Itron Inc. has expanded functionality for its OpenWay Centron smart meters. The enhanced meter will allow utilities, within their current automated meter reading (AMR) systems, to seamlessly migrate to a smart grid/advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) environment.
Available in fourth quarter 2009, all OpenWay Centron smart meters will come equipped with Itron encoder receiver transmitter (ERT) technology, thereby allowing utilities to collect normal monthly billing data through Itron handheld, mobile and fixed network systems while they complete OpenWay AMI deployment.
Using this new approach, meters can be deployed today and then migrated to a fully functional AMI architecture without revisiting or changing the devices in the field. This expanded capability means utilities can communicate with Itron’s handheld- or mobile-based AMR solutions when an OpenWay (radio frequency land area network) RFLAN network has not yet been established near the meter.
In the current meter, when an OpenWay Centron is energized, it automatically seeks to communicate with an OpenWay RFLAN network. With this enhancement, in the event the OpenWay RFLAN network is unavailable, the meter will automatically transition into Itron’s legacy ERT protocol, communicating a standard consumption message (SCM) and allowing the utility to collect the meter’s monthly consumption data using existing Itron handheld, mobile or fixed network AMR solutions.
When in AMR mode, using ERT protocol, the meter still listens several times each day for the establishment of an OpenWay RFLAN network. To switch to the advanced metering network, the utility simply installs an OpenWay Cell Relay network hub in the field. When the network is identified, the smart meter automatically reverts to OpenWay AMI mode and establishes itself on the two-way network enabling full smart meter functionality.
Additionally, whether in AMI or AMR mode, all OpenWay Centron smart meters are equipped with ZigBee wireless networking capabilities, allowing for communication with either a ZigBee-equipped in-home display (IHD) or home area network (HAN). Communication with an IHD or HAN allows consumer awareness of usage data transmitted to devices installed within a residence. Additionally that same HAN can provide consumer energy management even without connectivity to the host utility. This provides the utility with immediate AMR operational benefits, and the consumer with immediate feedback related to energy conservation in advance of utility-sponsored demand response and special pricing programs.