SmartSynch is developing a smart grid communications solution, the Universal Communications Module (UCM) to serve as an IP-addressable, external interface offering WAN, LAN and HAN connectivity to a variety of smart grid devices. The UCM is a 'box' enclosure, separate from the meter, and acts as a "wireless pipe" capable of transmitting and receiving data over public wireless networks using Internet-based or other open standards.
Through the UCM and its use of public wireless networks, utilities can quickly and affordably spot-deploy smart grid applications, including load profile and control, power quality monitoring, distribution automation, and stand-by generator control; and support homeowner-focused smart metering programs such as demand response, demand-side management and real-time pricing.
The UCM uses Field Replaceable Units to implement a variety of networking solutions that may be replaced as technologies evolve. These include Wide Area Network (WAN) cards, which allow for a link to the Internet and utility customer's back office; Local Area Network (LAN) cards, which enable utilities to aggregate multiple meters on WAN connections; and Personal Area Network (PAN) cards, which give utilities access to home appliances for remote power management. Other cards can be made available to utilities to support other monitor and control applications as needed.
"The UCM is a 'future-proof' solution designed to meet the needs of our Smart Grid initiative, with the flexibility to support the varying requirements of the broad utility market," said David Mohler, CTO & VP for Duke Energy. "It fills a marketplace void for any utility seeking a truly interoperable and open, IP-addressable smart grid system conducive to remote upgrades as wireless and power technologies advance." David Mohler said utilities deploying solutions dependent on proprietary technologies may not easily upgrade them without manually modifying or replacing entirely, each meter.
Utilities may deploy the UCM to perform a variety smart grid functions, such as:
- retrieving energy and demand registers, power quality and interval data from residential meters to support demand response, demand-side management, time-of-use pricing and other in-home programs.
- providing a communications interface for distribution automation equipment.
- controlling commercial and industrial customers' back-up generators during critical load periods to shave 'peak' and avoid manual site visits.