If your home Wi-Fi router wasn’t cooped up indoors, it could send a signal about a 20th of a mile before the signal became too weak and distorted for a computer to receive it. Technology developed by San Diego startup On-Ramp Wireless uses the same frequency, but less power, to send data signals 45 miles, thanks to algorithms that make the signals very resistant to noise.
The technology, called Ultra-Link Processing, transfers data at a very low rate compared with a home broadband connection. But On-Ramp intends to offer it as a way to enable “smart energy” grids, in which simple sensors installed in home energy meters, for example, report local activity back to utilities, allowing them to manage power generation and distribution more intelligently.
Smart-grid infrastructure is needed to cope with the fluctuating output of renewable energy sources at large scale, and it could make feasible micro-generation, whereby consumers make their own power and sell any surplus back to the grid. Today’s smart-grid sensors typically use Wi-Fi-like technology with Wi-Fi-like ranges, or unlicensed radio bands that can reach a couple of miles. Cellular networks can also be used, but these connections are under growing pressure from data-hungry phones and tablets.
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