With a global focus on
energy and our constant dependency on wireless communications it’s not a
surprise that when you mix energy meters with wireless you’re bound to get a
market “hotspot” for control systems and automation. There was a time when
meters weren’t networked and didn’t communicate and a facility technician or the
utility’s “Meter Reader” walked to and read the water or electric meter and
recorded the numbers on paper or a spreadsheet. The utility industry has long
ago moved to Automatic Meter Reading (AMR). However, for some large buildings
and commercial or education campuses, manual reading of meters is still the way
It’s fair to say that almost
every existing building is in need of additional metering to better manage
energy performance and could use a simple efficient way of collecting accurate and
timely data. Unless you’re determined to hassle with cabling an existing
building space or have the time to deal with the difficulties of retrofitting
conduit and proper containment for the cable, you’ll need to go wireless to get
those meters installed and transmitting data.
have stepped up and provide us with many wireless meter choices. Wireless
communication can be built into the meter or a wireless transceiver can be
added as an adjunct to an existing meter. What follows is an overview of the marketplace,
the general configuration of the wireless meter networks and the choices you
may have for a wireless metering network deployment. Let’s start with a
sampling of some of the many offerings in the marketplace:
AIC Wireless has several flavors of
one of the most interesting wireless solutions, and is able to handle LonWorks
(WLT900), BACnet MSTP/IP (WBT900), Modbus TCP, RS485, and Ethernet (AIC900)
protocols. The units are plug-and-play and operate in the 900 MHz frequency.
The range of the units can be extended from very short distances up to 40 miles
with the use of a 15 dBi antenna (basically a line-of-site repeater). Connector
types include an Ethernet RJ-45, USB, and RPSMA. The devices are small
(approximately 4.5” X 3.5” X 1.8”) and weigh in around 9 ounces. The
transceivers are transparent on the network rather than appearing as a node on
the network. The transceiver connects to a hard-wired controller via a base
station transceiver, with the controller connected via an Ethernet network back
to the system server and an operator administration station.
Veris Industries has a transceiver (H8830)
that can handle both Modbus (the dominant protocol used in meters) and pulse
devices. Being able to handle pulse devices allows for communication to many
existing power, water, gas, steam and BTU meters. The transceivers operate in
the 900 Mhz range, are configured in a self-optimizing mesh network and can
communicate up to 1,500 feet per hop. There is a companion data acquisition
system (H8822) that can handle wired or wireless meters and sensors, and can
store interval data.
E-Mon’s wireless metering system is
geared towards commercial, industrial and multi-family residential buildings. It consists of several components. This
includes 1-phase and 3-phase wireless meters (the Class 2100 and 4100 meters). It
also includes a wireless socket meter package, primarily for use in
multi-family residential, which allows existing meters to utilize the wireless
metering system. E-Mon also uses a self-configuring mesh network. The E-Mon
wireless meters are good for about 200 to 2,000 feet within a building depending
on line of site and potential interference. The company also has a separate
external wireless module that can be used with existing E-Mon power meters and
another external module that can handle pulse output which is more geared to
gas and water. The system uses a 915 Mhz unlicensed frequency for its wireless.
Sitting in-between the wireless transceivers associated with the meters and an
IT network is a wireless gateway called the Wireless Data Collector (WDC) which
collects data and manages the traffic on the network.
has a wireless transceiver very similar to that of Veris Industries. The
differences are that the Veris can be configured for a little more radio output
power (150mW) while the Measurlogic can be factory configured to use the 2.4
Ghz radio frequency.
has a series of meters with wireless built-in to the meter. The 6X03 meter is
for low density applications that will be connected to a building automation
system. The connectivity is through 802.11 wireless. Interestingly, Triacta
provides an Ethernet jack on the meter (in case you can get cabling to the
meter) allowing the meter to connect to the IT network. It supports Modbus TCP
and BACnet/IP. The 6X03 model can support 2 to 6 meters depending on the phase
of the meters. Their 6X12 meters are high density, capable of handling 8 to 24
meters, and having similar wireless connectivity.
The wireless networks can
be configured in many ways; mesh networks, point-to-point, fixed,
point-to-multipoint and combinations of each. The mesh network may increase
reliability, ease system installation and possibly reduce the number of data
collectors; the downside for a mesh network may be an increase in network
traffic. The ideal solution will be determined by the application, the
footprint or size of the network, the number of devices, the potential for interference
with the use of unlicensed radio frequencies, the existing building automation
systems and the terrain if the installation is exterior to the building.
Also note that wireless communications
can be one-way or two-way. In a one-way system, data from the meter is obtained
by the system polling the device or the transmitter broadcasting data at
pre-determined intervals. Two-way allows for both read and write capabilities,
an example being an operator’s workstation being able to “write to” or program
the sensor or meter. A mesh network requires two-way communications at the
costs for wireless flow or power meter is in the range of $3,500 to $5,000 each.
Also, while the focus may be on energy data, the meters bring additional
benefits in identifying leakage or tampering.
Assume if you will that the
largest problem with managing an existing building is gathering relevant data
and transforming data into meaningful actionable information. Wireless metering
is an excellent way to fairly quickly install a data gathering system and do so
at a reasonable cost. If markets are made by supply and demand, the wireless
metering market has both; a variety of products and solutions from a large
number of companies and a demand or substantial need in existing buildings.
information, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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