Indian Government is focusing on “Smart City” project for next generation digital revolution. Smart city appeals for smart appliances, smart home, smart building, and smart utilities meter. Smart home leverages next generation technology of home automation and energy management. The base of this technology revolution is Internet of Things (IoT).
Present utility business model is under pressure from multiple fronts – technology, customer expectations, service reliability, competitors, investment and prices. With the advent of smart city and Industry 4.0 , utility service providers will have to upgrade existing infrastructure compatible with new technology. The use of IoT technology in utility meter can effectively support grid management and control, maintenance and smooth engagement between consumer and service provider. With smart technology, the utilities business modules are not only limited to just providing water, gas, electricity supply but also to customize the solution as per consumer requirement by use of big data analysis and cloud technology. Lets focus on Utility Meters, a basic but the most critical measurement for utility services.
Is it just Industrial revolution that is driving the smart metering system? Absolutely not, there is business case which drives the technology advancement in existing metering system. Existing utility metering system has some caveats:
It require human intervention for e.g. noting the meter reading which can lead to human error and wrong bill.
Consumer can get the usage bill only once in month
There is possibility of pilfering / tampering of meter
Lack of control or monitoring utility usage remotely
Smart meters are remarkably different from electronic meters. While electronic meters only measure the amount of utility used (electricity, natural gas, water), a smart meter is used to measure the utility and then transmit the reading without any human intervention. Data collected on cloud / server can support to generate historical trend can be maintained. Smart meters will help to understand consumption patterns of users and help them save money by keeping close track of usage. It is extremely important to educate the consumers about the gains they can have in optimizing utility consumption.
The rollout of smart metering will involve the introduction of range of new equipment into customer’s premises:
Devices enabling existing Gas, Water and electricity meters as smart meter e.g. customized Wi-Fi module to be connected with existing meter
An IHD (In-Home Display) for domestic customers
A wide area network (WAN) module to connect to the central communications provider
A HAN to link different meters within customer premises, the WAN module and the IHD and potentially other consumer devices, such as micro generation and load-control devices.
Schematic shows typical smart metering system architecture. Existing electronic meter can be upgraded to Smart meter by just addition of customized Wi-Fi module. This module is integrated with data concentrated unit / Gateway and all the data collected from this unit is uploaded to cloud application in order to enable remote monitoring. Typical smart metering system uses Bluetooth LE or ZigBee Wi-Fi to communicate with smart home appliances. Smart meter uses wireless mesh topology/LPWAN and works on 2.4 GHZ or sub-1 GHZ solution( 865-868 MHZ) to communicate with Data Concentrator Unit. For Remote location single meter, GPRS system can be used to send the data directly to cloud application. Data Concentrator unit/Gateway is connected to cloud with the use of either GPRS/Ethernet/Wi-Fi depending on requirement. Cloud based IOT application platform enables remote monitoring and control of smart metering system. While ZigBee and z wave have been around for a while, considering high power Wi-Fi standard may be inappropriate in near future, a newer IPV6 protocols enables huge range of IP addresses, so that each smart meter will get directly connected to internet.
With the development of IPV6, there is a growing trend toward the use of TCP/IP technology as a common communication platform for Smart Meter applications, enabling utilities to deploy multiple communication systems, while using IP technology as a common management platform. The technology is progressing towards leveraging the existing communication infrastructure, that is, broadband connection in buildings and homes, and hence reduces the total cost of ownership as additional network elements such as data concentrator units, gateways etc. are not required. Wi-Fi connectivity is maintained by Broadband Service Providers (BSP) who have the expertise and resources to maintain such networks with very high reliability. IP networks are scalable and reliable and can be monitored and controlled in real time.
In short, present smart metering system technology proposes additional infrastructure for e.g database concentrator units/Gateway and dedicated backbone/connectivity with utility system, requiring high infrastructure cost. Wi-Fi Signals are not just limited to smart meters but also circulated over the city to connect to gateway/DCU resulting in harmful radio waves. With development of IPV6 technology, future smart meter technology can be implemented with minimum infrastructure cost leveraging existing broadband network.