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Benefits of rugged components in smart meter apps

Posted: 12 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Smart meter? anti-tampering? switches?

Smart meter applications call for consistent enhancements to be made upon existing technologies integrated within current systems. Tamperproof components that meet IP67 rating standards are crucial to proper operation of smart meters. In order to keep consumer costs low, smart meter designers only work with standard offering components from trusted manufacturers. Components designed into smart meter applications must meet regulatory standards set by national safety boards throughout the world, causing designers to create switches that are safe for international use. However, there is a growing need within smart meter applications to integrate only the most rugged available components within manufactured designs. Low profile, economical switches suited for harsh military and industrial environments are becoming more commonplace in smart meter applications as they are tested adequately before production for intended use in extreme conditions. Switches and interconnect devices used within smart meters must maintain peak performance characteristics for a long duration of approximately ten years.

Metering functions
Smart meters typically engage in multi-utility metering (electricity, gas, heat and water) while calculating and monitoring power quality characteristics. Automatic reading of consumption measurements help in analysis of energy end use as well as providing real time consumption data to management systems. Automated electronic smart meters offer the utility market the benefits of improved reliability and accuracy with ease of calibration set forth once initially installed by qualified technicians.

Utility companies require their smart meters to offer the best anti-tampering protection available. A large percentage of overall power usage is attributed to theft. Solid-state electricity meters must be able to detect and prevent tampering, which in turn significantly improves control and cost recovery for utility companies. Components, even down to the chip level, must have some sort of anti-tampering measure built into their design, such as key-code protection within the unit itself.

As smart meters become more commonplace for consumer use, added benefits such as utility management and decreased overall energy consumption patterns offer new solutions for all utility customers. With the right capabilities built into chip-level solutions, smart meter deployments can effectively lay the groundwork for expanded customer-service functions, such as wireless integration with thermostats to automatically adjust usage during peak-demand periods. Advanced switches and interconnect devices can also help prevent meter tempering and manipulation such as under-registering, which effectively allows power use without payment. Smart meter designers favour switches with low profiles and advanced tilts that can provide movement detection, tamper protection, and theft detection. In addition, rugged smart card connectors are manufactured with a built-in card detection switch for added security.

Rugged preference
Smart grids need to secure all elements that may interact with smart meterslike data concentrators, intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and secure gateways. High-performance smart meter reference designs must be constructed with physical security measures in the design's frame as well as the most robust, rugged components available in order to ensure safety of the data and its communication with other parts of the overall system. Smart meter components must have an Ingress Protection Security rating of 67 (IP67-rated), which signifies that the unit is dust-proof and water resistant.

Switch design benefits
Switches that can be used in either multi-converter or single-converter designs benefit product design. Cost-effectiveness is another important aspect of a switch from both an installation and consumer standpoint, considering that smart meters will require maintenance and to ensure proper data reporting over their life spans. In-service testing has changed over the years as electronic meters have been integrated within utility service areas.

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