What is a Smart Energy Meter – Redefined in 2020!

By: Nihar Kulkarni | Mouser Electronics

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Smart Energy Meter

The basic needs of life are food, shelter and clothing. Currently we are living in a world of technology and surrounded by the most relevant gadgets. Every basic need of life has a technical touch to it. Let us just consider one basic need of humans i.e. shelter. Earlier people used to enjoy talking directly to their neighbors, relatives, and family under one roof. Now, new generations of technology often promise the same, not directly, but through a medium which is known as electronics and gadgets. Even now all our work is smartly executed under one roof without much human intervention. One such invention is “Smart Energy Meters” that are smart, simple, and efficient. To enjoy using gadgets under the shelter, efficient usage of electricity is very important and this is measured by energy meters.

Traditional meters are mechanical in nature, they contain constantly moving parts that need to work in perfect sync in order to provide an accurate reading. Even today, we have big meters that need to be physically visited and readings are manually recorded. These meters are difficult to maintain and over time they have a tendency to slow down. Unlike traditional billing meters, smart meters are smaller, easy to maintain and readings are also accurate. Meter readers are no longer required to enter the customer premises to track the readings. 

Generations continue to exist for a time and then evolve to become more capable. A smart energy meter is the next generation of gas, electricity, and water meters that are being installed by energy suppliers in every home. Smart meters come with an in-home display screen that shows you exactly how much energy you are using in pounds and pence, in near real time and will bring an end to estimated bills. Smart meters allow you to take control of the energy use so that energy can be saved. These days smart electric meters communicate directly with the power company thus enhancing their customer service and operations.

Categories of Smart Meter Systems:

Radio Frequency (RF) and Power Line Carrier (PLC) technologies are two basic categories of smart meter system as defined by their LAN. Depending upon the business needs, technical requirements, functionality, and population the utilities select the best technology for the customers.

In RF, smart meter measurements and other data are transmitted by wireless radio from the meter to a collection point. The data is then delivered by various methods to the utility data systems for processing at a central location. The utility billing, outage management, and other systems use the data for operational purposes.

In PLC, smart meter measurements and other data can be transmitted across the utility power lines from the meter to a collection point, usually in the distribution substation feeding the meter. The utility billing, outage management, and other systems use the data for operational purposes.

Due to the absence of data cabling between nodes, PLC and RF are easier and less expensive to install, and provide better communication and security.

Evolution from AMR to AMI:

Automated Meter Reading (AMR) is a technology used in utility meters for collecting the data that is needed for billing purpose. AMR allows utilities to remotely read the consumption records and basic status information from customers’ premises. Due to its one-way communication system, AMR is limited to remote reading and cannot run additional applications. This disadvantage prompted utilities to move towards Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI is an integrated system of smart meters, communication networks, and data management systems that provide utilities with bidirectional communication to the meter and the potential to evaluate the status of the grid. Advanced Smart Metering systems are equipped with an improved architecture. When working together with smart sensors and distributed control technology, the advanced smart metering system allows utilities to perform grid control and management. AMI supports the transition to a smart grid by enabling better data collection and analysis.

Data Security is a critical requirement for an AMI system. Smart meters produce a great deal of customer data and their energy usage, which in turn is a threat for cyber-attacks against the customer and energy utility companies. The transmission and storage of data must be secured since energy usage data can easily indicate important information such as one of the building is likely to be occupied or not. Secure transmission using data encryption can protect and verify the transmission of customer data and help utilities become more efficient by saving energy and money.

Beyond data security, there are few concerns about smart meters that are not true, for example smart meters are more accurate than traditional meters. For meters that use wireless communications, the radio frequency emissions are actually lower than the emission from other common household devices like cell phones, monitors, microwaves, Wi-Fi routers. Electric meters are typically located farther from the people and other devices which produces potential explosion to these emissions.

Addition of Smart Meter to the Smart Grid:

Smart meters are being integrated into the smart grid to record and upload electrical and background data, with specially designed sensors and IoT-enabled devices. Smart meters are one of the biggest developments for the electricity grid. They are deployed in every electricity unit and share their information with local centers.

The most advanced smart meters not only have two-way communication, but are equipped with real-time technology that can gather the data on relevant factors, including frequencies used by different equipment and appliances. Most smart meters use Power Line Communication (PLC) as the data channel, reducing additional network infrastructure and deployment costs.

To protect the bulk electric system securing the smart grid is also equally important. Integrity, availability, and confidentiality are three main goals of information system to protect the smart grid and these apply across all industries.

Smart Meter Statistics:

In 2012, globally there were a total of 63.4 million units operated by large energy suppliers. In 2017 the market moved at a higher pace with 88.2 million units generating 7.07 billion USD.

