Expertise

4 min reading

5 May 2022

5 May 2022

What’s Wrong with Traditional Metering Systems? Trend for Connectivity

What’s Wrong with Traditional Metering Systems? Trend for Connectivity
What’s Wrong with Traditional Metering Systems? Trend for Connectivity
Summary

What’s wrong with traditional meters and how smart meters are better for the utility industry? Why is connectivity important for utility companies? All these questions about smart metering and advanced metering infrastructure are understandable since for many people it is still a mystery how smart metering in IoT works and what benefits it can bring. In this article, we’ll explain the emerging trend of wireless communication technologies and how they affect the utilities industry. This is an important topic for utility companies, but it’s also relevant for common users. The more connected your energy management becomes, the more valuable it will become.

There are numerous problems with traditional metering systems. Most meters are not connected to a network, so they cannot exchange data with other energy utilities, data processing is slow, demand response capabilities are low, and there is no possibility to remotely control gas, water, and power consumption. Traditional metering control systems must communicate with a central server using a cellular network to establish distribution grids. Internet of Things (IoT) based smart meters can send energy consumption data reliably and securely through smart grid networks. The IoT-based smart metering system is able to do this in a variety of environments and different communication networks, including two-way communication network, power distribution network, and cellular networks.

Current Situation with Metering Control system

Most meters connected to the grid via cellular networks will need a modem to communicate with the cloud control system. While traditional modems are widely used to monitor energy resources consumption and power generation, smart metering modems, being compact, reliable, and affordable can provide the utility company with meter readings through wireless communications. For instance, if you want to upgrade your current meter from a 2G/3G to a 4G LTE network, you’ll need a new modem but a smart meter can enable two-way communication with any smart grid technology based on smart grid interoperability standards.

The Need to Switch from Wi-Fi to LoRaWAN Network

There are several barriers to the establishment of a communication system through Wi-Fi connectivity. Wi-Fi technology requires a specialized power line communication gateway to connect to the customer’s network. The other risks in using Wi-Fi as a communication technology for the distribution of meter readings are security concerns. Because Wi-Fi networks use TCP/IP, other devices on the network can access it, which creates a threat to the data integrity. As well, Wi-Fi power grids consume significant amounts of electric power when collect data, which makes them costly in comparison to other wireless technologies.

As the smart grid concept becomes more prevalent, electrical systems are seeing increased demand for automatic meter reading (AMR) and other advanced applications of communication technologies. This has led to a need for better connectivity options for both wired and wireless technologies, including the switch from Wi-Fi to LoRaWAN networks. LoRaWAN is among those new technologies that offer several advantages over Wi-Fi, including a longer range, better raw data analytics, and lower power consumption. These benefits make it ideal for smart grid applications that require large amounts of data to be transmitted over long distances.

In addition, LoRaWAN provides better security than Wi-Fi, which is important for protecting sensitive data associated with smart grid infrastructure. Overall, the switch from Wi-Fi to LoRaWAN represents a major upgrade in terms of both performance and security for smart grid projects related to energy management systems, power quality monitoring, and fair distribution of energy resources.

Advantages of Using Smart Meters

There are many advantages smart meters can bring to smart cities and to the utility industry in general. First of all, it’s a good way to get a better understanding of distributed energy resources usage. Secondly, smart meters based on smart grids can be installed in an already existing house. Another advantage is that a smart energy management system can be used in different environments.

Cost-Effectiveness

Among the most important benefits of smart metering devices are the fact that they are able to give you detailed information about your energy consumption and the costs associated with it. With this information, you can optimize your energy use and lower your bills. Moreover, smart devices can even let you access your previous day’s electricity usage online. These features make smart metering systems a very popular choice among homeowners and businesses.

However, before committing to the installation of smart grids and meters, you should first understand the costs involved. Some utilities may charge a one-time “setup fee” and others may charge a monthly fee to read your energy consumption. These fees vary by state and by the provider. For instance, utilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island charge $20 for the one-time setup fee, while in Texas, the fees range from $9 to $32.

