ABB Wireless

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flight Training Adeliade Campus Stays Connected with Tropos

Flight Training Adelaide (FTA) is a residential training facility in Australia that provides professional airline pilot training for many of the world’s leading airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Emirates, and British Airways.

FTA wanted a wireless network accessible across their campus at Parafield Airport allowing teachers to send Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and daily flight programs to students’ laptops anywhere on campus. In addition, they wanted to provide students with Internet access so they could stay connected with family and friends during their training.

FTA selected National Wireless to help them develop them in selecting and installing a wireless network. National Wireless recommended Tropos’ IP mesh based upon its high reliability, scalability, and high capacity.

Check out the FTA case study on National Wireless’ website. This is a great example of a multi-use Tropos network -- improving education with efficient communications while providing Internet access to keep students and teachers connected with the outside world.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Glendale Water & Power Wins GridWeek’s Leadership Award

We congratulate Glendale Water & Power (GWP) for being honored by GridWeek for deploying one of the most comprehensive Smart Grid projects in the country. The Leadership Award will be formally presented to visionary, Glenn Steiger, General Manager of Glendale Water and Power on Wednesday, October 20, at a celebration hosted at GridWeek 2010 in Washington, D.C.

GWP’s Smart Grid deployment with the help of KEMA, who is providing project management and multi-vendor system integration services, includes multiple phases – from implementing an Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) with 84,500 electric and 33,400 water meters from Itron, to demand response and power outage management, to ice energy thermal storage and Home Area Network (HAN) deployment, to distribution automation. It’s an ambitious undertaking! 

At the core of GWP’s communications network is GridCom™ – Tropos’ wireless network used as the utility’s private distribution area network (DAN) to deliver high-speed communications between the utility, utility applications and utility customers.

We’re proud to be working with GWP’s team and to have been selected as part of their smart grid vision.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Tropos -- After Ten Years Strong!

Tropos 10th Anniversary Celebration
 Tropos celebrates its ten year anniversary this month. While its journey has taken the company from delivering networks for municipal public safety agencies, to providing public Internet access networks for service providers, to multi-use networks for municipal services and utilities, one thing has remained constant – delighted customers. This is something that I think sets Tropos apart from many other vendors. Our team’s commitment to customer satisfaction is integral to the Tropos culture and I believe has been a key to our success both in the past and will continue to be going forward. At this time we have more than 800 customers around the world using our wireless networks for a wide range of Smart Grid and Smart City uses.

Tropos wireless network systems were developed from the ground up and are based upon industry standards. While standards provide customers advantages in terms of ease of integration with other products, investment protection, alone its not enough to build leading products. Tropos’ founders understood this and developed innovative patented technologies that make wireless networks more resilient, higher performance, easier to manage. Having 30 patents granted and another 30 in the queue is a significant accomplishment.

I am pleased to be a part of the Tropos team and believe there’s a bright future for us ahead.


Friday, September 24, 2010

What Will FCC White Space Ruling Really Mean for the Smart Grid?

Hard to have missed the news about yesterday’s ruling by the FCC on expanding white space spectrum for unlicensed use. On the surface it sounds like a clear win for utilities as it will provide them with more choices – how can you go wrong with more choices, right?

Before getting too excited about the ruling, it makes sense to take a closer look at both promise and reality of what it might mean in practice. The good…eventually, white spaces should be able to provide for additional connectivity in lightly populated areas. The not-so-good…there will continue to be a lack of availability of white space spectrum in urban and suburban areas – where 80+% of electricity users actually reside. Standards for this spectrum still have a long ways to go prior to adoption.

Also consider that the FCC announced they are taking steps to reserve two UHF channels for unlicensed microphones and other low power auxiliary service devices in all areas of the country. If this is the case, its quite possible there may be no free white space channels available in Silicon Valley…and many other markets.

So bottom line -- white space technology is well suited to some smart grid applications and geographies, but like any wireless technology, it isn't perfect for everything and likely won’t be available for use in many markets.

What direction will Tropos follow? Tropos is developing white space radios to extend our line of multi-radio products. We believe it simply makes good sense to offer the utilities deploying their Smart Grid a wide range of multi-radio, multi-band, licensed and unlicensed spectrum products – let the customer decide what they want.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

City of Lompoc Expands Use of Tropos Network to Enhance Public Safety with RoboVu’s Video Surveillance Solution

Lompoc has been successfully using its citywide wireless broadband network from Tropos to provide competitively priced fee-based public Internet access service within the community. The City is now expanding use of the network and adding mobile Tropos nodes and data computers (MDC) in all of its police vehicles to provide fast access to information, such as criminal records and mug shots, from police vehicles in the field. The first two police vehicles were outfitted with the new equipment yesterday!

The MDC's include integrated in-vehicle mobile video. Video is recorded and temporarily stored on the MDC then downloaded to a video server as a police vehicle reaches any precinct. The in-car video enables officers to record events or situations while on patrol providing real-time situational awareness as well as video evidence to more efficiently prosecute cases.

In addition, the city is installing a video surveillance system that will leverage the Tropos network for communications – improving public safety and increasing police operational efficiencies. RoboVu's RoboSPY video surveillance solution has been selected.

“One of the main reasons we were able to move forward with this project was because the Tropos network was already in place,” said Captain Larry Ralston, who has been leading the video project for the Lompoc Police Department. “The network has the bandwidth, reliability and security already built into it and has made it affordable for us to deploy the state-of-the-art surveillance system from RoboVu that will make Lompoc a safer community for citizens and businesses.”

Funded by a $400,000 Homeland Security grant, the program will be rolled out in three phases and cover eight square miles of the city.

Lompoc is a great example of how a city can leverage a single Tropos network infrastructure to cost effectively deliver multiple municipal services that improve quality of life in the community.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Private or Public Networks for Smart Grids and Smart Cities?

Recently, there have been heated debates on the merits (and demerits) of private and public networks in smart grids. Here at Tropos, we believe that it doesn’t have to be strictly one or the other, and that public networks have a role to play in augmenting private networks. Narasimha Chari, co-founder and CTO of Tropos Networks, wrote an article which was published on Earth2Tech on August 22 detailing this analysis and rationale. Read it here -- let us know what you think!

Essentially, there are 7 key factors for utilities and cities to consider when building their communications network: Availability, survivability, coverage, latency, security, life cycle and control. What we did was a comparative analysis of private and public networks measuring them against each factor, and citing other research as well as real life examples. In the end, we came to the conclusion that although utilities mostly prefer building their own private networks, there will still be a role for public networks to play. Our sentiment is echosed by a report from Pike Research, which stated that "Generally, grid applications with strict performance requirements, high reliability requirements, or high cost sensitivity tend toward utility-owned (private) and operated infrastructure. Other applications, such as AMI backhaul applications, will often use public infrastructure."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Natural Gas Explosion Rocks LA - Tropos Stays Up Thru Blackout

Recently local and national news covered a massive natural gas explosion that destroyed a building, killed one man and caused severe injuries to another. The explosion occurred in a south Los Angeles industrial area and appears to have been the result of a failed attempt to tamper with a gas meter. One of the video cameras in the area that is connected to a Tropos network recorded the explosion. As the incident is under investigation, the actual video footage has not been released.

Susan Levi, director for SLAIT BID (South Los Angeles Industrial Tract – Business Improvement District), the organization that owns and operates the network and video security monitoring for the industrial area stated, “the video footage of the explosion and its after effects is providing the critical information needed for the investigation by LAPD.”

As a result of the explosion, power was down in the area however, the Tropos network, remained operational as each node had battery backup. This allowed the video camera to capture the actual explosion as well as all the aftermath activities.

The Tropos network covers over 2 square miles and supports 64 video cameras, and was commissioned by the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) several years ago, and ownership was transferred to SLAIT BID (South Los Angeles Industrial Tract – Business Improvement District for operations. SLAIT BID hired a full-time security monitoring company that monitors and provides security for the SLAIT tract. SmartWave Technologies manages the Tropos and CCTV network for SLAIT BID. SmartWave is a privately held firm that provides the planning, design, integration of wireless neworks, along with the applications that use the network -- such as the video surveillance network in Los Angeles.

For more information about the explosion, check out the LA Times article.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Avista Installs Tropos!

