Lovely WiFi Meter Maid



Wireless LAN mesh player Tropos Networks is in the process of unwiring another city in the U.S.

This time it is Corpus Christie in Texas, where the startup is setting up a pilot wireless LAN mesh network in an 18.5 square mile area of the city. The network is eventually intended to cover 147 square miles and be used by public safety agencies, government workers, and utlities.

Tropos, along with startup rivals like Locust World and BelAir Networks, is trying to push the concept of metro-scale wireless LAN mesh networks. Which is very nice and all, but the most interesting thing about this rollout is probably the initial applications it will be used for: automated wireless meter reading.

This got us at Unstrung wondering. How on Earth do you wirelessly enable a gas, electricity, or water meter? Hardly the most high-tech of devices... and wouldn't it be rather expensive to add WiFi to each one?

Well, it turns out you don't slap an 802.11 card on each one. Instead the meters have been fitted with a cheap, little, low-frequency (900MHz) radio, which sends the information to a central unit called an automatic meter reader (AMR) concentrator. These are the devices that are being fitted with 802.11 and which transmit the usage data back to the utilities.

The point of the service is that it will of course be cheaper to wirelessly poll the meters than to send actual humans out to read them.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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