Although some utilities are concerned about these costs, the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks. For example, smart metering technology will lower bills, help consumers manage costs, and manage renewable energy sources. The benefits of a smart meter system are not limited to lowering electricity bills; they may also benefit utilities with aggressive renewable generation mandates and a dominant generation portfolio.

The benefits of a smart metering facility are well worth the price. Smart meters give you insight into your electricity usage, water and gas consumption, and pricing, so you can make informed decisions about your energy use. Moreover, the technology allows you to receive automatic notifications if there is an outage. For example, smart water metering using IoT also has many other benefits, and it is an investment for your home or business since it will allow you to detect possible breakdowns in advance, so you will not have to spend additional money on repairs. The costs associated with smart grid meters are minimal compared to those of non-connected utility monitoring devices.

Security of Data Sent through a Smart Grid

In order to make smart meters secure, they need to have a strong encryption scheme. Smart meters are connected to the Internet, enabling continuous data exchange between the utility provider and consumer. But because these meters are connected to the Internet, they also expose their infrastructure to third parties. That is why it is really crucial to ensure the security of data sent from a smart meter through a smart grid to the end-user.

Moreover, smart meters do not have an account number associated with them, so the meter cannot be assigned to a single account. But utility companies can establish a trusted connection between these devices using pre-shared keys. These keys are issued by certificate authorities. Smart metering systems are supposed to be secured by certificate authorities, make sure to check this as well. Generally, data sent from smart meters is encrypted, and it is protected from collection until it’s purged, so if you buy these devices from a reliable provider, you can be sure about the protection level of your smart grid.

Predictive Maintenance

In addition to its benefits, smart metering devices can help deliver usage alerts. The information they provide can also alert the utility about power outages in less time. This, in turn, can lead to faster restoration of service. Rather than focusing on maintenance tasks that are scheduled in advance, predictive maintenance is based on the condition of assets. Typical maintenance practices rely on reactive strategies that often result in unnecessary downtime and costs. Predictive maintenance can help companies avoid costly repairs by identifying problems before they occur.

Infrared analysis is a good tool to use in predictive maintenance. The data collected by the sensors can identify problems related to airflow, cooling, and motor stress. The coal preparation plant uses predictive maintenance technology in a similar manner. A centrifugal pump motor performs heavy rotations, and a vibration meter helps the maintenance team to detect these problems before they become severe enough to cause damage.

The manufacturing industry has also adopted predictive maintenance and incorporated sensors in its manufacturing processes. By analyzing this data, the industry can identify warning signs of expensive failures. This technology has also been used in the automotive industry. The sensors in vehicles can help manufacturers and dealerships avoid costly repairs by detecting problems and alerting the customer before they happen. Smart metering devices are also useful in utility companies, which implement them to detect problems on the grid before an outage occurs.

Predictive maintenance has become a key component in modern utilities. Smart metering devices can give utilities an unprecedented insight into their assets. In addition, utilities can also use advanced predictive technology to schedule maintenance activities based on the condition of in-service assets. The use of predictive analytics software can be very beneficial to utilities. It is also an excellent resource for utilities to improve their situational awareness of the entire smart grid, and it is much easier to identify the relationships between assets.

Predictive maintenance is based on time or usage triggers, which is the most effective way to predict failure. In other words, if a sensor is triggered by a certain usage condition, it will automatically send an alert. In addition to extending equipment life, predictive maintenance can also reduce maintenance costs and improve efficiency. Smart metering devices can be used for a variety of purposes, including building automation, energy management, and much more.

What are the Possible Challenges of Smart Grids Integration to the National Energy Board?

Despite the benefits of smart meters, many homeowners are concerned about the privacy and security of the power grid. There are also challenges to implementing smart metering in residential settings, which are not connected to smart grids. Most consumers are worried about data being collected and analyzed. In this case, to ensure smart grid security, smart metering devices need to be connected to the reliable electric grid to work properly. In the U.S., smart meters may be linked to cellular LTE technology. Nevertheless, cellular networks can be incompatible with the smart grid such as LoRaWAN. For instance, in the United States, $7.9 billion was invested in smart metering infrastructure (Otuoze, Mustafa & Larik, 2018). This technology allows the utility to monitor the whole smart grid and improve the efficiency of energy storage, energy consumption, and renewable energy resources management. So, if you choose a smart meter from a reliable provider with certified smart grid design, you will not face the abovementioned challenges at all.

