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January 2009

Local Communications This document provides a short summary of the report published in December 2008 by the SRSM Project covering the subject of Local Communications for Smart Metering. The full report addresses the context, requirements, solution options, evaluation process and recommendations for the use of low power radio (and other) technologies with regard to smart meters in Great Britain. This summary provides a ‘plain English’ overview of the content of the full report.

Smart Metering

SRSM & Beyond Project Local Communications Development Report Summary

Version: 1 Author: Simon Harrison

Local Communications Development - Summary

About the Energy Retail Association
The Energy Retail Association (ERA) is the trade organisation which represents the major electricity and gas suppliers in the domestic market in Great Britain. A major component of its work is the preparation and execution of policy on a range of key issues for the sector, including selling, billing, transfers, regulation, energy efficiency, social issues and new technology. The members of the Association are:

About The SRSM & Beyond Project
The Supplier Requirements of Smart Metering (SRSM) project has been running at the ERA since 2006. In that time it has produced proposals and options for an Operational Framework for Smart Metering, published in August 2007. It has also worked alongside ERA members and other stakeholders to produce documentation on key smart metering subjects (communications, requirements, meter specifications etc.) as well as providing responses to key government consultations and initiatives on smart metering. You can contact the project team via email to the project manager, Jason Brogden:,
Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright All rights including copyright in this document or the information contained in it are owned by the Energy Retail Association and its members. All copyright and other notices contained in the original material must be retained on any copy that you make. All other use is prohibited. All other rights of the Energy Retail Association and its members are reserved. Disclaimer This document presents development work on local communications for smart metering in Great Britain. It does not present a complete and final definition of local communications for smart metering in Great Britain and the options presented do not represent all possible solutions. We have used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy of the contents of the document but offer no warranties (express or implied) in respect of its accuracy or that the proposals or options will work. To the extent permitted by law, the Energy Retail Association and its members do not accept liability for any loss which may arise from reliance upon information contained in this document. This document is presented for information purposes only and none of the information, proposals and options presented herein constitutes an offer. Contact Details th Energy Retail Association, 4 Floor, 17 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR Tel: 020 7930 9175 Email: Web: Registered in England & Wales No. 4844678. Registered office at the above address

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Local Communications Development - Summary

Purpose of the Summary
This summary document is intended to give a concise, plain English overview of the Local Communications Development report which runs to over 150 pages, some of which is quite technical. It has been written, as far as is practical, in non-technical language to make the summary accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Local Communications Development - Background
In January 2008, the steering group of the SRSM project agreed to establish a working group, including a wide range of stakeholders, to consider the solution options for in-home communications (called ‘Local Communications’ by the project) for smart metering in Great Britain. Local Communications, it is important to note, are distinct from communications to and from the home (called ‘WAN Communications’ by the project). Technologies that could be used to and from the home – e.g. cellular, long range radio, broadband – are not necessarily suitable for communications within a home. Throughout 2008, the Government has been considering the options for policy to support smart metering and much of the framework for the operation of smart metering will depend on Government policy decisions, particularly on the appropriate market structure.. However, the technology to support smart metering communication within a home is viewed as being less exposed to the effects of industry market structure changes, and therefore could reasonably be progressed whilst the policy decisions remain outstanding. The Group The SRSM project team, using agreed terms of reference, invited a broad cross-section of energy industry and metering experts to participate in the work of the group. In all, over 130 people were listed as members of the group drawn from a range of experts, stakeholders and other interested parties: Energy suppliers & other energy participants, including regulators and government departments Meter manufacturers & metering service providers Technology providers Communications service providers Home display and appliance manufacturers



Local Communications Development - Summary

Communications experts Others – water utilities, telecare, software providers etc. The group included a number of international participants. Over the course of 2008, the group convened six full-day meetings, all with over 40 people in attendance. The Website The SRSM project team has, throughout the process, maintained a public website covering the activities of the group. All of the materials used by the group are available to view: the full version history of the report and comments provided by reviewers; full details of group members and meeting participants; all presentations and notes of the group meetings; papers on the solution options, and general smart metering information. The website also includes a discussion forum, which has seen some lively debate, particularly on the merits of individual solution technologies.

