While consumer mobile broadband technologies are all the rage when it comes to transmitting bits of data, FreeWave Technologies successfully is continuing its mission of providing long-range data communications to the oil and gas, military, water and utility industries using narrowband communications.

The Boulder, Colo.–based company has developed a successful niche in the oil-and-gas and military segments via its spread-spectrum and licensed narrowband radios. Recently, the company announced that sales of its FreeWave military radios exceeded 1 million flight hours in command-and-control applications — e.g., unmanned vehicles and roots, biological and chemical sensors and asset tracking devices — since the company began selling into the government market in 1997. FreeWave also inked a deal earlier this year with MicroBee Systems to sell FreeWave products and solutions to federal customers through the U.S. General Services Administration.

“3G and Wi-Fi are mostly built for consumer applications. Our solutions are for mission-critical applications — command and control and automation of heavy machinery,” said Ashish Sharma, chief marketing officer at FreeWave and former vice president of marketing with WiMAX vendor Alvarion. “The data transmission has to be extremely reliable and very secure in nature. The environment is not forgiving.”

Knowing that utilities want to deploy several different technologies in the smart-grid arena, Sharma believes that FreeWave’s long-range radio technology offers a compelling niche in the smart-grid market. That’s because utilities now are focused on substation and distribution automation, where long-range connectivity is required but data demands aren’t heavy. For example, Oklahoma Gas & Electric is using FreeWave’s FGR2-PE wireless radio solution for the distribution automation component of its smart-grid network.

“We’re very aggressive in moving into the utility market,” Sharma said. “We believe that utilities are now moving their spending away from AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) and to the substation level.”

The company also announced today a new suite of input/output expansion products that enable users to add IO points to a radio or serial base as well as to customized networks.

The products can be used in a variety of applications. In oil and gas, they can be used to obtain additional data points from the wellhead, storage tanks, separator, pipeline injection, drive and flare. In electric power, a higher concentration of IO points in a single connection simplifies transformer monitoring and eases environmental and condition monitoring of coal-ash ponds. In addition, the water/wastewater market could use these products to monitor and control more variables in water towers, storage ponds, pumps, drives, lift stations and chemical pumps.

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