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M2M systems central to smart grid's success

By Max Burkhalter
March 4, 2013

Every once in a while I look at how utility providers are handling the smart grid and I just want to shake my head. Some companies get so focused on putting smart meters everywhere that they ignore the need for upgraded networks, machine to machine (M2M) communications , energy storage solutions and other technologies. These solutions deliver the core gains offered by smart meters.

At their core, smart meters only do one thing - provide an added layer of intelligence. Utility providers need other technologies to actually do anything with that knowledge. According to a recent, the M2M sector could soon see major growth as more utility vendors wake up to the importance of secondary smart grid systems and begin moving beyond smart meters.

Implementing M2M systems in smart grids
According to the news source, M2M communications systems have become so inexpensive that they are not only economically viable, they are actually cheap in the best sense possible. Furthermore, the M2M industry is not a smart-grid specific sector. Instead, M2M technologies are gaining relevance in just about every market. As a result, the industry is worth approximately $1 trillion and can support cost-effective pricing models and innovation regardless of how the smart grid develops.

The stability offered by the M2M market size could prove integral to helping utility providers find the right technologies within the price range they need.

The report explained that M2M solutions have the potential to emerge as major contributors to the broad home automation landscapeby working in conjunction with the smart grid to create major energy efficiency benefits. As a result, M2M communications could prove central to the long-term development of smart grid solutions. If the M2M for home automation ecosystem comes together, it could generate approximately 7.1gigatons of carbon emissions savings by 2020.

Making smart grid and M2M work
While M2M solutions and smart grid technologies can combine to create opportunities for innovation, there are some issues that have to be resolved in the process. In particular, many utility-specific solutions use serial connections to transmit data. Smart grid deployments are heavily dependent on Ethernet. As a result, serial to Ethernet terminal servers are becoming an integral part of the smart grid's success. Furthermore, the serial to Ethernet issue is becoming more important in industrial settings as well, as many manufacturers are using Ethernet is a wider range of systems.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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