Monday, March 15, 2010

Bill Muston: Standards (SEP2) to break away from proprietary deployments

This posted to by Bill Munston, Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC
What standard data communications interfaces(s) should be supported by appliances and the smart meter or data gateway so that appliance manufacturers can cost-effectively produce smart appliances that can communicate with the Smart Grid anywhere in the nation?
For communication to meters, the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile 1.0 is available and should be supported today. When the Smart Energy Profile 2.0 becomes final and available, it should be supported. SEP 2.0 will likely replace SEP 1.0 in many smart meters, due to the more robust set of functionalities it supports. This will be the customer’s choice. It is Oncor’s intention to support both ZigBee SEP 1.0 and ZigBee 2.x simultaneously over the network; however, only one protocol will be supported at any particular meter. The customers who are early adopters with ZigBee SEP 1.0 equipment will need to decide if they want to: 1) continue to use SEP 1.0, 2) upgrade/modify devices in the home to SEP 2.x, or 3) provide a gateway/protocol converter between systems. SEP 2.0 is designed to be transmitted over any transport medium that supports IPv6 addressing. Meters being deployed by Oncor utilize the ZigBee wireless transport. For appliances sold prior to the availability of SEP 2.0, a USB port should be provided that will allow the appliance to be upgraded from 1.0 to 2.0, since 2.0 will not be backwards compatible with 1.0.
This question presumes a particular HAN architecture that requires the appliance to communicate directly with the meter. Home energy management systems may also have a network hub within the home that is not the meter, and those may utilize other protocols such as WiFi . In those instances, the smart appliance may be set to communicate with the home energy management hub, and the home energy management hub communicates with meters.
Communication limitations of wireless systems for home use may make powerline transport a more attractive option. For instance, a HomePlug implementation of SEP 2.0 could be an attractive option for home energy management systems configured to support it.
Since SEP 2.0 will be agnostic to the transport layer, the choice of transport medium should be left open to the market to ensure flexibility and innovation.
How can communication between smart appliances and the Smart Grid be made ‘‘plug and play’’ for consumers who do not have the skills or means to configure data networks?
“Plug and play” is often associated with USB capability, where hardware interfaces and functionalities are pre-defined and standardized, and new devices can be plugged into an operating computer. The “communication” between the new device and the computer is for basic functionality associated with the device, but does not address application level issues.
Just like a home area network operating on WiFi in a secure mode requires either the homeowner or a computer professional to make settings for new devices to work on that secured network, smart appliances or any other home energy management system will require provisioning through a process that meets security requirements associated with smart meters and systems. Oncor will provide to consumers a self-serve provisioning or registration capability through the Smart Meter Texas web portal. If consumers do not have internet access or the skills required for this self-serve provisioning, then this may be a service that can be provided by the appliance retailer, just like delivery and installation is provided for other appliances and home entertainment systems as an additional service at point of sale. Likewise, a utility or, in Texas, a retail electric provider, may provide that service as part of a rate package that will provide for price or time of use signals to the appliances.
If gateways or adapters are needed, who should pay for them: The utility or the consumer?
Since this is a retail matter, state public utility commissions may choose to have utilities provide a gateway or adapter for a separate charge, just as other additional services are provided for a separate charge today, or they might determine that the cost of such gateways should be spread across all customers. In the competitive Texas market, it is likely that the retail electric providers will work in conjunction with smart appliance makers and other home energy management system manufacturers to construct packaged services that will include the cost of gateways or adapters.
Bill Muston
Manager, Research & Development
Oncor Electric Delivery Company LLC

No comments: