The communications network is the foundation for a smart meter and smart grid rollout and as such must be fit for purpose.
“It is essential at the start of the project to be clear of the requirements both today and in the future, as this will influence the whole design of the network,” Sonita Lontoh, Head of Global Marketing at Trilliant, told Engerati.
One of the key requirements is the reliability of the network and Trilliant will be addressing this and other network considerations in an Engerati briefing, Best Practices in ensuring secure and successful Smart Grid network deployment.
“A key factor to consider is the number and types of applications that will be run, which will affect the bandwidth,” she says. “Then there are the data speed requirements, which affect the latency, as well as basics such as the size and density and the sort of backhaul to be deployed.”
A second key requirement in this digital era is the network security, both physical and cyber security and also in the supply chain during the deployment as well as over the lifetime in the field. “We need to ensure that devices have a high level of tamper protection and in-built security and we need to ensure that data is transmitted securely over the network with no opportunity for interception,” says Ms Lontoh.
She adds that these principles apply regardless of the type of network to be deployed, and that it is obviously possible to ensure a higher level of security if the utility is the owner of the network than if it is leased.
Future proofing is achieved with on-going firmware upgrades to devices by the utility, and similarly that process needs to be secure to ensure ongoing reliability and security.
Network deployment best practices
Trilliant brings experience of network deployments with utilities in both developed and developing economies, and a key learning is that each utility has its individual priorities and needs according to where it is and why it is deploying a smart grid.
“Our platform is device-agnostic and we work with the utility to design and deploy the right technology to enable it to achieve its goals,” says Ms Lontoh.
Nevertheless, there are a number of network rollout best practices, she adds. Among these are the needs for the utility to get its back office systems into place, and not least around ensuring a positive experience for customers. Stating that a network deployment shouldn’t be viewed just as a technology upgrade but also as a consumer engagement opportunity, she says: “In general the most cost-effective approach is to build as you go, rolling out the network on a street by street basis and starting to offer services to groups of consumers in an area, rather than rolling out the complete network before switching on. This can then be accompanied with consumer engagement activities at a local level that are more personalized, which has been found to lead to greater acceptance of the smart grid and a smoother and more successful deployment.”
More insights on the best practices for network deployment, as well as on the reliability and security and other design considerations, will be covered in the briefing.
Network deployment opportunities
A network deployment is a major multi-year undertaking for a utility. Questioned on the concept of network sharing between utilities sharing a common service area but providing different services, such as electricity and water, Ms Lontoh says this hasn’t taken off. However, there is the beginnings, particularly in countries with an incumbent national utility such as in Southeast Asia, towards thinking of using the utility network for smart city services.
To learn more about smart grid network deployment, register for the briefing.