The implementation of smart meters and smart grid services is becoming increasingly important to the delivery of global carbon and demand reduction targets. Real time access to data to drive behavioural change, responsiveness to price signals and linkage to smart appliances can only be achieved through effective smart device connectivity within the home. Such devices include gas and electric smart meters, in home displays, home energy controllers and communication hubs.
In the UK, Siemens has established that the large apartment building, also known as multi-dwelling units (MDUs), cause a particular problem to smart device connectivity. This is because of the distance between devices, building fabric issues (such as reinforced concrete floors) and ‘difficult’ meter locations, all of which provide radio connectivity challenges.
Working with key development partners, Siemens has solved this challenge with a unique ‘shared infrastructure’ solution, utilising a Broadband-over-Power Line (BPL) backbone provided by Power Plus Communications (PPC) to integrate with wireless radio technology and enable standard smart meters to be installed, commissioned and connected to a WAN gateway. This solution is scheduled for field trials in the United Kingdom in early 2014. Siemens believes that smart metering deployments in a number of European countries, and others worldwide, may also benefit from such a shared infrastructure approach.
Without such a solution, energy suppliers will be forced to install additional infrastructure representing poor value for money and generating unnecessary tenant and landlord disruption.
Multi-dwelling unit solution
The MDU solution will provide a fully managed communication infrastructure for any high/medium/low rise or ‘difficult’ building, to be used by smart energy devices. The key service requirements may be summarised as:
* Provide an easy to use communication infrastructure to be accessed by existing smart energy devices.
* Integrate into energy retailer systems and processes.
* Fully secure with appropriate access.
* Commercially and technically interoperable.
Extending the range for all smart energy devices in the building
The MDU high-rise solution provides a communication infrastructure to be used by smart energy devices and by energy suppliers through an external WAN interface. The solution provides an extension of normal WAN range via power line repeaters, allowing all the smart energy devices in the building to operate as if they are within its own RF range. The RF range is extended over existing power lines within the building. The interface to these power lines is through PPC’s BPL router/gateway and the interface to the smart energy devices is via the ZigBee Bridge.
The solution is presently designed to meet the UK’s Smart Metering Equipment standards – ensuring that standard equipment will be fully operable in MDUs as with any other type of property. In addition the modular design lends itself to adaption for other markets.
In the MDU high rise solution, there is a need to manage and configure individual hardware devices present in the network. The solution will provide a single network management system which will have a remote graphical interface to configure and manage the details and operation of each hardware device within the network. The network management system will provide access to both the shared infrastructure and the smart end devices and will allow multiple users each having different roles, privileges and access to the system.
The ability of the communications infrastructure to process IP based messaging and the communications end point capable of receiving and rebroadcasting these messages allows any wireless communication to be supported by the shared infrastructure. Currently, the communications backbone and endpoint devices support ZigBee and ZigBee Smart Energy 1.x. Substitution of the ZigBee based solution with a wireless M-Bus is a straightforward exercise. Although similar, the services offered by M-Bus will differ from those available using ZigBee.
Where building fabric will not allow the penetration of a radio signal, the bridging capabilities of the MDU solution allows any IP capable physical medium to be used to transport messages from a receiver to an appropriate rebroadcast point. A typical solution will use Broadband over Power Line (BPL) for the shared backbone but could equally use fibre or other communication cables.
The shared infrastructure can also be extended to support the building control centre to allow backhaul of data collection to a remote data centre.
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