Watch Avista installing the Tropos Network!

Back in April 6, 2010, we announced that Avista, an investor owned utility based in Spokane, WA, with over 356,000 electric and 316,000 gas customers in the Northwest had selected Tropos’ GridCom™ for its Smart Grid distribution area communications network. The network was part of Avista’s Smart Circuits Project planned for the Spokane service area, designed to increase reliability and optimize the utility’s distribution area network.

It’s been 3 months since the announcement, and here, you can see how Tropos Routers are being deployed, step by step by a workman from Avista on a lamp-post: It’s nice to see some physical evidence of smart grid deployment! Check out Avista's blog for more details:

Watch a 30-second video of the Tropos router being installed!

This router is one of many deployed to enable the Tropos mesh network system that will deliver 24x7, real time communications between substation controllers and grid devices such as reclosers, switches and faulted circuit indicators. We'll keep you posted on the Smart Circuits Project as it progresses...!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Monitoring Hurricanes with Tropos Networks...

As we move into full hurricane season in the state of Texas and the southwest, utilities and cities are preparing for the severe weather and the associated risks. CenterPoint Energy, headquartered in Houston expects new smart grid solutions it started rolling out earlier this year to help shorten and better mange power outages.

The city of Corpus Christi is also leveraging its wireless broadband network (also used simultaneously for automated meter reading and smart grid applications) from Tropos during this hurricane season by connecting IP video cameras to the network. Recently, these cameras monitored Hurricane Alex and provided real-time visibility for the community, enhancing public safety and benefiting citizens. The feeds were so accurate, they were even utilized by the Weather Channel! (Stay tuned for a link to the footage.)

Some extra background on Corpus Christi:

In 2005, Corpus Christi became on of the first cities to deploy a wireless broadband network. The first municipal application was for Automated Meter Reading (AMR) for water and gas meters; the City had sought to use AMR to save money and improve meter reading and billing accuracy. Today, 120,000 residential meters are read twice a day over the Tropos network. Since then, City leaders realized that they had a valuable asset in additional bandwidth that could be utilized by many city operations. By moving mobile city workers (police, building inspectors, code enforcement officers, fire inspectors, animal control officers and others) from a cellular network to Tropos, they have benefited from substantial cost savings plus much higher bandwidth enabling new applications such as Geographical Information systems (GIS), which performed too poorly to be of value over the cellular network. The City is also offering 25 free Wi-Fi hot zones around town as a way to provide an additional service for the community.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Q: Is There Really a Difference Between the Reliability of Public and Utility Private Networks?

A: YES! And it’s substantial! Southern Company and others entities studied this issue in the aftermath of Katrina and unequivocally came to the same conclusion – utilities build utility-grade networks that provide substantially higher levels of reliability than public networks.

Southern Company, an Atlanta-based IOU servicing 4.4 million customers, filed a formal recommendation with the FCC February 5th, related to the development of the National Broadband Plan and specifically about Smart Grid communication technologies. In the filing, Southern compares the performance of commercial cellular networks post Hurricane Katrina with that of its wholly owned subsidiary, Southern LINC Wireless. The primary focus of Southern LINC Wireless is to deliver reliable communications for utility operations; secondarily it offers commercial wireless service.

Bottom-line: SouthernLINC’s network was designed to meet utility-grade standards for network reliability with multi-level redundancy and back-up power built into the design…attributes not designed into typical commercial cellular communications networks. Why? Fundamentally building in this layer of protection is more costly and incompatible with public network business plans. An industry study referenced in the filing states “…such construction would be cost-prohibitive for a commercial system.”

Some highlights from the Southern filing include…within three days of Katrina making landfall, SouthernLINC had restored 98 percent of its operations. USA Today reported on October 10, 2005, that “for the first 72 hours, [SouthernLINC Wireless] radios were virtually the only way to communicate on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.” A week post-Katrina, other commercial cellular carriers were still hampered by extensive loss of service in many areas. Even two weeks later, public cellular services were not restored in many areas.

