Smart Meters

“The Smart Meters are digital devices (DiDe) able to read and manage remotely parameter variations. Furthermore, they can communicates it back to a server for monitoring and billing, at least daily. Smart Meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting.
Such an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) differs from traditional automatic meter reading (AMR) in that it enables two-way communications with the meter”

Introduction

At laroccasolutions, as a TELCO company, we are daily working with 4G & 5G RAN. These new RAN technologies are now under a spotlight due to their high importance about IoT & OuT

Nowadays, many companies are working with IoT, especially into “Smart Applications“. On of all, the Smart Metering! In fact, there are some significant developments taking place bout it with huge implications. 

What is IoT?

The IoT, or Internet of Things, is the internet connectivity of all types of devices (“things”). It is the internetworking of physical devices also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”, vehicles, buildings, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

IoT is an industry in itself. There are now quickly increasing strong signs that this is forming the next major wave of development, innovation, and investment. It is widely expected to get larger than the explosion of internet related activities due to smartphones and mobile apps.

A specific use case of IoT, where we are already active, is the SMART METERING, where smart meters are sensors, gauges, status indicators and many more.

About SMART METERING, there are three key technologies to look at:

  • LoRaWAN
  • SigFox, and
  • NB-IoT

All previous technology have major advantages over current 3G technologies, such as:

  • lower capital and operating cost
  • longer battery life
  • better signal strength

A Technology Introduction

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The NB-IoT has recently become the most important one thanks to the 3GPP:

“The 22nd June 2016,  3GPP completed the standardization of NB-IOT, the new narrowband radio technology developed for the Internet-of-Things (IoT).
While corrections are still possible in the coming months, the feature is now frozen in the specification, and only essential backward-compatible changes will be allowed from now onwards.”
Standardization of NB-IOT completed

NB-IoT is a new wireless protocol globally standardised by the same industry group (3GPP) who standardised 3G and 4G. It is a standards-based Low Power Wide Area technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. NB-IoT significantly improves the power consumption of user devices, system capacity and spectrum efficiency, especially in deep coverage. Battery life of more than 10 years can be supported for a wide range use cases.It will be operated by MNO using their existing mobile telecommunications infrastructure. It is currently being trialled around the world. 

Key benefits:

  • Similar network availability to 3G and 4G
  • Network to be established by existing Telcos (Vodafone, Telstra, Optus)
  • Network maintained by telcos
  • No network establishment costs, only ongoing usage
  • Larger data packet sizes can be transferred than through other IoT networks
  • All the functionality of 3G, i.e. permits complex and advanced smart metering applications
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LoRaWAN™ is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery operated Things in a regional, national or global network. LoRaWAN targets key requirements of Internet of Things such as secure bi-directional communication, mobility and localization services. The LoRaWAN specification provides seamless interoperability among smart Things without the need of complex local installations and gives back the freedom to the user, developer, businesses enabling the roll out of Internet of Things.

LoRaWAN network architecture is typically laid out in a star-of-stars topology in which gateways is a transparent bridge relaying messages between end-devices and a central network server in the backend. Gateways are connected to the network server via standard IP connections while end-devices use single-hop wireless communication to one or many gateways. All end-point communication is generally bi-directional, but also supports operation such as multicast enabling software upgrade over the air or other mass distribution messages to reduce the on air communication time.

The name LoRaWAN comes from Long Range Wide Area Network. It is standardised and developed by a global group of over 350 technology companies including IBM and Cisco, called the LoRa Alliance.

Key benefits:

  • Open standard for wireless communications
  • 2km+ range from gateway
  • Large, growing number of hardware suppliers
  • Networks can be set-up as public or private
  • Potential for zero data delivery costs
  • Data packet size suitable for interval metering (15min intervals, daily uploads)

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SIGFOX employs “a cellular style system that enables remote devices to connect using ultra-narrow band (UNB) technology”. The SIGFOX network and technology is aimed at the low cost machine to machine application areas where wide area coverage is required.

It specialises in servicing devices and machines that transmit small amounts of data such as a meter reading. It uses a relatively small number of ‘towers’ to send and receive data compared to mobile phone network operators. These ‘towers’ are small antennas that have huge ranges of coverage.

Key benefits:

  • Widely established network with huge coverage
  • ·No network establishment costs, only ongoing usage
  • Australian Sigfox network maintained by Thinxtra
  • Large, growing number of hardware suppliers
  • Super low power consumption
  • Very cost effective way to deliver data

SigFox in Europe has a good coverage: https://www.sigfox.com/en/coverage 

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These technologies are changing the smart metering environment and disrupting the current norms, and now the sensors are becoming important as never before. In fact, the expectations are that in the near future millions of Smart Sensors will be installed.

“A SMART SENSOR is a device that takes input from the physical environment and uses built-in compute resources to perform predefined functions upon detection of specific input and then process data before passing it on.”

Smart sensors enable more accurate and automated collection of environmental data with less erroneous noise amongst the accurately recorded information. These devices are used for monitoring and control mechanisms in a wide variety of environments including smart grids, battlefield reconnaissance, exploration and a great number of science applications.

The smart sensor is also a crucial and integral element in the IoT

If you has raised an interest in IoT and smart metering, Contact Us!

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