A smart meter is an electronic device that intends to compute energy, store and transmit the data to the central server. The main idea behind the metering initiative stems from the logic that the use of analytics on the energy consumption data of the consumer will result in insights, enabling utilities to engineer better solutions for providing a more reliable and efficient power supply at a lower cost.
In the era of a smart grid, devices are interconnected in a network and enabled with two-way communication. To ensure the safe, secure, and efficient operation of a Smart grid, deploying a suitable communication technology has become the need of the hour. Wireless communication options include but are not limited to such as RF, cellular communication, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, NB-IoT, Wi-SUN, etc.
Success of the communication technology deployed will decide the success of the smart grid. Each of the technologies has lucrative advantages but discouraging drawbacks, making it highly confounding to choose one technology above the other. The cellular, the whole purpose of real-time connectivity gets lost as connections are highly susceptible to communication drops. The problem can be magnified in the rural areas where the range is limited. The theoretical speed of 200kbps can be achieved.
The existing communication ecosystem and infrastructure can be used for communication for GPRS. If properly chosen, a single modem will be compatible with different networks like 2G, 3G, 4G, etc., mitigating the risk of technology obsolescence.
When we look at the RF technology, it has some desirable features such as 100kbps of Uplink and Downlink speed. In-built broadcast and multicast commands for load control and tariff management. Low power consumption than GPRS hence reducing the BOM (bill of material) cost of devices.
You install a connected meter or retrofit an existing one, and the energy meter is automatically commissioned and added to the interconnected, Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI). This means that initial deployment is relatively inexpensive, and projects can quickly be done in phases. There are no inherent limitations on the number of meters that can be added to the system or where the physical meter need to be related.
On the other hand, RF mesh networks often require careful network planning, especially concerning the density of nodes and the placement of gateways.
There is one challenge in RF due to reduced range when a line of sight of the device gets obstructed by some concrete structure. This issue can be tackled by using repeaters and high gain antennas considering the geological positioning of instruments.
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