Buidling a secure meter data collection system using ‘mesh’ radio network architecture


Many modern energy and water providers are looking for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that they can rely on to run their businesses.

Thanks to its long relationship with utilities around the world, Actaris realised the new challenges they face and developed EverBlu: an innovative, secure and flexible AMI solution.

With more than 2 million radio modules already installed worldwide in various types of installation conditions, Actaris acquired the complex radio transmission expertise required to bring the meter data to the utilities’ offices in a simple and reliable way.

Everblu, dedicated to the collection and management of metering information, is opening a new generation of fixed network technology based on mesh radio architecture.

With such design, the utilities can secure their investment over time, thanks to simple implementation, minimal costs of maintenance and scalable architecture.

EverBlu provides trustworthy and accurate consumption information to respond to the needs of both utilities and end-users, offering better service and improving resource management.

It was developed to offer maximum data transmission security at every level of its architecture: its upgradability and scalability guarantee best cost of ownership; its operation is optimised by the use of innovative technologies; and its selfhealing function provides proactive maintenance of the radio network. Let’s look at these in more detail:

  • In order to adapt to the changing requirements of each project, EverBlu is easily upgradable from a mobile reading system to a fixed data collection system. With the same hardware in the field (meters and radio modules), it can be decided to move to a fixed network when needed. To best suit the various typologies of the environment, EverBlu can even be used in a hybrid configuration with one part of the meters read via mobile equipment and another part collected through the fixed network.
  • One of the challenges of AMI solutions is to be flexible enough to follow the evolution of the utility. Actaris developed its fixed network keeping in mind it should be highly scalable. The architecture can easily grow according to the needs.
  • The system benefits from the advantages of the oneway communication for self-running daily data readings of numerous meters, and of the two-way capacity for ondemand meter readings and maintenance operations.
  • EverBlu is designed on a 3 levels architecture with 3 different radio frequencies chosen for maximum efficiency and security: a low-power radio frequency for the communication between the meter radio modules and the collectors to extend their battery lifetimes; a high-power radio frequency between the collectors and the access point to expand the network coverage; and a GPRS link between the access point and the FTP server to upload data over long distance to the Host system.
  • One major concern when deploying and running an Advanced Metering Infrastructure is the complexity of its maintenance in conjunction with radio conditions changing over time. EverBlu mesh radio network includes a self-healing function that automatically redefines best radio communication paths to access 100% end-points.

When used by water providers, for example, EverBlu provides accurate information that contributes to the following benefits: Near real-time alarm management:

  • Leakage warning
  • Detection of reverse flow or inverted meter position

Customer claim management:

  • Accurate reply using hourly meter indexes and on-demand actual meter read

Customer move-in/move-out management:

  • Not necessary to send readers into field
  • Quick accurate billing

Monthly/weekly/daily consumption information:

  • Improve network management
  • Network efficiency indicators to anticipate regulators’ requirements

Frequent invoicing (eg monthly):

  • Help end-users better manage their consumption
  • Cash flow optimisation and reduction of payment risks

Hourly meter indexes/consumption:

  • Complex multi-tariff structures
  • Consumption web presentment.

To make sure that the operation of EverBlu will contribute to its customers’ future success, Actaris offers its competencies at all stages of the AMI deployment process, from the design of the optimum architecture, the roll-out of the solution, the data integration in existing systems (Billing/CIS, GIS, SCADA, etc) to the continuous support that provides system efficiency through time.

With all this data at hand, flowing directly from the consumers to the utilities, objectives of sustainable development get closer, and evolution moves one step further.