Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Networking platform strengthens core smart grid operations

Steve Rogerson
February 4, 2015
 
A mesh-enabled sensor networking platform to connect small, battery-powered devices for emerging smart energy, smart city and other IoT applications has been introduced by Silver Spring Networks as part of the fifth generation of its Gen5 critical infrastructure networking platform.
 
The Milli 5 from the California-based company can enable applications such as smart gas and water metering, waste management sensors, smart parking monitors, pollution and emissions sensors, industrial equipment monitoring, and smart agriculture sensors to operate reliably for up to 20 years in the field, without sacrificing the multi-layer security, standards compliance and IPv6 addressing required by sophisticated IoT operators.
 
The networking form factor is nearly seven times smaller than previous versions.
 
The economics and small size of the Milli 5 also mean that utilities and cities can make the business case to connect almost any device on their networks reliably, gaining asset-level communications for equipment such as transformers, light poles and other infrastructure. In particular, water utilities have an increasing need for reliable, two-way communications that can run off of battery power to help improve efficiency and report leaks in near real time.
 
In addition to strengthening core smart grid operations, the capabilities of the Gen5 platform help enable an emerging set of applications for real-time operations data, distribution automation, dynamic applications at the edge of the network and smart city services.
 
“Silver Spring’s Gen5 platform enables multiple applications over the widest array of power and performance requirements with no compromises – we aim to leave no device, no data and no consumer behind,” said Don Reeves, EVP of engineering and managed services for Silver Spring Networks. “We believe that our fifth generation technology is a catalyst for one of the most consequential shifts in the industry, both in offering our customers investment preservation for their existing assets, and opening the door to new applications as more utilities and cities realise the tremendous long-term value in connecting their customers, citizens, devices and data.”
 
Speed isup to 1.2 Mbit/s, a fourfold increase, accelerating the transition from hours or days-old data to near real-time insights into grid operations and performance.There is nearly a three times reduction in latency to 10ms, enabling performance-intensive applications for increased grid reliability and distribution automation.
 
Range has increasedthree times to more than 80km, enabling cost-effective coverage across vast and varying topographies, and the ability to connect hard-to-reach and rural devices.
 
On distributed intelligence, there is ten timesmore compute and up to eight times the memory, unlocking applications at the edge of the network such as theft detection, distributed generation integration, and faster outage detection and restoration;
 
Operational life is more than doubled and there is five times more coverage at a fifth of the power consumption, enabling the connection of historically cost-prohibitive or power-starved devices and sensors for up to 20 years in the field.
 
“As we connect millions of customers to the network as part of our $2.6bn grid infrastructure modernisation investment, it is important to us that we are leveraging ground-breaking innovation that will ensure the most value and efficiency,” said Carol Bartucci, director of IT for Illinois-based utility ComEd. “We look forward to continuing our close work with Silver Spring to deliver better performance to our customers, and as we look at opportunities to modernise beyond wires and poles by adding other smart applications and services.”
 
With Gen5 comes the Comms Module 5, which provides local processing and low latency for critical applications such as load disaggregation, integration of distributed generation, demand response ancillary services, theft detection, and the flexibility to reach devices in difficult terrain. With utilities facing a rapid rise in distributed generation and renewables integration challenges, simultaneous two-way communications allows operators to do more at faster speeds, while managing traffic for high-performance applications, such as grid-side management, to help ensure quality for all customers.
 
The Bridge 5 couples secure, reliable performance with open standards-based IPv6 communications to help enable cities and utilities to integrate mission-critical control and monitoring processes. It is optimised for performance-intensive applications that demand higher capacity, lower latency, and longer range such as distribution automation, conservation voltage reduction, volt and VAR optimisation, feeder switches and capacitor bank controls. The flexibility and ease of integration also allows for rapid deployment of new smart city services such as traffic monitoring and building energy management.
 
The Access Point (AP) 5 and the Relay 5 deliver the coverage, performance and cost efficiency required for effective critical infrastructure application deployments.