The city of Cambridge in the U.K. reportedly is the site of the world’s first citywide, fully functional wireless network operating in the white space, “enabling a whole host of Smart City applications,” says “Internet of Things” provider Neul.

White space is the unused and underused parts of the wireless spectrum. For example, around the world many TV channels are left vacant in most locations. Neul’s technology opens up these channels and will also allow underused frequencies within other UHF licensed and unlicensed bands to be used efficiently for wireless communication.

To demonstrate this network, Neul (in collaboration with Bglobal Metering) today showcased what they say is the world’s first-ever smart electricity meter-reading via a white-spaces network. “This is the first step towards smart electricity grids that will allow electricity supply to be more efficiently matched to real-time demand,” Neul says.

"In the last few years we’ve heard a great deal about white space and the opportunities it will bring. With many countries approving the necessary legislation, the launch of the world’s first city-wide white space network coupled with the demonstration of a smart meter reading over white space is a major milestone towards the realization of these opportunities.” commented Will Strauss, Chief Analyst, Forward Concepts. 

“Technologies available today simply cannot realistically deal with the cost, power and propagation requirements of many elements of the Smart City. This sharp movement towards a world of ubiquitous machine-to-machine communication has huge implications and the industry will be watching closely."

Neul’s network builds on the recent completion of the first phase of the Cambridge White Space Consortium’s network. The Consortium’s Phase One network used Neul’s equipment and cloud interface together with the “Weightless” communications standard that helps prevent interference with televisions and wireless microphones. Neul now is preparing for commercial trials later this year, with full rollout set for 2013.

In addition to the smart grid, Neul says its network “opens up several fascinating possibilities for the Smart City of the future, enabling smarter transport and traffic management, city lighting and other municipal services.”

Neul’s network comprises:

>> Five base stations around the city of Cambridge;
>> One base station in a rural community south of Cambridge;
>> A cloud-hosted network Operational & Management Center (OMC) that securely manages the communications between the Internet and the “things;” and
>> Support for multiple geo-location databases that help ensure wireless microphones, TV transmission and reception is not disrupted.

"In a world of smartphones and mobile broadband, it is easy to imagine that wireless connectivity has now been solved,” comments Glenn Collinson, co-founder and Board member at Neul. “It hasn’t. Mobile broadband is too expensive for ‘things’ in the Smart City. Also, mobile broadband means battery-powered devices would need changing far too often. And all those sensors would load the cellular networks to such a level that there would be little network capacity left.”

He continues, “Mobile networks are great for people but terrible for machines. At Neul, we are today demonstrating that the Smart City can happen now with a new wireless standard called ‘Weightless,’ specifically designed for embedding in electricity and gas meters, air quality sensors, recycling points, street lighting, parking spaces, traffic lights and ‘things’ rather than people."

(Editor’s note: For more information on white spaces and Weightless, read the upcoming 2Q12 issue of Communications Technology magazine. Bonus in-print copies will be available at The Cable Show in Boston.)

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