Power is a critical resource we rely on in some way almost anywhere at home, work and play. Shouldn’t the Smart Grid be built with high reliability as a key requirement? Utilities need to develop their strategy for a Smart Grid communication infrastructure that meets the requirements for all current and planned applications that will run over the network – this brings to mind attributes such as performance, latency, security, control, scalability….and yes, reliability.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Smart Grids -- Its Not Just About Meters

There was an interesting exclusive interview that appeared today in SmartGrid Today with Itron’s CEO, Malcolm Unsworth. He talked about the overall positive trend in Itron’s business as well as pointed out the fact that the adoption of smart meters is changing the metering vendor playing field. Smart Grid deployments seem to be accelerating meter demand, and with only 8% of the world’s meters capable of bidirectional communications today, there’s huge opportunity for Itron and the other metering vendors. However, to make Smart Grids requires more than just installing smart meters and as such its forcing the metering vendors to innovate and develop new product strategies…or risk their future.

While meters had been a commodity, with the advent of smart grids, meters aren’t just simple devices autonomous devices anymore. Smart meters are an integral part of the smart grid ecosystem and bidirectional communications is a key requirement. Meters need to tie to metering LANS upstream to connect to distribution area networks which are backhauled to the utility’s core network. Smart meters must connect downstream to home area networks that will eventually communicate with networks in homes and appliances. Clearly networks and network communications are a new strategic challenge metering vendors are facing…and to to quote Mr. Unsworth, “…the best ones will win.”

Tropos also recognized the strategic role of communications for smart grids, launching its GridCom architecture about a year ago. Currently Tropos has approximately twenty utility customers using its IP broadband mesh networking solutions and is well poised to continue providing utilities with a reliable smart grid communications foundation. Tropos has established relationships with a wide range of industry-leading smart grid ecosystem vendors, including Itron, Echelon, and Elster. Check out our website to learn more about the Tropos GridCom architecture for Smart Grids.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Licensed Spectrum Could Limit Utilities' Flexibility in Deploying Smart Grids

This past week, several articles have been written about Cisco’s recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as it relates the National Broadband Plan; you can check out one such article in earth2tech. From our perspective, we wholeheartedly agree with Cisco’s recommendations to the FCC. Tropos has also been active in submission of comments to the FCC in meetings and formal response to Public Notices related to the value of broadband for building Smart Grids and Smart Cities.

One of the controversial topics I’d like to highlight is the issue as to whether the FCC should allocate wireless spectrum specifically for utilities to use for Smart Grid – a new licensed spectrum. We agree with Cisco’s position on this issue – while it could be valuable, it’s just not needed. There is sufficient bandwidth and quality of service available with today’s unlicensed band which includes 2.4 and 5.8 GHz for regional scale distribution area networks. Unlicensed 900 MHz is already widely used for neighborhood area networks to support metering LANs and has proven to be quite effective. From a cost perspective, use of unlicensed spectrum for the Smart Grid translates to less cost for utilities as they don’t need purchase an expensive use license. Different unlicensed options play a valuable role within the Smart Grid context and we believe utilities should be allowed the freedom to select the best solutions – including licensed and unlicensed spectrum, that best meet their specific requirements. Therefore, Tropos continues to recommend to the FCC that if licensed spectrum is allocated for utilities, it should be an option but not a mandate.

Based upon our vast experience in deployment of distribution area networks, the concerns raised by some parties as it relates to interference in unlicensed spectrum, is unfounded. Reference Tropos’comments submitted to the FCC which highlights one of our Silicon Valley customers that has successfully mitigated interference issues in a very challenging interference environment.

In addition, among Tropos’ customers are many utilities that are successfully using unlicensed spectrum for multiple applications across urban, suburban, and even less populated regions. Such utility-specific applications include backhaul for smart meter LANS, distribution automation, substation security, power quality monitoring, and mobile workforce applications (scheduling, GIS, etc.). The Tropos wireless broadband network provides the needed reliability, performance, security, and quality of service dictated by utilities.

We look forward to the recommendations Nick Sinai, the FCC’s Energy and Environment Director, will be presenting to the FCC for how to bring broadband to the Smart Grid as part of the National Broadband Plan in March – it undoubtedly could have significant impact on the flexibility and options U.S. utilities will have as they deploy Smart Grid communications.