Posts Tagged ‘smart devices’
» posted on Monday, May 24th, 2010 at 10:25 pm by Woody Wilson viewed 600 times
By Dana Hull firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 05/23/2010 12:12:00 PM PDT
Updated: 05/23/2010 06:55:51 PM PDT
If you are a PG&E customer, you either already have a so-called smart meter at your home or are in line to get one soon. PG&E has installed 5.6 million smart gas and electric meters so far and plans for all its 10 million customers to have them by 2012.
So what exactly makes a smart meter smart? Why are utilities across the country and around the world racing to install them? And what benefits are there for consumers?
PG&E says its SmartMeters will give consumers detailed information that will help them to more efficiently manage their energy use. But public reaction so far is largely negative, with many PG&E customers complaining of spikes in their bills. The consumer backlash now includes a small but vocal number of customers who don’t want the devices installed at their homes at all.
Meters that measure gas and electric usage at homes and businesses are the basic components of any power grid. Traditional electromechanical meters use gears and dials, much like the mileage odometer on a car, to measure how much energy is consumed over a given period of time, typically a monthlong billing cycle.
Those meters have been in place for decades, and they have been remarkably reliable. But the old meters have limitations. While they can keep track of cumulative energy consumption, they don’t have the capacity to store data on a daily or hourly basis.
“Traditional meters cannot measure consumption in time buckets,” said Ahmad Faruqui, an expert on the smart grid and a consultant with the Brattle Group in San Francisco. “They measure at the beginning of the month and the end of the month, and the meter reader comes at the end of the month.”
Smart meters, in contrast, use embedded software that records electric use by the hour and transmits the data to a nearby data collector, which then relays the information directly to PG&E through a secure wireless network known as RF (radio frequency) mesh. Soon, customers will have access to up-to-the-hour data on their electricity consumption.
“This is not just a new type of chip,” said Brian Seal of EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit research think tank for the utility industry. “It’s a shift in the definition of what we expect a meter to do.”
Once smart meters are installed, utilities will be able to offer “time of use” pricing, which will charge consumers higher rates for energy used during peak hours — typically late afternoon and early evening — and lower rates during off-peak hours.
Several pilot tests within the utility industry have shown that many consumers change their behavior to avoid the higher peak prices. Advocates say that will reduce the load on the power grid, prevent blackouts, offset the need for additional power plants and lead to a much cleaner environment.
But consumer advocates warn that many people — including small business owners, the elderly, the disabled and families with small children — won’t realistically be able to curtail their peak usage and will be unfairly penalized with higher bills.
“We’re only hearing about problems,” said Mindy Spatt of the consumer advocacy group TURN. “We’re not hearing that meters are helping people save energy or save money on their bills. From the consumer end, there doesn’t appear to be a benefit right now.”
But Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer care officer, says customers ultimately will benefit.
“Smart meter technology is the indispensable cornerstone of the smart grid — which will empower customers and utilities to manage energy use more intelligently,” she told state legislators last month at a hearing.
But PG&E’s rollout of smart meters has been rocky. The flood of complaints from consumers who fear their smart meters caused spikes in their energy bills led state regulators to order an independent investigation into meter accuracy that is now under way.
Earlier this month, PG&E acknowledged that as many as 23,000 SmartMeter customers may have received inaccurate bills.
For consumers, the main promise of smart meters is simply more information. Most people pay their monthly power bill without fully understanding how many kilowatt-hours are burned up by their flat-screen TV or window air conditioner.
PG&E says customers who have smart meters can, after about two billing cycles, go online and see exactly how much gas and electricity they have used, right up to the previous day, and they can track their electricity use hour by hour.
And starting this summer, customers with smart meters can sign up for “Energy Alerts” that tell how much energy they’ve used during the billing period, much in the way consumers currently check to see if they’re about to run out of cell phone minutes. PG&E has a five-tiered rate structure, and the text message or phone alerts can warn people if they’re about to move into a higher tier.
Other smart meter features are still a few years off. One is the “Home Area Network,” which will allow remote control of appliances equipped with communication chips. Users could use their cell phone to program their dishwasher to run at an off-peak time, for example, or to tell their air conditioner to turn on before they arrive home on a scorching summer day.
Utilities say smart meters will also allow them to pinpoint power outages and restore power faster during storms. Much of this will be done remotely, without the need for technicians to visit the home.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706.
-ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy is first gateway to seamlessly connect ZigBee Smart Energy certified devices before or with Smart Meter deployments-
MINNETONKA, Minn., Feb 09, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Digi International /quotes/comstock/15*!dgii/quotes/nls/dgii (DGII 9.23, -0.19, -2.02%) today introduced the ConnectPort(R) X2 for Smart Energy gateway. It is a ZigBee Smart Energy certified gateway that easily connects certified ZigBee Smart Energy devices from a Home Area Network (HAN) to an energy service provider via broadband. It is the industry’s first gateway that connects, controls, or gathers data from ZigBee Smart Energy devices equally well before or with Smart Meter deployments. When a Smart Meter is present the gateway can make meter information immediately available to any energy management application. As part of iDigi(TM) Energy, energy service providers can use the ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy and iDigi platform to easily integrate thermostats, smart meters, in-home displays, load controllers and other ZigBee Smart Energy devices into complete energy management systems.
“The ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy provides a sub-$100 integration point for thermostats, smart meters, in-home displays, load controllers and other ZigBee Smart Energy devices in energy management systems,” said Larry Kraft, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, Digi International. “It provides a standards-based method to connect ZigBee Smart Energy devices and iDigi provides a standards-based application interface. Utilities can deploy energy management systems based on the ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy and iDigi knowing they have maximum future flexibility.”
“Utilities will deploy millions of ZigBee Smart Energy metering devices over the next several years,” said Charles Porter, Chief Strategy Officer, ista North America. “Our ista|net EMS platform uses Digi’s ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy gateway to engage consumers in real-time energy decisions, allowing them to save money and improve the environment.”
The ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy can be deployed as a stand-alone ZigBee Smart Energy HAN for areas without Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)/Smart Meter deployments or participate in an AMI network providing broadband connectivity for enhanced energy management services. Gateways deployed in advance of AMI can join a Smart Meter based network once it is installed, using iDigi to remotely make all software changes required for an easy upgrade, and always preserving the simplicity of a single Energy Services Portal (ESP) Smart Energy architecture. The ConnectPort X2 also separates consumers’ energy management data from the utility’s “cash register” meter network, adding to the security and integrity of the AMI system.
Built on the XBee-PRO(R) ZB ZigBee module, the ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy gateway features ZigBee Smart Energy certified firmware enabling compatibility with all devices defined in the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile. These include energy service portals (ESPs), metering devices, in-premise display devices, programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs), load controllers, range extenders, smart appliances and prepayment terminals.
“ZigBee Smart Energy offers consumers secure, easy-to-use wireless home area networks for managing energy,” said Benno Ritter, vice president of marketing and business development at the ZigBee Alliance. “Digi is a leader in the Smart Energy space by making it easier for utilities and their customers to communicate with thermostats and other Smart Energy devices.”
The flexible ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy offers Ethernet and ZigBee connectivity. It also features easy-to-use local customizable open scripting standards via Python. This allows customers to leverage the in-home processing capability of the gateway to optimize their energy service offerings. Professional services are also available through Spectrum Design Solutions, Digi’s wireless consulting group, to speed development. All Digi gateways can be remotely configured and upgraded using iDigi Energy allowing new services to be offered after the system is installed.
The ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy is available now starting at $99. ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy Starter Kits that include iDigi login and a ZigBee Smart Energy XStick(R) USB adapter for demo and development environments are available now for $149. For information regarding the Smart Grid, download a free white paper at www.digi.com/pdf/wp_smartgrid.pdf. For more information about the ConnectPort X2 for Smart Energy, visit www.digi.com/products/wirelessdropinnetworking/gateways/connectportx2.jsp#overview
ZigBee: Control your world
ZigBee is the global wireless language connecting dramatically different devices to work together and enhance everyday life. The ZigBee Alliance is a non-profit association of more than 330 members driving development of ZigBee wireless technology. The Alliance promotes world-wide adoption of ZigBee as the leading wirelessly networked, sensing and control standard for use in consumer electronic, energy, home, commercial and industrial areas. For more information, visit: www.ZigBee.org.
About Digi International
Digi International is making wireless M2M easy by developing reliable products and solutions to connect and securely manage local or remote electronic devices over the network or via the Web. Digi offers the highest levels of performance, flexibility and quality, and markets its products through a global network of distributors and resellers, systems integrators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). For more information, visit Digi’s Web site at www.digi.com, or call 877-912-3444.
About ista North America
ista is the world’s leading company in the metering, billing and management of energy, water and ancillary costs. ista North America serves multifamily, manufactured housing, commercial and utility clients throughout the entire process chain, from delivery and installation of equipment to meter-reading, billing and management of utility and ancillary costs. Learn more: www.ista-na.com.
All brand names and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.
SOURCE: Digi International
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