With an expected rollout of 53 million smart meters by 2020 the smart metering systems market is rapidly reaching maturity.
Within the UK the second version of the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS) has been published and countries around the world are consulting on and publishing their own recommendations for communication and usability standards for smart metering systems. Although these standards specify particular communication protocols, there is still flexibility to allow engineers to use the best protocol for the job. This can however leave buyers frustrated, with diminishing economies of scale reducing their buying power.
Read a summary of the smart meter system structure and SMETS implications below or use the button above to skip straight to our range of recommended products including tips on maximising buying power and achieving ultra-low power consumption when designing your device.
Smart Meter System outline
In essence the standard smart metering system or smart grid is composed of one or more smart meters which have the ability to communicate with an in-home hub and a neighbourhood hub, which in turn communicates with a receiver being monitored by a utility company.
Smart meters are composed of three major blocks of circuits which may be integrated into a SoC or incorporated into the device as separate modules. The purposes of these modules are:
Measurement is the primary role of a smart meter. Ultimately these devices are created to measure the usage of gas, electric, water or help with temperature control. Various means of measurement are used dependant on the type of fluid being monitored. Viscous fluids may be measured using flow meters, gases may require pressure monitoring, and electricity may be monitored using single, twin or polyphaser metering.
All smart meters, regardless of the utility they are measuring, require accurate time-keeping in order to allow accurate data analysis and billing. Most importantly time synchronization also ensures reliable transmission of data to the neighbourhood hub and utility receiver in the wide area network as discussed below.
The most recent version of SMETS states that the clock within all types of smart metering equipment must be accurate to within 10 seconds of UTC date and time.
Not only is it important for smart meters to achieve accurate time synchronization, but they must also do so using only a tiny amount of power. Most gas and water meters will be required to maintain power for extended periods of time, reliant solely on battery power. This means every nanoamp of extra power consumption counts and it’s important to specify the lowest energy-consuming peripheral products possible for pairing with communication and measurement chipsets or smart meter SoCs.
What does this mean for frequency components?
In practice the requirements of smart meters mean additional specifications standards are required for frequency components: An operating temperature range of -25 to +55°C with a storage temperature range of -30 to +60°C is common within the industry, with ±10ppm stability over the operating temperature range being preferred to ensure radio frequency accuracy.
Ageing is also paramount: ±10ppm over 20 years is the widely accepted figure for ageing of frequency components within the smart metering industry.
Many types of communication protocol are common within smart metering systems including short range wireless standards for home or building networks, such as ZigBee and BLE (Bluetooth low energy). Neighbourhood area networks also make use of 2.4GHz ZigBee and BLE but also commonly use sub 1GHz communications. Finally WAN (wide area networks) may use GSM and 3G or Ethernet and fibre.
SMETS standard stipulates the use of ZigBee in some types of smart meter systems (see below) but for others engineers are free to find a novel solution.
These short-range networks within a smart meter system allow communication between the smart meter, in-home display (or "home-hub") and smart appliances within the building or home.
This type of communication between the meter, appliances and the home or building hub means the user can see a full picture of their energy usage, including a breakdown of that usage by appliance, great for monitoring peak time activity and energy budget expenditure. Some smart appliances and hub communications also allow for on/off signalling so an appliance can be controlled directly from the home hub.
For both Gas and Electric Smart Metering Equipment (GSME or ESME) the SMETS standard stipulates:
"The HAN Interface of GSME [or ESME] shall be capable of joining a ZigBee SEP v1.2 Smart Metering Home Area Network which: …operates within the 2400 – 2483.5 MHz harmonised frequency band"
Both electric and gas metering equipment must also be "certified by the ZigBee Alliance as compliant"
The In-Home Display device used within the HAN must also meet both of these functionality requirements.
There are also auxiliary devices which may be included in the HAN section of a smart metering system, including prepayment interface devices and connected auxiliary load control switches.
In addition to the above requirements all smart meters must be registered and conform to DLMS (Device Language Message Specification) standards. DLMS have a conformance checking tool which you can find here.
WAN - Wide Area Network
In order to transmit data to a utility company the smart meter will then transfer data through a secure data network outside of the home, usually known as the wide area network.
WANs may consist of data transmission directly to the utility receiver, or depending on the density of meters and level of network coverage within an area, data may first be aggregated at a neighbourhood hub or data aggregation point (DAP) using ZigBee communication. This data is then parcelled into secure data packets and transferred using the WAN communication protocol.
Wide area network communication does not require the fast data rate necessary within HANs but must instead ensure the signal can be carried greater distances than those within the HAN. Protocols common to this level of network include Cellular GSM, LoRa, 3G technology and even Ethernet and fibre.
Lower data transfer rates are typically employed and available channels can be significantly narrower, requiring the use of smaller bandwidths.
Recommended frequency products for Smart metering systems
Get the lowest-power consumption for your smart metering device using our ultra-low power, industry standard footprint, low cost products listed here.
Can’t find quite the right frequency or specification? Golledge have a range of over 20,000 product lines so drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our knowledgeable sales engineers will be in touch to help.
TCXO - Temperature compensated oscillators allow for extreme accuracy over a wide range of temperatures, perfect for smart meters that require time accuracy whilst withstanding extreme weathers.
SAW Filters – providing refined filtering, essential for smart metering systems
Real Time Clock Modules (RTCs) offer extra functionality and lower power consumption than a standard SoC solution