speeds) while not having to jump through any new regulatory hoops, or license spectrum, using easily installed / cheap hardware, then that may be the "breakthrough". That said, I'd guess they're probably maxing out what is allowed to get that 50bps. So expect at least the same amout of interference as from any other garden variety 2.4GHz device.

They aren't going to set any records for speed or distance. But it appears that they are looking to maximize the result of

Speed x Distance / Total Cost

in a problem space where each device doesn't need much bandwidth.

Re:Long range .. for 2.4GHz (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587930)

I hope this isn't another service which may impair other devices working in the 2.4GHz range. That's got to be a strong signal.

Nope. It trades distance for bandwidth in an age-old manner. It's just one of those Radio things that most people never learn or have forgotten.

50 bps??? Wait, what??? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587186)

So I could DOUBLE my speed with a 110 baud modem?

Re:50 bps??? Wait, what??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587252)

So I could DOUBLE my speed with a 110 baud modem?

That, and don't forget the 45 miles of telephone cable.

Re:50 bps??? Wait, what??? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587314)

What if I use an acoustic coupler for my cellphone?

Re:50 bps??? Wait, what??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587576)

So, a cellular modem? Yeah, that would work. It's what my city uses to read the water meters. And it's extremely expensive because every modem is basically a cell phone and has a monthly service charge. If this could be a viable alternative to that I expect it would be much cheaper.

Re:50 bps??? Wait, what??? (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587768)

So I could DOUBLE my speed with a 110 baud modem?

That, and don't forget the 45 miles of telephone cable.

How little chance is there that's not already there? Yeah, landline POTS is going the way of the Dodo, but still ...

Re:50 bps??? Wait, what??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587428)

Yes, the technology is impressive, but not very useful for the common man, who has access to cell phone towers almost anywhere in the civilized world.

Unlicensed band? (1)

theVP (835556) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587208)

I don't understand why you would use something with this kind of range in an unlicensed band.

You are basically setting yourself up to fail when you get interference all over your supposed coverage area.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587356)

I believe that the point is that they're setting themselves up to succeed where there is already a large deal of interference. The interesting part of this technology is that it is built for situations where the signal-to-noise ratio is significantly less than 1. Sounds to me like someone read Shannon's Theorem, and instead of saying "How much capacity can we squeeze out of this?" asked "How high of a signal-to-noise ratio can we tolerate before the capacity drops to effectively zero?"

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

theVP (835556) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587452)

Okay, but, again, why an unlicensed band? If this is for utility companies to use, and has a large over-reaching benefit to all sorts of communities (many of them owning or running the utilities), why wouldn't there be cause for a licensed band? I understand the intention, and the expectation that this will work anyways, but why not just make sure by using a licensed band instead?

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587580)

$$$$, that is why. If you only need 50bps and you can get it on unlicensed spectrum, why pay for licensed spectrum?

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

theVP (835556) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587996)

Because when it stops working in some communities thanks to the interference that this supposedly slides under, you'll stop selling it in others.

However, if you were to start off in a licensed spectrum right off the bat, you could sell the tech to just about every utility company in America.

I am, of course, assuming they intend to make more than one in the future, and have more than just one customer.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588260)

why pay for licensed spectrum?

...because then you can expect the noise floor at your receivers to be determined by your own receivers and can (at least in theory) complain to the relevant regulatory body if you experience harmful interference significantly in excess of that level. In an unlicensed ISM band, a homeowner can turn on a microwave oven, Wi-Fi AP, or other transmitter a foot away from your receiver, and you can't do anything about it -- other than wait for it to stop. Under very common ISM band interference conditions, you may need 30 dB of processing gain just to overcome your local interference -- let alone that needed to pull your weak signal out of Gaussian noise.

Are utilities willing to operate their networks with such reliability issues?

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#36589068)

Not their SCADA networks, but things like meter reading, sure. If they can only read your meter between 2 and 5 AM while most wifi use hits a lull, that's fine.