The smart meter’s market is projected to grow from an estimated 9.27 Billion USD in 2018 to 11.33 Billion USD by 2023. The smart meters manufacturers generate nearly 5 billion USD every year for hardware, software, and services because of increased annual shipments of smart electricity meters.

Figure 1: Global market size of Smart Meters

Globally, around 700 million smart and advanced meters have been installed in home and businesses by both large and small energy suppliers and this is expected to reach 780 million in 2020.Companies globally have already announced investments of more than 62 billion USD for smart meter infrastructure. Between 90 and 130 million intelligent electricity and gas meters are expected to be deployed by 2022. 70% of all homes in the region will be connected via smart meters by 2022 thus  reducing the region’s carbon emission by 9%.

How IoT is Transforming Metering:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one among those technology trends that is shaping the future of utilities and have a long-lasting effect on the way we live and work. Over last few years, IoT devices have emerged as a top choice for utility companies. IoT-enabled technology helps communities decrease energy consumption, use more renewable energy and improve energy reliability and performance.

IoT for electricity and home security technologies are promoting awareness and has a positive impact on our lives.

IoT for Electricity: A smart meter can help avoid energy wastage by tracking and controlling the electricity consumption of the consumers. Smart Meters also provide reports on energy usage, conservation tips and health of the appliances. Smart meters can regularly track consumption data, therefore, promoting energy awareness and energy efficient behavior among users.

IoT for Home Security: Security is one of the important factors when it comes to the usage of smart meters and will make our home smarter and safer. IoT based security provides real time surveillance through which we can remotely monitor all the devices.

IoT enabled smart meters can access real-time data that enables better services like effectively balance electric loads, reduce power outages, efficient energy distribution through accurate forecasting, reducing cost, and boosting profit. Organizations that adapt to IoT innovation provide a better level of service to the consumer and a more stable, cost-effective, and reliable energy source.

Automatic Measurement of Energy Consumption:

IoT is very helpful to automate the remote reading of energy meters by replacing existing meters with smart and connected meters. These smart meters will generally use M-BUS, LPWAN, LoRaWAN or NB-IoT.

Meter Bus (M-Bus):

M-Bus is a European standard for the remote reading of gas or electricity meters, also used for water or heat meters. It allows the reading of any type of consumption at a lower cost, through a data bus composed of two wires. In the below figure the Master does the reading and Slaves are the energy counters.

Figure 2: M-Bus topology with Master and Slaves

The principle is that a Master, typically a battery-operated IoT M-Bus sensor, can interrogate a set of counters (Slave) and return the consumption data over the query period. These electricity consumption data / gas / heat are then reassembled through the IoT network, to an application that will account for and analyze consumption. The advantage of the M-Bus technology is that it is possible to collect consumption data from several energy meters through the same M-Bus communication bus, making the meter measurement less expensive. 

Microcontrollers for Smart Meter:

Figure 3: MSP432P4111 MCU

A smart meter is one of the key components of the smart grid as it measures the power consumption, transfers the data to a host, and supports power reduction control. Smart Meters are establishing a huge global market for microcontrollers. Metering MCUs are building security measures into their wireless capabilities and communication protocols. SimpleLink MSP432P4111 Microcontrollers (MCUs) from Texas Instruments are ideal units in smart grid infrastructure and smart metering host to develop intelligent devices that make the grid more secure and efficient. MSP432P4111 add high-precision analog and memory extension to application based on SimpleLink wireless connectivity solutions. MSP432P4111 features four IP Protected secure zones that control Read/Write/Execute ensuring the integrity of the meter software. The features like low-power operation, accurate sensing and measurements, and integrated LCD display controller in MSP432P4111 microcontroller makes the smart meter suitable for designing the smart grid infrastructure.

Conclusion:

The trend of smart grid has turned out to be very successful in major parts of the world. The smart grid and smart security is driving India an inch closer to be a developed nation. The smart grid and smart meters will be part of wider IoT and other technologies in the future integrating multiple aspects of human needs and services. The country’s economy has improved drastically after implementation of the smart meters and power losses have reduced. Although there is opposition to smart meters due to privacy and health concerns, it is obvious that smart meters are changing the world. In India, electromechanical energy meters are gradually being replaced by more accurate smart electronic meters. One of the commitments under Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) is to make the installation of smart meters compulsory for all consumers using more than 200 kWh of electricity per month. UDAY envisions to roll out of 35 million smart meters by the end of 2019.

Nihar Kulkarni

About the Author:

Nihar Kulkarni is an experienced and results-oriented professional with approximately 6.6 years of work experience in Information Technology, Technical Marketing, Business Enterprise, and Augmented Reality. Nihar is an engineer and currently working as Associate Business Analyst. He is very good at teamwork and always concentrates on solving problems until they are successfully completed. Cycling is something that Nihar enjoys.