New multiservice communications platform for smart grid from Cisco


Laura Ipsen, Senior
VP of Connected
Energy Networks,
San Jose, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 19, 2012 – Cisco has introduced a new technology architecture, named the GridBlocks(TM) architecture, along with related solutions and services, in what is intended as a comprehensive blueprint for smart grid deployments.

According to the company, the architecture provides a forward looking view of integrating digital communications and the electrical grid, as well as specific deployment guidance for the various grid communications networks that exist today. It also provides a framework for utilities to design and deploy comprehensive management and security solutions across the entire grid.

The other new offerings, which form part of Cisco’s Connected Grid portfolio, include a complete field area network (FAN) solution delivered in conjunction with Itron, expanded transmission and substation products, and grid services.

The GridBlocks architecture is aimed to provide utility operators with a communications view of the entire power delivery chain and allow them to take a holistic view of how to evolve their electric grid and design phases of technology implementation. The modular approach allows a focus on particular elements of the network at any given time and is adaptable to differing market structures and regions. Further, it provides a framework in which communications requirements can be specified at each level.

The FAN solution is aimed to simplify utility operations by enabling applications such as advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation, and protection and control to be delivered over a common network platform. The solution has a layered architecture that supports both wired and wireless communications. Through the alliance with Itron, the solution integrates Itron’s smart grid solution onto the Cisco IPv6-based network. As part of the solution Cisco is also introducing the 1000 series router, with both outdoor pole-top mount and indoor din-rail mount models. The solution also includes new endpoints, device management and network management systems, and a Network Management System (NMS) that provides network operators with end-to-end monitoring and control of the network communications.

For transmission and substations, Cisco is offering a full set of communication modules for its 2000 series routers. These include the first wireless 4G/LTE module, WAN modules to support ISDN, and DSL networks. Security capabilities on the 2000 series routers and switches are also being enhanced.

Finally for its grid services, Cisco has developed a set of tools and professional services to help utilities prioritize their communication investments by performing portfolio level analysis of solutions on a shared multilayer infrastructure. The Connected Grid Visualization and Design tool is aimed to address the complexity of automating substation communications, allowing engineers to visualize in a single interface the energy delivery network CIM diagrams, IEC 61850 protection schema for intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), and the communications network.

“The expansion of Cisco’s smart grid offerings will enable utility customers to more effectively and efficiently transition to a highly intelligent energy infrastructure for the 21st century,” commented Laura Ipsen, senior vice president of Connected Energy Networks at Cisco. “This architectural approach to smart grid, enabled by industry alliances like the one between Cisco and Itron, can help utilities achieve long term, strategic objectives while reducing operational expenses.”