The market and technologies are constantly developing, and at the same time the role of communications in smart metering is changing. Communications is no longer only about transferring data between meters and systems. Current requirements call for more advanced connectivity, and the smart grid has started to evolve into a full-fledged communications network. Rather than serving a simple meter and data collection system, a communications network has to meet the requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT) including a large number of interconnected systems and units that need to communicate with one another. This raises the bar for standardization, bandwidths and flexibility, not to mention IT security and privacy.
Connectivity starts with device interoperability
E360 smart meters are built on IDIS (Interoperable Device Interface Specification) based on the DLMS/COSEM standard. IDIS defines smart metering use cases, where interoperability between IDIS meters from different manufacturers is guaranteed. Following that, IDIS ensures that a utility’s AMI investment is future-proof and open to technological progress. The IDIS approach enables the use of devices from various technology vendors and minimizes costs in the integration phase as it speeds up the integration process. E360 also includes the latest security features, fulfilling the security requirements of an IoT world.
Intelligent communications concept
The communications concept of E360 combines the cost efficiency of integrated communication technology and flexibility of the modular technology. E360 will support RF, PLC and LTE technologies, RF and LTE support being introduced first. Meters can be equipped with integrated RF or PLC communication from the factory, leaving the module slot free for Gateway or P2P modules to be populated according to optimal installation plan.
E360 utilizes the gateway concept, which means that any meter can operate as a gateway just by adding a gateway module. The gateway meter aggregates data from other devices and delivers it further to the system. In practice this means that there is no need for RF collectors or PLC Data Concentrators anymore. The concept allows a new level of flexibility in the communications network, as the meter’s role can be changed just by adding or changing a module on site, without even switching off the power or using electrician.
P2P modules can also be populated in field and RF or PLC meter can be changed to P2P communication just by introducing or changing a module.
E360 meets all the topographies of the utilities’ environment: several technologies can operate in the same network and in the same system giving a harmonized user and asset management experience. This increases not only the performance of communication, but also projecting and operations efficiency and hence reduces lifetime costs.
The rapid development of communications technologies and the Smart Grid and IoT set a challenge for utilities: how to find a solution which flexibly adapts to the changes and remains efficiency?
Again, the answer is in the design of the E360 meter. Modularity enables changing the communication media on site just by adding or replacing the communication module: a meter that first communicates via RF can later be changed to a LTE meter if it serves the purpose. Modularity is reflected also in the meter firmware and the E360 design enables not only new communication technologies we might not have in sight yet, but efficient deployment of new functionalities. Utilities no longer need to choose and lock just to a one communication media and fixed functionality set, but they can adapt the solution to meet the future needs.
Also the standardized interfaces ease the integration of new applications in the future; for example the Consumer Information Interface enables introduction of Smart Home applications. Furthermore, the E360 is secured to provide headroom for future upgrades with its intelligent firmware. For utilities considering the smart metering investment the E360 is the solution as it keeps the door open for future technologies securing utility’s investment.