HPWREN is an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional UCSD research and education project, created in 2000 with National Science Foundation funding by Principal Investigator Hans-Werner Braun at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and Co-Principal Investigator Frank Vernon, a seismologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. The startup and subsequent existence of HPWREN was funded by grants from NSF in 2000, 2004 and 2009. Following a generous approximately ten years of funding by NSF, the HPWREN's user community joined together to sustainably fund the HPWREN Backbone network to support their programmatic needs, while smaller amounts of NSF funds had continued for a multi-year transition period. With Hans-Werner Braun having retired in 2016, the project leadership has been transitioned to Frank Vernon.

The HPWREN Backbone itself operates in FCC-licensed radio spectrum, while integrating a system of off-the-shelf radio technology. To increase robustness, large portions of the network utilize a redundant topology to create more routes and to increase bandwidth. Access paths to the backbone utilize license-exempt or FCC-licensed radio links. The wireless link capacity ranges from full-duplex, 200+ Mbps FCC-licensed to license-exempt sensor access links with orders-of-magnitude less capacity, as driven by actual needs.

Both the County of San Diego and San Diego Gas & Electric provided further resources to acquire additional cameras and weather stations for environmental observations for the HPWREN sensor network, increasing its utility for public safety uses. The cameras were installed in strategic locations on remote mountain tops, overlooking vast areas of mountainous brush and chaparral, and are often used by firefighters to confirm the location or status of an active wild fire, as well as by news organizations and the general public. The weather stations can provide real-time, up-to-the-second wind data via user interfaces and support monitoring of highly localized weather conditions in fire-prone regions as well as research into the formation and prediction of wild fires.

With funding from San Diego Gas & Electric and fire fighting agencies a very significant public safety component was added to HPWREN, specifically to connect firefighting related facilities.

Tier-1 funding partners of HPWREN:

Tier-2 members: