Free WiFi, thanks to your electric meter

Who knew that those bland little things attached to your wall to measure the amount of electricity you consume would one day provide free WiFi service to you and your neighbours? We’ve been talking about this on MuniWireless for years and finally, the city of Santa Clara, through the municipal electric utility Silicon Valley Power (SVP), has rolled out one of the first Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI)/Automated Meter Reading (AMR) networks with free WiFi for the public. After one week, SVP reports that over 3000 people have used the free WiFi service.

If you are in Santa Clara, you will find the network SSID as SVPMeterConnectWiFi. Linkpath Communications designed and installed the WiFi part of this network; they are also responsible for customer service and maintenance of the WiFi network.

By making the network available to the public, SVP has enabled residents and visitors to use tablets and smartphones with standard Wi-Fi connections to access the Internet throughout the outdoor areas of Santa Clara. Replacing an outdated and limited system that only served parts of the city, Santa Clara Free Wi-Fi provides access to residents as well as the tens of thousands of workers who commute to the city to work for companies that form the cornerstone of the high-tech industry.

SVP’s smart grid program, SVP Meter Connect uses Tropos Networks wireless access points and software, and other equipment from ABB (the power/automation systems integrator). ABB acquired Tropos Networks last year. Tropos has sold wireless access points over the past few years to many cities and counties that were deploying municipal wireless broadband networks.

The SVP MeterConnect program at Santa Clara includes the Tropos field area communications network and an AMI system. In addition to supporting AMI and public Wi-Fi access, SVP plans to eventually use the network to support additional smart grid applications, including distribution automation and mobile workers. In the future, the City plans to use the same network to provide mobile access for municipal field workers (public safety, building and fire inspectors, parks and recreation, and more), reducing operational costs versus cellular cards and delivering greater bandwidth.

Other articles that might interest you:

Securing the IP of IP Smart Grid Security and Cyber Wars begin: is the Power Grid next?: Don’t forget security! With all the hacking going on, it’s only a matter of time that hackers will attack the smart grid.

Santa Clara muni WiFi network gets a second chance

Kansas power company uses Tropos for smart grid demo program

New Tropos 1410 Delivers Secure Field Area Networks for Smart Grid and Other Industrial Applications

UK issues public tender for smart grid communications network

Burbank Smart Grid upgrade includes citywide WiFi

A Perfect Match: Wi-Fi plus automated meter reading (AMR)




  1. We need to get away from vertical thinking, structures and business models in the utility and communications markets.

    In fact, we need a fundamental rethink of network theory, both for 1-way and 2-way energy, resource and information networks/utilities.

    There is no reason this model can’t scale everywhere. The technology (supply) is there and the demand (broadband and smart-grid cost savings) is there. It’s just an issue of institutional resistance on the regulatory, academic, trade and capital fronts.

    Vertically integrated and siloed networks simply do not scale effectively in a world of rapid technological (investment) obsolescence and shifting and growing demand.