Re:Unlicensed band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36625892)

This is supposed to be for smart grid use, that means they will want it to tell you air con, washing machines, dryers, and other power hogs to shut down while the load on the grid gets to high. I don't see how it would be very useful if it can only do it between 2-5am when there is usually plenty of power to go round.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587554)

You missed the key to the last sentence, home energy meters. There are many stories of people getting hit with bill as much as 10 times higher after a smart meter is hooked in to a home. The power company does nothing to explain it other then telling the people to pay their bill or go without electricity. Read one story of a 900 sq. ft. home getting charged $1000+ for a month after the smart meter was hooked up when the average electric bill was $128 for years and years. The Power company sad that's what it was, yet sent more techs then you can shake a stick at to "investigate" the meter. The lady said one day they had 3 different tech look at the meter. When they questioned why so many techs if the meter was operating properly, they said it was just a routine visit to make sure all thinks where functioning properly. After 3 months of high bill her costs mysteriously when back down, but is still $100 higher then normal. I am sure the power company likes using a unlicensed band because they can use that as a out if they ever get sued for overcharging. California already has a opt out law for smart meters, but the power companies have a charge for it.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#36589208)

The problem with these stories is that they are anecdotal. I'm sure some happen, but there really are ways for professionals to measure what is going wrong and I'd like to hear their report.

If your smart meter works like mine, you can walk up to it and get the reading. Once that happens, you can tell if it's the local meter having trouble, or the remote software. If the local meter is having trouble, the next step, unfortunately, requires some technical sophistication. A temporary power has to be installed. This is a clamp-on current sensor that goes around each of the two hot wires at the main panel, and a voltage meter which plugs into two breakers (one on each side of the split phase) and neutral.

These things are not expensive. I've considered a permanent one for my home, although I don't appear to be having trouble with PG&E.

If you see a really odd reading, the next thing to do is have an electrician use a power-factor meter. I would imagine that power-factor is the main problem behind odd readings, but I fail to see how one could get it really far from 1:1 with the equipment in a typical person's home.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 2 years ago | (#36598542)

Anecdotal? There has been many stories of people being massively over charged and the power companies coming back and saying that's not their problem. That is why their is a opt out program in California, because SO many people had issues with the meters and complained to their representatives that the state house there forced PG&E to have a opt out program. If it was a glitch and it was corrected, that's one thing, but this was a power company that didn't want to admit the glitch because it favored them and not the customer. You think if those meters were reading to low that the power company would write that off as "it is what it is"? Hell no. They would most likely extrapolate some amount, higher then your normal bill of course, and charge you accordingly.

If you want to live in a fantasy land where you think utility companies would never screw over the customer, fine, but don't try to pedal your propaganda on me. In 25 years of dealing with them I can say without a doubt that they look out for themselves and no one else.

Re:Unlicensed band? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#36600060)

Despite the fact that there were a lot of complaints, paranoia about the low-power radio's health effects, and PG&E had an opt-out program forced upon them, the only difference for people who opt out is that someone comes to read the same number from the face of their power meter that would be transmitted by radio.

There is a lot of stuff that people "know" that isn't really evidence. Like all of those cars that have out-of-control acceleration - it was Toyota Prius a while back, and Audi Quattro before it even though the almost identical Volkswagen Jetta didn't have the problem. But all of the evidence was that panicked people had their feet on the wrong pedal.

So, I'd like to see real evidence instead of the common knowledge of a bunch of paranoid folks who never learned the scientific method and treat their power meters with fear because they are incapable of understanding them. We suffer in many things, small and large, from their ignorance.

Reinventing PSK-31? (1)

molo (94384) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587282)

The technology can even pick up signals that are weaker than the surrounding background noise

It sounds like they reinvented JT65 [wikipedia.org].

