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Smart Meters and IP – an Inconvenient Truth

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The whole concept of bringing Internet Protocol to battery powered devices in this new era of the Internet of Things is not confined to smart metering – it’s a question that is being wrestled with by many standards groups who are trying to balance issues of accessibility, interoperability and power consumption.  In general, the closer a product is to commercial deployment, the less sway the IP proponents have.  But they have the US power industry in their sights.

I don’t believe that their arguments add up.  If smart metering is to work it needs to look at the whole picture and make pragmatic decisions.  The UK approach seems far more sensible, which may be why it’s making far better progress.  In contrast, there’s a distinct feeling of banana skin about the IP advocates and their promotion of ZigBee Smart Energy Profile 2.0.  As time goes on it looks like an approach that is having to conceal more and more inconvenient truths behind a veil of smoke and mirrors.

The argument has nothing to do with the potential benefits of smart metering (albeit they still need to be proven), or the basics of ZigBee’s Smart Energy Profile.  Most in the industry would agree that they are the only way to go for smart metering at the moment.  The question is how to address smart meters and individual devices that are connected to it over the Home Area Network?  There are two schools of thought.  Those using Version 1.0 of the Smart Energy Profile typically connect to meters via a gateway device which is located on the Internet.  This means that the gateway has an IP address, so that it can be found by other internet devices.  The smart meter and other devices in the home don’t have their own individual IP addresses.  Instead they can be accessed via the gateway, which knows what they are, and can direct messages to them.  That’s the same way most people are accessed.  The gateway is like our home or office, which has a unique address, and we have our individual names so that we can be located at these addresses.  The important point to recognise is that our names aren’t normally unique.

More here.

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