What Google's TV White Space Hospital Experiment Means for the Smart Grid

Last Updated Sep 16, 2010 8:41 PM EDT

Google's push to open up TV's white space -- those slivers of unused spectrum abandoned when the country switched from analog to digital broadcasts -- has expanded to hospitals. Actually, one hospital in Ohio. Believe it or not this little experiment creates an opportunity for Google (GOOG) to push its free home-energy management software PowerMeter, all the while solving two problems: Bringing a smart grid network and wireless Internet to homes and businesses that otherwise wouldn't have access to either.

The small pilot program, announced a week before the FCC votes on final technical rules governing white spaces, will use the spectrum to deploy a broadband network. The program is the first of its kind for a hospital. First responder vehicles, the hospital's ground and the health department will be equipped with high-speed wireless Internet access using the TV white space. According to a post on Google's public policy blog, the search engine giant and Spectrum Bridge -- a company its already partnered with in another white space-to-wireless broadband program -- will use this demonstration project to show off the many uses for TV white space.

The smart grid connection. Companies continue to argue about what network standards are best to run smart grids. In short, as we upgrade our power grid, what is the best standard to improve the delivery of electricity using digital tech with a two-way communication system that will help costumers reduce costs and save energy? In recent weeks, especially considering Cisco's (CSCO) recent plans, it appears that Internet Protocol (IP)-based smart grid will eventually take over.

But let's say you live (or your hospital is) in a remote part of the country, without reliable Internet access. Google just so happens to be working with Spectrum Bridge and the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperation and Telecommunication utility on another TV white space experiment. Their project will deliver the smart grid wireless over TV white space in the remote Californian High Sierras.

The same goes for the Hocking Valley Community Hospital located in Appalachian Ohio. The purpose of the pilot program is to connect health care facilities located in remote areas into the powerful wireless network. But those same large facilities need to be connected to the smart grid as well. That also means, of course, that it can use PowerMeter or any of the other real-time home energy management devices and software out there to increase its energy efficiency and lower its utility bills.