Tower of Babel: Making Sure Smart Meters Speak the Same Language
Connected devices are ushering in a new age. In the electric power sector, the smart meter is the building block for realizing the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT). More than 50 million smart meters have been installed in homes across the United States, or in about half of all existing homes. With smart meters, electric utilities are able to offer new customer services, such as dynamic pricing; the integration of new energy resources, such as microgrids and community solar power; and improved outage management and restoration.
Today, utilities give homeowners with smart meters real-time access to their overall energy usage, making it available through personal devices. In the future, perhaps we will see a meter for every single electricity-consuming device from light bulbs to appliances, so homeowners will know how much total energy they use.
When a utility reaches its mid-day energy demand peak during the summer, this smart meter will help control additional power at the plants from firing up. Utilities now are sending a signal (with permission) to select customers to turn down or off air conditioning compressors for a short burst to reduce demand below the current generating capacity—all in an effort to make the electric grid safer, more secure, more reliable and more cost-effective.
UL works with manufacturers to make safer smart meters
Given how critical smart meter technology is for utilities, the market demand has grown substantially. As a result, many manufacturers are working hard to design, build and sell smart meters into the market. To do so successfully, a product manufacturer will need to meet an array of performance, security and safety standards as specified by the utilities that use their products, including:
UL 2735 for electrical safety of utility meters
ANSI C12 series for the accuracy and performance levels of electric meters
UL 1998 for fire and shock protection of embedded programmable components
UL 2900 series for cybersecurity assessment.
The interoperability of smart meter devices is critical to their effectiveness and ability to function as the core IoT device for electric power. Thus a relatively new standard—IEEE 2030.5—has emerged among utilities as the most relevant and applicable set of requirements to safeguard two-way communication.
Using a software-based tool, UL’s team sends IEEE 2030.5-compliant messages to the devices and captures their responses. For example, a message to turn a device off will be sent, and a technician will watch to see if an answer comes back. If it does, then UL knows the device can “speak” IEEE 2030.5 with other devices.