What distinguishes the modern smartphone – so it really deserves the ‘smart’ epithet – from the earliest versions? Surely in addition to its multi-connectivity communication, it is the ability to access from a store and run any number of different apps.
This app concept is exactly what Itron has been pioneering with its Riva platform, which was developed to take embedded intelligence and peer-to-peer communication to grid edge devices, be they smart meters or sensors, or others such as PV generators or storage batteries.
This has three prime benefits: first, that not all data needs to be returned to the utility back office or central data hub for analysis. Second, as a result, that the analysis and subsequent decision making can be accelerated to near real-time. And third, it offers utilities another opportunity to get ‘behind the meter’ and deepen the relationship with customers.
Itron’s initial focus with Riva was on use cases connected with company’s core competencies such as theft detection, outage detection, volt/var optimisation and direct load control, with water and gas not far behind.
Early on an OpenWay Riva Developers Community was formed to enable the broader development community to contribute applications. This was followed with a new Ideas Lab to broaden the scope of grid edge technologies to the Internet of Things (IoT) and applications such as smart cities.
Behind the meter - the grid edge app store
Now the next link in the chain has been put in place. Itron and Bsquare, a supplier of IoT software and integration services, have launched the OpenWay Riva App Community as what is effectively the first grid edge app store.
“It’s just like having a highly secure smartphone and app store available for every OpenWay Riva device,” says Mark de Vere White, president of Itron’s Electricity business line. “With the interest from third parties, including utilities, we expect hundreds of apps available over time. These app community capabilities make it easier for our customers to access apps and deliver and manage them over the OpenWay Riva network.”
The App Community is powered by Bsquare’s DataV IoT software stack, which is embedded within the OpenWay Riva network to allow utilities to dynamically and securely download apps to targeted populations of remote devices.
Like the development of smartphone apps covering just about subject imaginable, the availability of new grid edge apps will enable utilities to securely add a wide range of functionality over time to meters and grid devices.
In addition to adding value to fixed capital assets within a distributed generation ecosystem and improving their ROI, these also could bring additional benefits such as new services to customers.
Examples of applications that can be dynamically added to devices include advanced theft detection, high impedance detection, load disaggregation, locational awareness, active demand response and many others. In addition, third party developers can also provide their applications to the OpenWay Riva App Community.
“This is an excellent example of the innovative ways in which IoT technology can be applied to diverse business problems,” says Dave Wagstaff, Bsquare CTO. “For DataV, the ability to securely and reliably manage the distribution of software apps to tens of millions of meters – and do it in such a way that core revenue generating functions cannot be impaired – was a snap.
"As important, DataV is able to deliver these capabilities even over networks that are extremely constrained from a bandwidth perspective.”
OpenWay Riva expands
As has been increasingly realised with meter data, its full potential only can be reached through the analytics applications that are applied.
Similarly, with grid edge devices, the full value will be harnessed only with the applications that are run on top. And by extension, a utility or smart city will only be as ‘smart’ as the apps it is running (which does not mean they must be identical from one project to another).
With OpenWay Riva able to support a wide range of devices, a similarly wide range of different apps can be expected.
In addition to this latest news, two other recent developments to OpenWay Riva are worthy of note.
First, as part of the expansion to IoT devices, the Developers Community has been expanded to include battery-powered devices. Many gas, water and smart city IoT applications, such as pipeline safety, water conservation and smart city sensors, do not have access to AC power.
In Q1 2017, development kits will be available with a battery-powered Itron Riva board, enabling third-party developers to create applications for these devices. The board features an optimised battery life and maintains reliable connectivity.
Second, in a partnership with China’s Wasion Group, the two companies will develop OpenWay Riva-enabled Wasion electricity meters, which will provide new options for utilities deploying these devices.