Tech in Action: A WiFi signal powered by rain

Wireless provider Tele2 helps Russians hiding from a storm stay connected.

St. Petersburg, Russia, is a historic city with a distinct architectural style that includes buildings and streets filled with narrow, well-lit corridors. Those corridors are a common place for citizens to hide when there’s a sudden rain storm, but the thick stone and brick construction often blocks wireless signals and prevents people from accessing the internet.

Given that the city records around 200 rainy days a year, this can have a pretty significant impact on the productivity and entertainment of citizens.

To address this issue, European telco Tele2 worked with agency Geometry Global to create a device that would make internet accessible in these corridors through a device that was inserted into the city’s drain pipes. The device contained a turbine that would turn when water flowed through it, generating electricity that powered a WiFi router.

Beyond just giving customers internet, Tele2 also enlisted several content partners – such as National Geographic, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace – to provide exclusive content that was only available when connected to one of the Rain WiFi networks.