-molo

Bandwidth and Time vs. Range trade-off (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587290)

The application for this is reading power meters and other continuous but low-bandwidth data. These generally operate in a mesh network. The devices used are generally low-cost and low-power, often in the "Part 15" section of the FCC rules for low-power devices that aren't allowed to interfere with licensed services. The problem is that some homes are too far from any other to link into the mesh, and the expense of reading those meters goes up significantly.

Signal processing theory allows you to trade bandwidth and time for range, such that a signal with a wider bandwidth or longer duration can be received over a greater distance. Hams have been doing this for decades using ultra-low-speed morse, PSK31 [bi.ehu.es], and other digital modes.

The achievement isn't really getting a long-range link, you can get 45 miles between mountaintops with wifi and parabolic antennas on a clear day. The achievement would be doing this for a very low installed parts cost and in unlicensed spectrum (which also reduces cost) while avoiding interference from wifi etc.

Re:Bandwidth and Time vs. Range trade-off (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588286)

Exactly! I mean people would know this if they read the article but this is Slashdot...

Basically right now they would not be able to do away with cell phone based radios in smart meters unless this device allowed two different connection modes. This is because 99% of the time data flow is low and can be delayed with no real consequenses. However less then 1% of the time the meters get firmware updates over the air and this does require some decent bandwidth especially in the mesh architecture.

Re:Bandwidth and Time vs. Range trade-off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588448)

The typical meter needs between 100 bytes/day (water) and 2.5 kB/day. Antennas are less than 2 inches long

WiFi goes further (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587300)

Isn't the record for WiFi over 100 miles with amplifiers?

Isn't the record for WiFi about the same as this without amplifiers, just using bigass dishes?

Is there any actual need to have quite this much range for this particular application? Wouldn't it make more sense to just use mesh networking? Wires don't tend to run 45 miles into nowhere to serve a single customer.

Re:WiFi goes further (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587552)

Wires don't tend to run 45 miles into nowhere to serve a single customer.
Speaking from experience, they do. They really do.

Re:WiFi goes further (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587856)

Wires don't tend to run 45 miles into nowhere to serve a single customer.

Speaking from experience, they do. They really do.

Well, where they do, then you add a couple of repeaters on some well-placed poles... But in general most people who would be in that situation don't have any services.

Re:WiFi goes further (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588244)

I suspect that there may be easier solutions.
http://www.fplfibernet.com/

Re:WiFi goes further (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588526)

I'm personally in favor of mesh, but I'll say this... no, I don't want yet another dish on the side of my house. This could have uses, though, thinking nautical.

Re:WiFi goes further (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36593486)

I think the point is that it is not using special antennas or amplifiers. There's very specific regulations (different in each country) that 2.4GHz omni transmitters have to adhere to. It seems they've just developed a modulation technique to get lots of link budget using DSSS. If you've ever made a DSSS modem before -- this is not trivial. Computation goes as the cube of the processing gain. So according to this article -- 20 dB more processing gain than cellular means 1,000,000 times more computations required to acquire the signal. If they can do this in commodity hardware at a low cost -- that's the real innovation.

Also, being from a wireless background, mesh seems like a TERRIBLE idea. When deployments are dense and in favorable RF environments, such as a suburban neighborhood, meshing can be successful . When deployments are sparse or not in favorable RF environments, such as exurban neighborhoods or urban environments where meters may be located in basements, the mesh architecture fractures into many clusters, requiring extensive access points to ensure reliable connectivity. In addition, most of those mesh radios blast away at high power -- and end up self interfering with each other. So in dense deployments -- the whole thing becomes awash with so much self interference that it kills itself. Despite its success in certain environments, meshing is going to have significant limitations and is fundamentally a “patch” to the limited range of a radio. It's using a networking layer protocol (routing) to solve a physical layer problem (range).

Why 2.4? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587492)

I tried to work out a way to semaphore at 50bps, but it can only be done if you prepare lots of colored flags lined up on a table so you can quickly grab the right one. That seems like cheating. The best practical one-person encode for just waving flags I can find is 9 bits per second. If you had six people waving flags at once, though... that would do it.

