Google continues on its quest to firmly embed itself in the energy industry, this time by teaming up with service provider Spectrum Bridge to launch the country's first smart grid wireless network trial utilizing TV's white spaces spectrum. In other words, Spectrum Bridge and Google will send data from smart meters to utilities via unused television broadcast channels, or "white spaces."
Don't worry—you won't accidentally channel surf over to the smart grid data channel. White spaces exist because of the recent switchover from analog to digital television. These unused segments of the spectrum lie between established TV channels. This past February, the FCC tested the newly anointed white spaces to make sure that their use doesn't interfere with established telecommunications. It doesn't, according to VentureBeat.
Hence Google and Spectrum Bridge's white space wireless network trial in Plumas-Sierra County California—a rural area underserved by wireless coverage because of its mountainous terrain. The trial will allow the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative & Telecommunication (the local power company) to manage the electrical grid's power flow remotely.
Google has long been excited about the idea of white spaces. In a 2008 blog post, co-founder Larry Page imagined the possibilities of these unused signals:
We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations, resulting in better coverage at lower cost. And it is wonderful that the FCC has adopted the same successful unlicensed model used for Wi-Fi, which has resulted in a projected 1 billion Wi-Fi chips being produced this year. Now that the FCC has set the rules, I'm sure that we'll see similar growth in products to take advantage of this spectrum.
If the Google/Spectrum Bridge trial goes well, we may see ultra-powerful white space wireless pop up in more populated areas. That's good news for Google, which has invested in the smart grid through multiple ventures, including its own PowerMeter software. It's also promising for anyone living in a remote area without wireless. Thanks to white space, wireless may soon have no boundaries.