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Solar-powered WiFi arrives

Small companies can make big waves. Lumin Innovative Products is a company with a staff of four with one big idea: Harnessing the power of the sun to power WiFi networks (one of the company's mottos: "Technology... Sourced by the sun, brought to earth by Lumin"). In mid-July this concept was put to the test when the company, then one month in existence, deployed its first solar-powered APs at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado.

The company currently offers the LightWave AP-1000 solar-powered AP (it comes in two versions -- single and dual). The Boulder deployment uses four dual roof-top units and two hinged solar panels. Each AP may potentially reach up to 30 miles in an environment with few obstacles, but the obstacle-rich six-bloc Pearl Street area, and the number of leafy trees in and around the mall, required the four APs. We should note that Boulder's urban setting was not the initial target for Lumin's systems. Rather, the units were designed with more remote areas in mind, locations where there is little or no available power.

The network deployment's price tag was $10,000, but maintenance will cost practically nothing. Even if the rechargeable batteries may have to be changed every once in a long while, the solar panels are built to run for 25 to 30 years. What is more, Lumin's solar technology is so sophisticated that it does not required the solar panels to be placed in sun-drenched locations. The panels charge even in cloudy and dreary days, and it takes only five hours of direct sun, or the cumulative equivalent amount of light over a longer period of time, to charge the battery so it can power one LightWave for 72 hours.

Solar-powered WiFi networks have obvious homeland security uses as they would continue to run even in the event electricity is out owing to terrorist attack or natural disaster. The solar systems are portable, so first responders could move into a disaster area and set them up quickly to facilitate communication. I recall a New Yorker cartoon in which a big sign in front of a church read: "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Salvation!" Lumin's slogan echoes that: "No power? No phone lines? No problem!"

For more on Lumin's products and deployment:
- see the websites of Lumin | Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District
- and Naomi Graychase's report

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