Information Flow in a Smart Grid System

Data Concentrators and the Smart Grid

EDN Network, August 17, 2015. Image credit: Charles Frith

Load control, profiling and energy savings are targets of the smart meter which can provide for real-time consumer applications and energy management system services. A very big part of the puzzle that is missing in Smart Metering Systems is the communication system between the data concentrator and the electrical meter. The limiting factors are that a large amount of information data needs to be transferred and communications protocols are very time-consuming.

Today traditional systems unfortunately use proprietary communications systems over interfaces that have limited performance and reliability like GPRS narrow-band power line communication (N-PLC). This only enables only a basic smart meter functionality and metering collection of data just one time per day. So the two-way communications that AMI provides for utilities to automate billing, remote connect/disconnect of individual meters, and implement demand response programs is limited.

On the grid side of things, AMI networks also provide real-time monitoring of grid operations and immediate notification of outages to quicken the utilities’ capability to respond and restore power quickly to consumers.

So the data concentrator nodes need to securely aggregate data from a large network of meters and send that to utility servers. Power Line Communications (PLC) has come a long way.

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