PRIME gateways are the enablers of the LV communications evolution

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Galder Vizcaya highlights some of the important roles of gateways.

Low voltage (LV) smart grid solutions have high complexity due to the variety of network topologies and applications involved. PRIME 1.4 gateways are devices that have PRIME PLC communication interfaces, ethernet and cellular interfaces, with the capabilities to redirect traffic from one to another.

These devices are the Swiss-knife tool for a PLC network. Their versatility to behave as service node, base node, working in PRIME 1.3.6 or PRIME 1.4, selecting the physical channel and phases, open the door to many different solutions and applications. One of the key applications that the gateways enable is the PLC networks with virtual data concentrators.

The current virtualization methods are enabling multiple possibilities to deploy and run several software applications into standard devices like industrial computers.

One of these software applications could be the data concentrator. As a matter of fact, several pilots have already demonstrated that it is possible to run different instances of a data concentrator within a single server.

Although there are several other factors to be considered, this means that the number of devices deployed in the field could technically be decreased, thus reducing the investment, and the hardware where the applications currently run could be simplified. However, the server on which the virtual machine runs must have several peripherical devices, depending on which are the functional modules running on them.

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In the case of a data concentrator, the server holding a virtualized data concentrator must be provided with a peripherical modem that enables to get the readings from the meters in the network. The PRIME 1.4 gateway will provide the virtual server with the modem functionality needed for retrieving the data. Added to that, the use of one or several gateways will also increase the number of meters that can be reached from a single device.

Another key role of the gateways is as a key component in the transition of networks from PRIME 1.3.6 to PRIME 1.4. During this transition, there might be networks where meters using either version of the protocol coexist. PRIME 1.3 Data Concentrators can manage PRIME 1.4 networks through a PRIME Gateway.

This migration can be performed for the full network, disabling the PRIME base node integrated in the data concentrator and connecting the data concentrator to the gateway, or partially, having both enabled in different channels working simultaneously.

Multiple gateways can be used in the Secondary Substation (SS) with multiple transformers to communicate through PLC in each of them. It is possible to use a single Data Concentrator for the complete SS.

The PRIME Gateway can also play an important role in coverage extension. When a gateway behaves as a service node with multi-phase injection, it can work as a repeater in strategic positions of the LV network, thus extending the coverage.

When configured as base node, small PLC Islands could be created. These islands could use its cellular interface to transmit the data upstream. These islands can be used to extend the coverage to locations in which the coverage is not guaranteed by other means. The gateway as a PLC island provider also enables further applications in a different channel than the one used for Smart Metering.

The PRIME Alliance provides open and interoperable solutions in continuous evolution and the PRIME gateways have a critical role that enables this evolution.

About the author

Galder Vizcaya is a member of the Technical Working Group of the PRIME Alliance. He has been contributing to different AMI projects for 9 years in different positions within ZIV. Currently, he is the Head of the Metering Product Line at ZIV.

About the company

ZIV is a leader in smart grid solutions with a unique mix of knowledge in protection, control, communication and metering technologies. ZIV offers a full range of products with in-house developed technology and related engineering services. ZIV is a founder member of the PRIME Alliance.