FreeWave delivers industrial IoT at Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire

Mount Washington Observatory (Freewave)
FreeWave says its 900 MHz radios are rugged enough to withstand the extreme and harsh weather conditions at the Mount Washington Observatory. (FreeWave)

FreeWave Technologies is relying on decades-old technology to deliver M2M and IoT networking technologies to the Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) in New Hampshire, where critical weather, atmospheric and climate research takes place.

FreeWave’s family of 900 MHz radios, which operate in the ISM band, uses Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS), where the signal hops from frequency to frequency within the band. It’s proven technology, and in the right conditions, it can be used to establish links up to 60 miles in some cases, according to Eddie Garcia, technical marketing manager at FreeWave Technologies.

“It does have inherent cyber capabilities as well,” he said. “It’s cyber secure.”

MWO also provides vital data that allows local government agencies to assess active conditions in order to protect the lives of crews during search and rescue operations. FreeWave’s family of 900 MHz radios are rugged enough to withstand the extreme and harsh weather conditions on the mountain—elevation 6,288 feet—the highest peak in the Northeast U.S.

Researchers frequently encounter 50-100 mph winds and penetrating fog in the summer, with subarctic temperatures, 140+ winds, freezing fog and heavy glaze ice during the winter. Visibility is often an issue, and researchers report seeing ice accretion rates of up to 12 inches per hour.

FreeWave says it’s known for its ability to maintain connectivity in environments where other technologies have succumbed to the elements. At Mount Washington, FreeWave’s FGR and FGR2 radios connect a network of 28 sensors and devices on five remote weather stations and deliver data in spite of the area’s year-round harsh weather.

The weather stations are solar-powered and only receive sunlight 40% of the year, another reason that FreeWave’s low-power solutions are ideal for the network. According to Freewave, these capabilities have enabled 24-hour, year-round network connectivity.

The spread spectrum concept has been around for decades and the U.S. Army used a communication system based on spread spectrum during World War II. Famously, the actress Hedy LaMarr’s wireless invention was based on a spread spectrum method to keep the Nazis from intercepting classified messages.

FreeWave also uses the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band, but it’s mostly in the 900 MHz band, which is probably more crowded than 2.4 GHz because it’s widely used, Garcia said. But frequency hopping allows it to find channels that are less crowded; it also has dual-band radios that operate at 5.8 GHz.

FreeWave is also involved in the edge and computing arenas. MWO is considering FreeWave’s Zumlink radio series, which offers significantly more throughput, and actually addresses edge and fog computing.  The ZumLink Industrial IoT App Server Radio combines 900 MHz wireless telemetry with the ability to program and host third-party apps for intelligent control and automation of remote sensors and devices. Specifically, the Zumlink IPR App Server Radio combines RF wireless communication with app programmability to control sensor data at the Edge.

With 20-plus years experience in the M2M market and millions of radios deployed in the field, FreeWave is seeing a lot more company in the IoT space these days, Garcia acknowledged. But it has an established base and its customers span a range of industries, including oil and gas traffic management smart cities, earth monitoring and drones and robotics for command and control.