November 2008

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Wireless Interoperabilityr
Wireless Interoperable Systems: Enabling the Smart Grid

     Christina Inge

Christina Inge
Marketing Manager
Spinwave Systems, Inc.

The automation industry has recognized interoperability as key to creating a smart grid. If you are looking to implement smart grid technologies at your facility, you are probably wondering about more than interoperability. You are looking at costs, installation times, and the practicality of doing a retrofit of your existing building. If your building is hard to wire, or your funds are limited, you may be wondering how soon you can take advantage of the smart grid’s benefits. Fortunately, wireless interoperable systems offer an outstanding way to address all these concerns. When wireless networks are also interoperable, we have the best of both worlds: creating smart grid implementations for a variety of buildings, cost-effectively. Wireless controls, sensors, and pulse counters enable demand response, AMR, and other smart grid features in locations where they would otherwise be impossible. They also make it more affordable to join the smart grid.

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Wireless building automation systems are already poised to make the smart grid work for a broader base of institutions. Easier to install in smaller buildings, historic structures, concrete buildings, and a host of other facilities, wireless devices bring the smart grid to places where hard-wired systems are too difficult and expensive to install. And for buildings where hard-wired is an option, wireless has proven nonetheless to be preferable, since its installed cost is often one-half to one-quarter that of hard-wired construction. Thus, wireless can make smart grid solutions affordable for institutions and businesses who otherwise could not take on the costs.

Schools, small office buildings, and apartment complexes that could not effectively participate in a purely hard-wired smart grid can readily benefit from wireless technologies. And, given that the majority of commercial facilities in North America are less than 5,000 sq feet, it is these smaller, older-construction buildings that must form the core of any effective movement towards a smart grid that truly transforms the energy and automation industries.

It is encouraging that now we are all looking at ways to make this wide participation happen. Wireless is at the heart of this effort. Two leading examples, wireless AMR, and wireless monitoring, provide a microcosm of the ways that wireless interoperability is fueling the progress of the smart grid.

Wireless AMR: Making Enterprise-Grade Electricity Usage Data Available to Average Facilities

With wireless pulse counters, active AMR can be implemented at locations where the cost of a wired system is simply not an option. It can also make collecting enterprise-grade electricity usage data feasible, even for a small staff with limited resources.

Those managing multiple residential facilities, be they apartments, assisted living, or dorms, often lack the staff to utilize passive AMR systems-sending someone out to read all meters is too time-consuming. With a wireless active AMR system, wireless pulse counters are installed on existing meters. They then transmit meter values to an on-site gateway/receiver, from which usage information can be monitored via the internet from anywhere. The system can work with nearly any existing BAS system, and can also be implemented where there is no automation system. Remote metering is thus made feasible, thanks to interoperable wireless, for a small campus or a group of midsize apartment buildings.

A wireless energy data collection system provides more than just monthly electricity usage. Integrated with an effective metering platform, such as those offered by Spinwave, wireless data collection can truly help bring the smart grid to end users. Using user-friendly online dashboards, facilities managers and residents can access information on the usage at each metering location 24 hours a day. They can receive the data they need to make informed energy usage decisions:

• Charts to compare current usage to past months
• Tables to compare one occupant’s usage to another’s
• Trending information to see, at a glance, consumption trends on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis

You can allow all residents to have some access to their usage data, or provide the data only to facilities staff. You can use the data to calculate your building’s carbon footprint, and share that information with residents, management, and potential tenants. You can publish overall usage data to an intranet or the Web, send email alerts—the ways of distributing and using your data can adapt to the way you run your facility. Wireless interoperable systems, paired with dashboards, are so flexible that they can easily fit a variety of institutional needs.

contemporary Wireless Monitoring: Collecting the Actionable Data You Need

At the heart of the smart grid is having essential data available, in time for it to be actionable. From measuring your carbon footprint to verifying loads in a demand response event, knowing more about your energy usage is essential. Wireless systems provide a host of ways to gather that data cost-effectively.

Normative data provides an important way to predict your future energy usage. With accurate temperature and humidity monitoring connected to your metering system, you can obtain normalized data on energy usage across facilities in different locations. With one dashboard, you can see how much energy is consumed for given degree days at any building you monitor. Armed with this information, you can make more-informed conservation choices. You can also immediately determine if usage on a given day is outside the norm, given the current temperature and humidity. Wireless sensors make it easy and cost-effective to install as many data collection points as you need to gather external temperature and humidity data. You can collect and monitor the data remotely, as well.

