5 smart energy projects with big potential

Today’s itinerary takes us to Arizona, where researchers have developed a mirror technology they hope can make solar competitive. Next stop is a city in Massachusetts, which is a poster child for energy efficiency savings that other cash-strapped cities may find instructive; Plus three other projects.

Smart Meters: Cheap in the South, but Coasts Will Cost

A study has found that Southern utilities could be able to pay back the costs of smart meters a lot faster and more easily than East and West coast utilities. How do regional grid differences play out in real life?

Tropos Gets to the Point-to-Multipoint for the Smart Grid

Can the municipal Wi-Fi concept make the leap to all-inclusive smart grid communications solution? Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Tropos Networks is trying it out, and unveiled new products and networking architecture Monday morning for everything from super-fast distribution automation gear to millions of smart meters.

Meter Granddaddy Elster Seeks IPO

Look out, smart meter startups with IPO dreams — the granddaddy of power metering is plugging into the public markets. Elster Group, the German electric, gas and water metering giant founded in 1848, announced this week that it was filing to go public.

10 Things Outta the Smart Grid World of DistribuTECH

Distributech, the once-sleepy power grid trade show, has been transformed into a high-profile smart grid showcase over the past couple of years — this year’s show in Tampa, Fla. is no exception. Here’s 10 things you should pay attention to coming outta Distributech this year.

Trilliant’s All-In-One Smart Grid Network

In the world of smart grid, there tends to be two kinds of networks — short range local area networks (LANs) that connect neighborhoods of smart meters together, and bigger-pipe “backhaul” wide-area networks (WANs) to carry that collected data back to the utility. But wait — there’s also a third kind of utility network, a super high-speed, low-latency one that connects the switches, capacitor banks and transformers of the grid (the big machines that push and pull power around the grid, keeping it from blowing up) often with fiber connections at major substations.
Smart meter wireless networking company Trilliant bought long-range wireless provider SkyPilot Networks last May with the goal of bringing all three kinds of networks in-house. On Tuesday, it announced its new bridge products that can link Trilliant’s low-power wireless LANs with its SkyPilot-based, high speed mesh and point-to-point WANs, at latencies low enough to run substation and distribution grid gear as well, according to Eric Miller, senior vice president of solutions. While Trilliant has only a few utility clients, including Canadian utility Milton Hydro, using both LAN and WAN networks right now, Miller said the company intends to go forward selling them as a package.
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Turn Your MacBook TrackPad Into an Inking Machine With Inklet

I knew it was only a matter of time until some developer figured out a way to turn the big trackpad on the MacBooks into a little tablet. The folks at Ten One Design have stepped up to the plate with Inklet, a program that does quite a bit. Inklet accepts input from the fingertip, but adds even more functionality when used with the company’s Pogo Sketch ($14.95) stylus. The Pogo Sketch is designed to add stylus control over touchscreens, and that includes the MacBook trackpad.

While Inklet ($24.95) is designed to allow drawing into programs that accept such input, it also leverages the handwriting recognition built into OS X to convert handwritten input into text. The program has palm rejection to prevent inadvertent input when the palm is resting on the trackpad. To appreciate what Inklet can do, have a look at this video:

Mininova Ordered to Remove All Copyrighted Files

It’s been a rough year for file-sharing sites, legally speaking. Today a Dutch court ordered Mininova to remove all torrents of copyrighted works in the next three months or pay up to $7.16 million in fines.
Copyright holder group Stichting Brein had sued Mininova for inciting and profiting from copyright infringement. The BitTorrent search engine and directory already removes files after receiving takedown notices and moderates pornography, viruses and fakes.
Given that Mininova is already doing some proactive filtering, the court said the site should assume all commercial works are copyrighted.
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Smart Grid Debate: Licensed vs. Unlicensed Wireless Spectrum

A good portion of the intelligence that will be added to the upcoming smart grid will be wireless — radios, sensors and access points strategically placed throughout the power grid and on our homes that can help manage energy consumption and distribution. Increasingly, utilities and companies are deciding whether smart grid wireless networks need to run over licensed wireless spectrum, in which the airwaves are owned and regulated or unlicensed, which is shared spectrum and can be used by anyone as long as they abide by certain rules. With utilities spending billions on smart grid networks, the choice could determine which tech companies that plan to sell smart grid gear to the utilities are successful and which are not.

The degree of reliability and security that a smart grid demands can only be achieved with licensed spectrum, its backers argue. The idea is that because licensed spectrum is owned by one entity and can be used for a single purpose its users won’t face interference. But the problem is that licenses to buy spectrum cost money adding substantial fees to smart grid rollouts. On the other hand because unlicensed spectrum is shared and doesn’t require an expensive license to access it, its backers believe it’s the only option cheap enough to offer utilities a cost-effective method to roll out meter projects. But critics say that because unlicensed spectrum is shared by many users, services deployed on those networks can face interference.

We recently learned of the debate from Stewart Kantor, the CEO and founder of Full Spectrum, a two-year-old startup that builds WiMAX-based wireless networking gear that runs over licensed spectrum. His company sells WiMAX-based radios (which add intelligence to the power grid where power is distributed from generation to substation) that run over licensed, ultra-high frequency and very high frequency spectrum. He told us unlicensed wireless services are “problematic” for mission-critical services, which need to be secure, reliable and robust.
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