Communication technology is a key consideration when choosing a smart metering solution. What are the pros and cons of RF-mesh, PLC or Point-to-Point technologies in our case? Should we go for integrated or modular technology in the meter? Until now, the utility customers had to choose and commit to one of the alternatives. With the introduction of the E360, Landis+Gyr is changing the game.
Communications in smart metering has always been a topic of discussion – and for a reason. Not only does the communications concept impact total solution performance, but it also plays a significant role in the Total Cost of Ownership of the AMI solution. Today, the speed of communication technology development is faster than ever, opening new attractive use cases. How can we make sure to keep the door open for future applications? The new smart residential electricity meter, the E360, is Landis+Gyr’s answer to these challenges.
Modular or integrated – or why not both?
Typically, smart meters are built with an integrated communication unit or the utility can choose a modular meter with an interchangeable communication unit. The design of the E360 meter family combines the best of both worlds: the cost efficiency of an integrated meter as well as the flexibility of modular design.
The E360 meter portfolio will include either LTE, RF or PLC communications as an integrated feature, depending on the needs and preferences of the customer. The various technologies can operate in parallel under the same AMI solution. Additionally, the RF and PLC meter design enables easy installation of an additional communication module. The module could be an RF or PLC gateway — or a module with a completely new communication protocol we’re not even aware of yet.
Gateway solution: improved flexibility, decreased costs
The RF-Mesh and G3-PLC communicating E360 devices will utilize a modern gateway concept. Instead of installing dedicated collectors in RF networks or data concentrators in PLC networks, any of the E360 RF or PLC meters can be equipped with a gateway, after which it will gather data from other meters and serve as the uplink towards the AMI system. This approach provides several benefits, both in the rollout phase as well as in the daily AMI operations.
During the rollout, gateway modules can be flexibly added to the network as installations progress. The meter’s role in the communications network can be easily changed, as the module is simple to add on site, without even switching off the power or calling in an electrician. The E360 is thus perfect also for cases where the rollout is scheduled over a longer period of time. Further savings follow the fact that there’s no longer a need for DC installations.
In the daily AMI operations, the gateway concept proves its efficiency, as any meter can be changed to a gateway if needed. The E360 meets the topographies of the utilities’ environment: several technologies can operate in the same network and in the same system. This allows optimizing the communication solution, increases performance of communication and reduces costs. Furthermore, the uplink towards the system is always the same, independent of the communication technology used, which makes it easier to operate the smart infrastructure.
Today, utilities make AMI investments for the next 10–15 years. In light of the speed of communication technology development, this sounds like a very long time. In the meter design, Landis+Gyr has carefully considered the E360’s capabilities to adapt in the evolving environment.
The point-to-point meter of E360 will support the newly introduced LTE technologies NB-IoT and CAT M1. Leading mobile operators, global vendors and developers are launching these G3PP standards as an integral part of their 5G strategies, securing their existence far into the future.
The modular structure of E360 PLC and RF meters allows flexible adaptation to future technology developments that cannot be even conceived of yet. By introducing new modules, the devices can be kept up to date with the latest technologies – this concept has been proven already in a vast number of Landis+Gyr’s previous meter generation installations.
The E360 is built on a modern, intelligent firmware platform that enables the addition of new functionalities and technologies during its operation. Upgrades can be made remotely, quickly and reliably without affecting normal meter operations. There is also headroom for future applications in the firmware; they can be easily introduced through standardized interfaces.
A unique purchasing model for the Nordics
For the Nordic market, Landis+Gyr will introduce a new integrated E360 LTE meter, supporting CAT M1 and NB-IoT protocols. The technology is designed to cope with IoT development by allowing the connection of a massive number of different devices into a single network. It is capable of transferring data cost-efficiently and very reliably compared to previously available mobile technologies. The better signal penetration into buildings enables it to reach smart energy meters even in basements two levels below ground.
Following the Nordic-wide partnership with Telia, Landis+Gyr will utilize Telia’s mobile network for smart metering data transfer in the Nordics and Baltics, including NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies. For the utility customers in the region, this also provides access to a unique purchasing model, where the E360 LTE device can be bought with fixed communication costs for the lifetime of the meter.
‘‘We all know the impact of communications on the overall performance and the Total Cost of Ownership in an AMI solution,” says Sami Kurunsaari, CEO of Landis+Gyr in the Nordics. ‘’That’s why our customers have shown great interest both towards the new technology as well as the new pricing approach.”
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