San Francisco start up software company Grid Net, is using WiMAX technology in its wireless smart meter instrument. The meter, being built by GE, uses Intel’s WiMAX chip and Grid Net software. It is said to be one of the first truly "open-standards" based approaches to building a meter.
Grid Net’s meter went on sale to select utility customers this March, and though Bell declined to state the current price, said that within a year and a half he expects the price to drop low enough to undercut any of the meters on the market that use proprietary technology. Bell says he has four major deals in the works and contends that his smart meter will eventually be cheaper than proprietary systems on the market (this is a key benefit of "open-standards").
Because WiMAX operates over licensed wireless spectrum, Grid Net founder Ray Bell claims it’s far more reliable and secure than unlicensed wireless networks (e.g. WiFi) — a particularly important feature for smart grid deployments. The meters could use national WiMAX networks (e.g. Clearwire or from regional carriers) or WiMAX networks that would be built and owned by a utility.
GigaOm states, "but if the smart grid really will follow the lessons of the Internet, open standards will be a key driver."
The use of WiMAX for grids is not a new concept. In January 2005, we wrote that:
WiMAX MAY BE USED TO ACCESS GRID COMPUTER SITES
The basic premise was that fixed WiMAX could be effectively used to extend a carrier’s long haul network for access to a grid computer network. We are now seeing WiMAX used in emerging smart power grid networks, but the concept is the same. We think WiMAX has a lot of potential and promise for interconnecting PCs and meters, and other instruments over smart power grids.