Advanced metering Iskraemeco – connecting to the future choice of futureproof AMI solution is challenging utilities


There is a lot of discussion about the technical characteristics of proper AMI solutions, functionalities, benefits etc., but utilities still find it hard to decide on a major investment that has to give returns over a longer period of time. Do you as a utility ever question how to find a future-proof solution that is going to provide decent benefits and returns on investment?

An AMI solution consists of diverse connected elements such as the equipment of the measuring points and communication devices, the central collection software, and many other elements that make the whole solution serviceable over a certain period of time. Some of the elements are crucial bottlenecks at making the choice of the investment. Software can be changed or upgraded, communications can change … all these things for quite decent additional investment and convenience, within the period of system operation, provided that the initially chosen technical solution enables these activities.

One of the most costly and inconvenient solution is a massive change of equipment at the metering points. To make a decision, much attention shall therefore be put on the choice of the right meter. We suggest to the utility the meter with hardware that is easy to maintain and is future-proof, with upgradable software

As one of the leading manufacturers in the field of data readout via low voltage networks (PLC), and among the world’s top in relation to GSM/GPRS/SMS technologies for data transmission and collection, Iskraemeco is very future-oriented. Based on field experience of over a million of operating metering points, the Mx38y – a new family of meters with cutting edge technology – is designed on the NTA platform and complies with the DSMR (Dutch smart metering requirements).

The Mx38y family includes different communication modules/ options. All are available in single-phase and three-phase versions, and are also provided with a switching device and an output for the connection of additional modules and devices. Communication is integrated into the meter, which ensures high reliability and sturdiness. The selection of five different communication options ensures high adaptability and integration in different environments.

According to experiences gained in European networks and based on the desires of European utilities, PLC communication is the most cost efficient operational system. This communication is easy to access, low cost and easy to use, and the quality of data collection and communication is really cost efficient as long as the installation is done correctly.

Usually not only one communications option can be implemented on all the measuring points inside one system, so other communication options are added using public or private communication networks. The public mobile networks (GSM/GPRS/UMTS) are the best choice because of their high reliability and excellent data access. However, they are more costly than PLC. The public mobile networks have seen a lot of investment previously. They are subject to careful regular maintenance activities to be in the best shape and efficiency. GSM/GPRS communication for metering purposes usually does not experience a lot of investment into infrastructure as it would if using RF communication where there is no fixed standard for Europe. It involves a major investment in mounting the necessary communication towers or antennas at carefully chosen locations or sites depending on the landscape topology, in addition to continuous maintenance depending on weather changes, which could destabilize the performance. These all can present a technical risk and challenges to utilities.

In our engineering preparation of a dedicated system solution the right combination of the communications paths is chosen to fit the specific needs of utilities and the availability of communication options. For the most cost efficient data transmission, the low voltage network should be carefully evaluated before deployment to avoid any kinds of communications difficulties. Accordingly, utilities would be able to decide on the type of communication to be used in each area depending on the network conditions. Those network conditions are related to the topology of the low voltage grid and loads. Topology of the network is related to the amount of crosstalk between networks and loads on one hand, and on the other hand as a possible source of disturbances. Both network conditions have an influence on data transmission performance over the low voltage grid. We believe that operational efficiency is one of the key factors in contemporary competitive utility businesses, so we always tailor the best solutions for our customers.

Accordingly, Iskraemeco has introduced the new meter family that makes utilities’ dreams come true. The Mx38y family of meters excels in interoperability (IDIS, Interoperable Device Interface Specification). They are designed for household, commercial and industrial applications. The meters comply with the IEC 62052-11, IEC 62053-21, EN 50470-1 (-3, MID) and ISO 9001 standards. They are designed, made and tested in compliance with the most severe internal company requirements and regulations based on the sixty-five-year tradition of producing meters and more than 70 million operating devices worldwide, 1 million of which are AMR/AMM/AMI.

Interoperability has been one of the main points of discussion among energy regulators, policy makers and the industry. Utilities managing large grids are apprehensive to rely on a single smart meter provider and believe a “second source of supply” is a must. Interoperability is achieved by incorporating interoperable device interface specifications (IDIS) that are based on existing open international standards as defined and maintained by the DLMS-UA. The interfaces of the interoperable companies’ smart meters allow customers to mix and match products from different suppliers. This will accelerate the development of smart grid applications. The scope covers a full end-to-end solution, from the home area network to the wide area network and the interface to utilities’ existing IT infrastructure.

Metering products from Iskraemeco are based on internationally recognised standards and meet the requirements of applicable international and national legislation. Standardisation and continuing developments ensure the flexibility, reliability, high quality and compatibility of Iskraemeco’s products and services.

Designed for greater utilisation of communication technology, a total system approach to multi-utility metering has solutions enabling the remote reading of meter data from a range of metering points including electricity, gas, hot water and cold water. It provides a reliable and high quality revenue and sub metering solutions which can read a range of metering applications remotely and forward the collected data to the enterprise’s billing systems.

The meters with the integrated Wireless M-Bus interface enable reading of other types of energy (water, gas, heat) and monitoring of their consumption on a remote screen. Measuring instruments such as gas, water and heat meters can be equipped with pulse output or M-Bus interface. Meters can be read over electricity nodes remotely, which in this case act as a communication gateway and processing unit. One of the key features for Wireless M-Bus is battery operated meters. Gas, heat and water meters are normally not connected to mains power and therefore have limited energy available. In addition, the replacements of meters are costly so the battery lifetime is about 10+ years.

The choice for the right AMI investment is not easy at all for contemporary utilities. The utilities have to respect their stakeholders and environmental regulations and to think about efficiency of their own operations in a competitive environment. The list of factors that an AMI investment should fulfil is long. In addition to being able to fulfil basic technical requirements, the potential supplier has to provide interoperability, flexibility, knowledge, experience, development, references, reliability and the most important – a good partnership.