Smart Utility Meters

Smart Utility Meters

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Reporting usage statistics for billing is just the tip of the iceberg. Smart Meters provide communications between individual properties and the nationwide utility networks – facilitating a broad range of functionalities.

Smart DCC Ltd’s (The Data Communications Company) aim was to provide a Smart Meter communications infrastructure with reliable nationwide coverage.

The second generation Smart Meters operate over two radio systems, a cellular system covering the south and centre of the UK and a UHF band radio system in the north.

Achieving the right coverage requires meeting challenging RF emission specifications set out by the Smart Meter suppliers. To tackle this issue, Plextek were contracted to independently assess the requirements, the radio link budget and the performance of different Smart Meters to help ensure correct system operation.

The Approach

Plextek designed some of the very first Smart Meter radio deployments in the US, providing radio communications with reliable coverage in the licence-free bands. This expertise left us well placed to act as an independent technical reviewer for DCC.

A key output of our review was that measuring low-level emissions is close to the limits of what is possible with typical RF test configurations.

Plextek created a comprehensive test specification and established a reliable independent test facility so that the Smart Meter suppliers could record repeatable results against a common test regimen. The specification and testing process are subject to review by a working group comprising Smart Meter manufacturers, DCC and BEIS.

The Outcome

Armed with Plextek’s measurement data, the Smart Meter manufacturers have the information needed to adjust their designs to meet the noise emission limits and demonstrate compliance with the system requirements.

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