Thursday, January 5, 2006

Solar powered streetlights offering Wi-Fi

Okay, this sounds cool, but scratching under the surface for a moment I don't see it. This research group in Scotland is working on street lighting which is both solar powered and includes a Wi-Fi transmitter. Sunlight powers streetlights, Wi-Fi access (By Steve Ranger, Special to CNET, Published: January 5, 2006, 7:52 AM PST) The research is being conducted by the Abertay Centre for the Environment (ACE), based within the University of Abertay Dundee (UAD).

But ... what's the big deal..?? At least in the U.S. streetlights are already provided with power. And that power can already be used to power other devices hung on the streetlights. For example in the Christmas season when lighting is strung all along the street. More lately surveillance equipment is attached to the same streetlights, powered by the streetlights.

As for providing an Internet infrastructure this way. In 2001 Metricom deployed the Ricochet network using boxes attached to streetlights powered by the power already present in the streetlight.

There's nothing new here. Well, other than the solar panels. It's very nice to see solar panels used for this application. But I wonder what the tradeoff is which would makes this displace the existing way to do streetlights.

In the existing system, streetlights are directly attached to the same power grid that supplies power to buildings. The wires are already there. A possible saving is if the streetlights would not require their own wiring but often streetlights are hung on the very same poles on which the wiring is run. At least this is the way it's done in the U.S.


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