More seriously: Why is this being done in 2.4? Even if the customer utilities are too cheap to licence a little spectrum for themselves, there are ISM bands further down. There's one around 40MHz that should be perfect.

Re:Why 2.4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587936)

The 40MHz band is only 40 kHz wide.
The 2.4GHz band is 83.5 MHz wide.

See Shannon's theorem.

Re:Why 2.4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36591320)

At 40 MHz, a sufficiently efficient antenna might be way too large.

Powerline Communication. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587564)

When I first seriously started thinking of smart grid applications, this is what I thought they would be using...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

Why implement a step back in tech when they could do BPL? Seems like it is drastically more realistic(see cheaper) in implementation than a wireless network.

Re:Powerline Communication. (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587784)

seriously, use mesh wherever possible (this would me more intelligent, as devices near each other could communicate and decide when to ramp up energy use for things like dryers so two neighbors don't both start dryers/hot water/dishwashers etc when they are in energy saving mode and would also limit the local ground noise for ham/short wave). For anything too far out of way to use mesh use power line communication.

Gee (3, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587594)

if only we could find a way of connecting to all of these electricity meters with wires somehow...

Re:Gee (1)

Presence2 (240785) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587772)

And then using them to communicate...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication [wikipedia.org]

Re:Gee (1)

AutoReg (1140805) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587976)

Data can't (easily) pass through the transformer on the power pole outside the house.

Re:Gee (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 2 years ago | (#36590988)

Sorry mucked up my modding.
The attenuation is also pretty terrible. The only place this was useful is before cheep wifi modems/routers.

Re:Gee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588284)

Thanks for giving me the day's first good laugh!

Digital Spread Spectrum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587660)

It sound like they are describing Digital Spread Spectrum. Just because it is proprietary doesn't make it is unique.

Why wireless? (1)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36587814)

Why do they need to be wireless? They're coupled to an inherently wired technology, can't they use the power wires to transmit the signal? Isn't that how smart power meters work?

Re:Why wireless? (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588026)

Some power companies are wiring the smart-grid backbones with fiber optic. Aside from serving their needs it's also a sneaky way of putting a consumer WAN in behind the established players backs.

Re:Why wireless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588670)

It's still missing the last mile to the consumer. Fiber to the substation isn't much when your max speeds over your wireless mesh is 100kbps (at best). Silverspring Relay [silverspringnet.com]. Works great for reading meter once every hour, not so good for much else.

Re:Why wireless? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588064)

Some smart meters use PLC, but it's a really lousy technology for some of these purposes. Wireless works a lot better and most smart meters and smart grid applications use that. Even then there is no one-size-fits-all solution. (note that smart meters and smart grid are not the same things, there are also distribution and transmission devices to monitor and control, and gas and water meters as well)

Why did taxpayers pay $2 million for this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587884)

There are open hardware / firmware designs out there well suited to this type of application:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/openfhss/

Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36587984)

Hmm..so what's the damn grid? Made out of plastic? No need for wireless. Smart grid is just a scam.

Did they consider security? Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36588698)

Obviously there's not going to be a substantial key exchange to protect each transmission. More likely than not the hardware will allow easy access to any keys, assuming it's not trivial to obtain them by analysis of the transmissions. Because it's unlicensed spectrum, they can't rely on even the meager legal protection of not allowing cheap consumer hardware to access it. They'd better count on at least periodic "spot checks" against the physical meter.

Unlicensed spectrum + remote reading = hacker profit!

Re:Did they consider security? Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36591494)

Unlicensed spectrum + remote reading = somebody knowing when you're not home without being near your home or staking it out.

We have it already! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36589506)

Funny, I guess we have remote reading over the power wires already.
Mine, is for sure, and I never ever had a problem with it.
Those of you that understand EE can explani me how it's done, including breaking the inductive coupling of the transformers and such.
http://www.narucmeetings.org/Presentations/ENEL.pdf

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