Understanding Difficulty

Although smart meters are helpful in keeping track of energy consumption, they can be problematic for older people and those with limited knowledge of smart grid technology. These meters can trigger panic and anxiety when people see their energy bills increasing day by day, especially if they are not sure how to manage their usage. As a result, older people living on a fixed income may find themselves denying basic necessities.

The major disadvantage of using smart metering solutions is the complexity of reading them. While an average consumer is able to understand pennies, pounds, and kilowatt-hours, they may struggle to understand the terms from the meters. Older people or those who don’t have the necessary education or experience can find the information confusing. There are also some smart meters with color displays that indicate different energy usage zones, but most require a basic understanding of how energy is measured. The answer here can be assigned some assisted living facilities to use smart meters to monitor the energy use of their residents and let them know about the usage in an understandable way. Or another option is to choose meters with a simple interface and deployment, so even senior citizens can use them.

Security Issues

Smart meters can be vulnerable to hackers. If hackers decrypt the data, they can gain access to your energy usage data and your personal information. Smart electricity meters allow utilities to track energy consumption and allocate resources, but they also provide back doors to malicious hackers. To improve the security of these devices, cybersecurity researcher Karthik Pattabiraman, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UBC, has developed an automated security program (Tabrizi & Pattabiraman, 2019). It involves authentication-based access and encryption of data at rest. These security protocols should be integrated with smart grids to guarantee the safety of your information. So, when choosing a smart metering device, make sure it has decent protection.

TEKTELIC Solutions for Smart Monitoring

TEKTELIC is a leading global provider of IoT solutions, with a focus on carrier-grade reliability, mass scalability, and seamless deployment. TEKTELIC has deployed LoRaWAN technology in a wide range of customer projects worldwide. LoRaWAN is an enabling technology for collecting data over long distances while utilizing low power.

For example, TEKTELIC COMFORT delivers powerful connected home and office monitoring features. It can be used in smart metering as a device for leak detection, temperature changes, humidity, and light monitoring which can be a sign of necessary changes in the water system, heating, and energy usage. It can also be used directly for pulse reading, that is water, gas, and other metering. COMFORT can work without a battery change for up to 10 years, which makes it a worthy investment. It can be connected to any of your smart devices, sending triggers and notifications via the smart grid.

COMFORT

TEKTELIC provides hardware infrastructure for the LoRaWAN network. We have quite a lot of successful projects of smart metering. TEKTELIC has deployed a series of TEKTELIC KONA Macro IoT Gateways in Varazdin, Croatia to collect data from water meters. TEKTELIC’s gateways feature rugged design and always-on connectivity, resulting in a lower Total Cost of Ownership. KONA Macro IoT Gateway is very compact in size and has a variety of mounting options. It has low energy usage, and as a result, can reduce operational costs. One more important moment is that it can reduce set-up costs with plug-and-play installation, making it not only user-friendly but actually money-saving as well.KONA Macro IoT Gateway

Summary

The adoption of smart meters will unlock new operational efficiencies and services in the utility industry. According to recent research, nearly half of all connected meters will be in the water utility market by 2023. These technologies will help public authorities optimize processes and boost efficiency. LoRaWAN provides a compelling value proposition for water utilities, with flexible deployment options for public and private networks and interoperability on both network and device levels.

TEKTELIC Communications, in turn, is ready to help you establish a smart metering technology for your city or building. If you want to save money on energy, gas, and water bills, and make your facilities smart and efficient, it is high time to contact our support team and start a plentiful partnership.

  1. Otuoze, A., Mustafa, M., & Larik, R. (2018). Smart grids security challenges: Classification by sources of threats. Journal Of Electrical Systems And Information Technology5(3), 468-483. doi: 10.1016/j.jesit.2018.01.001
  2. Tabrizi, F., & Pattabiraman, K. (2019). Design-Level and Code-Level Security Analysis of IoT Devices. ACM Transactions On Embedded Computing Systems18(3), 1-25. doi: 10.1145/3310353
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