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One of the fastest growing markets for Wireless over the past few years is the Utility space. With the desire to maximize power/water usage (to reduce Greenhouse gases / drain on Water supplies), technology is being heavily used to help us meet future demands with as little impact as possible.
While many of the required connections in the Utility space can be done using traditional wired circuits, there are many ways that Wireless can be deployed in cost effective manners....
Redundancy Over the next decade, the traditional power grid is going to become a lot more intelligent (as part of the Smart Grid initiative). Smart grid allows for better load-balancing on the network, as well as the ability to better control the grid, to prevent large power disruption. The amount of data being carried across the network to make this happen is staggering, so much of the connections are being done (primarily) on high speed connections such as Fibre. However, lines can be damaged by a variety of things (construction accidents, natural disasters), so backing up these lines is going to be key. Technologies such as HSPA/LTE and Satellite provide an ideal backup for these vital connection points.
Smart metering backhaul Not only is the entire grid that carries electricity becoming more intelligent, so are the meters on your home. One of the key aspects of the Utilities' plans to reduce power usage is to ensure that we are properly measuring the usage in both homes and businesses. As such, Automated metering is a key application to make this happen. Today, Wireless technologies (cellular, radio, satellite) are being used heavily to provide a method of backhauling the data from your home/business back to the Utility, so that they can determine what the current usage is. In addition, wireless technology is being used heavily to help reduce the strain on the power grid, when usage becomes high. This includes reducing power by raising the temperature on an Air conditioner, as well as turning off non-essential devices such as pool pumps using various wireless technologies.
Field Force Automation It isn't only the grid that is working smarter.....so are the Utilities employees. Field Force automation solutions are allowing Utilities workers to automate the paperwork on various activities, such as Meter installation/repair, repairs to various pieces of equipment and more. As well, Wireless technology is being used to allow workers to have better access to key pieces of information in the field.....as better information makes for better decision making!
Remote Monitoring/Video A good video system tells you when something occurs, but usually only if you are watching it......a great one tells you that something is ABOUT to occur, and gives you time to fix it! Heat sensing solutions allow for Utilities to see if key pieces of equipment are running at higher than expected temperatures, to be able to gracefully reduce its usage (preventing unwanted outages).
Green Energy monitoring Many wind and solar farms are placed in areas that optimize the amount of sun/wind that they are exposed to. While this maximizes their effectiveness, it also can make it difficult to communicate with them (as many of these areas are not serviced by traditional landline-based communication services). Wireless (Radio, cellular and satellite) is used heavily to help provide communication to these valuable assets. This allows for reduced visits to the sites, improved uptime and improved maintenance adherence.
I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and I look forward to your continued support in 2011!