How to address the communications challenges of Smart Meters

January 27, 2016 // By Emmanuel Gresset
The communication and connectivity requirements of smart meters and other 'smart energy' equipment and devices present significant challenges for designers and developers.

Let’s identify the communications challenges of Smart Meters and understand how current generations address them today. We will then consider how they should be addressed in order to offer practical and cost-effective and future proof smart grid solutions.

The diagram below shows examples of smart grid network architectures and will help understand why flexibility and multi-mode are key attributes of any new generation Smart Meter deployment.

Figure: Flexibility and multi-mode: key attributes of new generation smart meter deployment.

Solutions are diverse and based on numerous technologies depending on geographies, local standards and quality of network infrastructure.

The HAN (Home Area Network) or BAN (Building Area Network) uses short range wireless standards such as ZigBee, Thread, WiFi and Bluetooth to connect home appliances to smart meters. It may also use PLC (Power Line Carrier) wireline technology.

The NAN (Neighborhood Area Network) uses either a star network topology such as cellular M2M (GPRS, 3G, LTE MTC, NB-IoT, LPWAN) to connect each meter directly to the base-station and the cloud or a mesh network topology such as PLC or 802.15.4g to aggregate all smart meter nodes to a DAP (Data Aggregation Point) that will be connected directly to the base-station with cellular M2M (GPRS, 3G, LTE MTC) or directly to the cloud via Ethernet.

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