One of the companies I follow quite closely is a rapidly growing cleantech company in Victoria, BC, Canada called Carmanah Technologies (TSX:CMH) (named after Carmanah Valley they tell me, which is apparently an absolutely gorgeous wilderness on Vancouver Island), which makes solar LED lighting products. Carmanah won the most promising presenter award at the Cleantech Venture Network’s Cleantech Venture Forum V in 2004.
I had the opportunity to visit the company and its manufacturing plant some time back, and was quite impressed with the product and operations. Carmanah makes a whole line of productized solar LED systems. They sell these products to light airfields, marine buoys, traffic signs, and bus stops, as well as operating the largest solar systems company in Canada. What interested me recently, a few weeks ago, they announced the release of a fully centralized wireless controlled smart solar LED lighting product. Press release here.
The basic product for airfields has been a hardened, fully integrated solar module encapsulated in molded plastic with an LED array and rechargeable battery, and incorporating smart battery management technology. The key innovations are around the battery management, and brightness /range capabilities of the product. The product enables an airfield to light its runways and service ways without the cost of wiring and wiring conduits, or the cost of powering those lights. The product is currently working through FAA approval for runway lighting based on a system in use at the Truckee Airport, and the company is a major supplier to military and remote airfields around the world.
What Carmanah has added in this recent product (which I got to see on the test bed when I was there), is a wireless independent remote control of each of the lighting systems on the field. The protocol they are using is an 900 MHz RF (enrypted). As one of the companies I am involved in in wireless face a similiar set of technical problems in another industry, I was intrigued by the technology choices. Low frequency RF like this lends itself to the battery management (sends in databursts, not an always on solution, and not power hungry) needs, can be easily made to band hop, and is an inherently easier to secure compared to 802.11 solutions. They have incorporated pre-programmed and central control, handheld control and aircraft controlled programming and activation, meaning that pilots flying into a remote or unattended field could signal ahead for lighting. It looks like a great choice for general aviation as well as major hub airports.
Kind of a cleantech meets wireless play.