Distributed generation is another smart grid technology that requires strong data collection. The same wireless pulse counters that enable active AMR can also monitor distributed generation, providing accurate measures of how much electricity you are generating, as well as how much you consume. Verify the number of kWh that you sell back to the grid, along with how much you consume on-site, and how much energy you buy from the grid. If the energy you generate comes from sustainable sources, such as geothermal, this data can be essential for demonstrating, with solid numbers, both the value of your distributed generation efforts and the reduction in your carbon footprint.

Wireless monitoring is inexpensive to install, since there are no wires to run. This makes it possible to install more data points without increasing your costs. They are also flexible, so you can collect data in locations, both indoors and out, where you could not install a hard-wired sensor. All of the wireless monitoring systems from us are interoperable. They can easily integrate with existing automation systems, or exist as part of their own stand-alone systems if there is no previously installed BAS.

It’s cost-effective to integrate our wireless energy data collection systems with nearly all existing building automation systems. Gateways are available to transform pulse counter signals into BACnet, LON, or Modbus variables, or as basic digital outputs for communication with most other systems.

Interoperable wireless technologies can revolutionize how the grid operates. The Smart Grid can be implemented more widely, bringing with it lower energy costs and reduced greenhouse emissions.

Our existing stock of buildings has a wide range of building automation systems, communicating via BACnet, LON, Modbus, and a host of proprietary protocols. We have buildings with multiple systems, and multi-building facilities with a different system in each building. This is the building stock we have in place, and the reality that must be addressed as we strive towards creating more efficient systems. Few building owners are going to go to the expense of changing their existing BAS to take advantage of new smart grid technologies—only with interoperability can a smart grid be financially feasible.

Wireless brings the cost of smart grid technology even lower. It makes installation easier, as well. Thus, with wireless interoperable solutions, smart grid technology is becoming more widely available, bringing the grid of the future closer.

We offer several wireless products for the Smart Grid:

Wireless Pulse Counters:  Pulse Counters are used to wirelessly transmit electric/water/gas meter values (accumulated pulses and pulses per time) and make them available as BACnet, LON or Modbus variables using Spinwave’s BMS Protocol Interface or as digital outputs (pulse replication) using a BMS I/O Interface. Up to 31 pulse counters can be wirelessly connected to a single BMS protocol gateway for remote metering applications. Pulse Counters can be battery or line-powered.

Wireless Temperature Sensors:  Wireless zone temperature sensors are available in three versions:

• Temperature sensor (SWS-T)
• Temperature sensor with override button (SWS-TO)
• Temperature sensor with override button and set point adjustment (SWS-TOS)

Wireless sensors and pulse countersWireless Relative Humidity and Humidity & Temperature Sensors: Wireless relative humidity sensors are available in two versions:

• Wireless zone relative humidity sensor (SWS-RH)
• Wireless zone relative humidity and temperature sensor (SWS-T-RH)

Temperature, RH, and RH/Temp sensors can be easily interfaced to any building automation system, by either:

• Mapping sensor’s relative humidity and/or temperature values to analog outputs on Spinwave’s DDC I/O interface (SWRF-IO), or
• Mapping sensor data to pre-configured industry protocol objects (e.g. BACnet objects, LON SNVTs or Modbus registers) on our wireless protocol gateways.

BMS Protocol Interface:  BMS interface easily connects wireless sensors to open-protocol building automation systems. The wireless BMS interface consists of an RF receiver module and an open protocol interface. Up to 31 separate wireless devices (sensors and/or repeaters) are supported per BMS interface. Sensor data points are mapped to BMS network variables and are presented to the Building Management System as native BACnet objects, LON SNVTs or Modbus registers.

Wireless ASCII Protocol Interface:  Wireless ASCII interface allows for easy serial protocol integration of wireless sensor networks with proprietary embedded devices and PCs. Sensor data is provided via the interface’s RS-485 port and easy to parse text messages. The ASCII Protocol Interface is supported by our Logger Software for PC-based logging of sensor data in CSV, XML and HTML formats. Microsoft EXCEL® integration provides for a cost-effective reporting solution.

Site Survey Tool: Mobile Site Survey Tool allows users to easily test the RF link quality and signal strength at desired sensor locations prior to installation. Pushing the survey tool’s button will establish a communication link with the closest receiver module. The survey tool’s LED and blink pattern will indicate the link quality and signal strength of the 4 best RF channels among all 16 available IEEE 802.15.4 channels.

For more information on wireless smart grid technologies, contact Spinwave at


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