Recent development of the smart city concept and the accelerated adoption of smart metering have generated the need for an early realisation of a communications technology which can handle a great volume of individual, small data exchanges. Such a communications network should be secure, reliable, and free of network failures or congestion, particularly during natural disasters. It will also need to be more resilient and robust than other communications technologies commonly used for smart metering today such as mesh, cellular or PLC networks as these are not designed to function in all deployment conditions or during natural disasters. Selecting the right, proven technology is critical for a successful rollout of smart metering, smart grid or smart city projects.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
As one of the industry leader of metering technologies since the 1830s, Sensus has developed a communications infrastructure solution specifically designed for smart metering, smart grid and smart cities. FlexNet™ is an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system which has been designed for establishing a wide area network (WAN) using long range radio communications technology.
FlexNet has been designed around the concepts of simplicity, flexibility and reliability. It can operate a number of services on a single network using the same infrastructure. This is achieved by allocating specific channels within a given spectrum band to each service applications, thereby providing a ‘multi-application network’ without the risk of network congestions. In the US, multi-utilities have deployed FlexNet network for operating gas, electric, and water meters as well as smart grid and smart city lighting services.
Long range radio offers excellent coverage and connectivity in both urban and rural areas and FlexNet system is designed to function even during natural disasters through macro diversity and ‘buddy mode’.
FlexNet is also designed to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. It features ‘last gasp’ and ‘first breath’ functions which sends notifications when a meter endpoint loses connection and when it comes back on the network.
By providing near real-time data from the meter endpoints, utilities can see any disruptions and faults as they occur to the power network. In the US, power utilities were able to track the hurricanes as they pass through their territory by the power interruption alarms that are triggered as smart meters lose power. Building a real-time picture of the incident helps target repair works and reduces the time to network recovery.