It sounds iffy; running your company’s network on a WiFi connection that is entirely powered by solar energy. But a Mountainview, CA firm says it provides a 100% uptime solution. And it reports a mad dash for its products by companies in the range of 50 to 200 employees.
Mesh WiFi firm Meraki started shipping its Meraki Solar December 4th, after a year long delay because it needed to improve its battery technology.
The delay lands both the firm and customers in a slightly awkward situation. The worldwide run on solar power equipment seemed overly justified when oil prices spiked. Now that the price of oil is in the 40 dollar bracket, what should solar be priced at? Meraki has found a creative way around this stumbling block. Customers can bring their own panels! They’re selling solar Wifi solutions for apartment blocks or businesses and small communities at $749 a piece for a bring-your-own-panel model up to $1,499 for areas with shorter days or less light which require a battery.
Company cofounder Sanjit Biswas told ArsTechnica that Meraki decided to change from sealed lead-acid to lithium iron-phosphate for greater capacity.
Biswas said this dropped the battery’s weight, which in turn reduces shipping costs for the many remote areas that the Solar unit is being deployed.
The solution garnered a lot of custom from unexpected quarters. Meraki, which set out to cater to people and businesses in far out, remote places with no power, attracts a lot of business from people looking to reduce ancillary costs.
And it makes terrific sense because employing a union electrician to install ordinary wifi easily runs up a bill of a few thousand dollars. Customers opting to install solar Wi-Fi instead don’t need to go to such expense because the solar solution is a relatively low-impact amenity. The higher initial price of Solar is easily canceled out by lower installation and recurring costs, says Biswas.
Meraki’s customer list includes doctors’ offices, shopping mall management companies and firms that outsource their information technology services. “That’s a surprise for us: it’s not just about public access, sometimes it’s just about plain Wi-Fi access, even internally,” Biswas was quoted as saying.
The company has developed centralized management console for this segment allowing customers to manage accounts and operations themselves or use an integrator for remote help. The system has also been scaled to manage thousands of devices on a single network.