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Local Communications Development - Summary

The Report
Presented below are short summaries of each of the sections of the full report.

Setting The Scene
The document includes an introductory section explaining the scope of the SRSM project and some of the important conventions used within the report. This includes the important project definition of ‘what is a smart meter?’, where meters are located, and what the difference is between a ‘meter’ and a ‘metering system’. It also includes an extensive seven page glossary of terms and acronyms used, which is particularly useful for some of the more technical areas of the document.

What Are Local Communications?
In other smart metering markets, Local Communications might be known as the Home Area Network (HAN), but the SRSM project draws an important distinction, as customers may already have existing HANs. This section of the report sets the context for all that follows, explaining why it is expected for smart meters to communicate with devices in a home. It sequentially demonstrates how: smart meters can talk to each other (gas to electricity and vice versa) and to display units to provide customer feedback in near real-time – i.e. the smart utility context establishing a standard for the smart utility context will allow energy retailers and customers to consider different options for how to display energy consumption information within a home. Examples mentioned have included TVs, personal computers and mobile phones. This type of activity is called the smart display context as a result of developing a solution to meet the smart utility and smart display requirements to transfer data between different devices in a new network, a platform should therefore be available that could include other devices. Examples mentioned in the report include water meters, thermostats, home appliances etc. This is the smart home context By requiring that all smart meters use the same solution and data formats, the smart home context should deliver an interoperable platform that allows energy data to be viewed and shared by a number of devices and applications.



Local Communications Development - Summary

As an example of the use of smart metering in the illustration below, consumption and tariff information could be used by home appliances to run only when the energy is cheapest and to send data to a range of display devices. It also shows how other applications could make use of the link from smart meters to remote systems – for example smoke detectors, security systems or home health sensors.
Microgeneration ‘Cluster’ Sensor ‘Cluster’

Display Device ‘Cluster’

Utility Meters

White Goods/Demand Response ‘Cluster’

Smart meters could use Local Communications technology to work with renewable and microgeneration devices to optimise the energy efficiency of an individual home. A key point in this section of the report is that, by making sure that smart meters from any meter manufacturer can work with each other, and any display device, an opportunity is created to encourage innovation in the home management and appliance sector – all of which should support the critical requirement to reduce overall energy consumption.

Associated Topics
The report includes consideration of a number of key topics associated with Local Communications for smart metering. This includes: an extensive section on the need for a national specification within all energy meters options for using combinations of wired and wireless technologies, particularly for buildings that are challenging for low power radio the potential for the same technology to provide a link to remote parties, such as energy suppliers, through the use of existing or new communications infrastructure opportunities to support third party applications using the smart metering communications platform within homes general topics such as security, privacy, device classification, potential uses and processes, types of data

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Local Communications Development - Summary

Further into the report, sections are presented covering Network & Addressing Protocols, Frequencies and Data Exchange Formats.

The group agreed the following key principles: Utility focus – the key requirement remains the communication between smart meters and energy information display/control devices. Support for other services and applications will be as a result of developing a practical solution to the utility requirement. The utility focus should necessarily result in a low bandwidth platform – energy consumption and tariff data and control commands do not require high data throughput rates. The smart Metering Systems themselves will be responsibility of the energy Supplier. The Home Area Network may be owned by the customer. This allows customers to add or remove Local Devices. The Local Communications solution will be interoperable – supporting a range of metering products and local device applications. The Local Communications solution will make use, wherever practical, of open standards and architecture. The intention is to adopt (and potentially develop) an existing solution for Local Communications rather than develop a new one. This includes the protocol and data definition. The Local Communications baseline solution will be the same in all energy smart meters – establishing a national specification. The Local Communications solution will be energy efficient. The Local Communications solution will be secure, as described in the requirements below. Additional security measures may be implemented by the Metering System and the application software. The Local Communications solution will be secure in the context of providing networked communications using low power radio (or similar) and ongoing technological developments in security. The Local Communications solution shall, as far as possible, be future flexible – supporting innovation at the same time as supporting legacy systems.

The group extensively discussed the requirements, working from a baseline developed by the energy suppliers as part of



Local Communications Development - Summary

preparing the Smart proposals from 2007.




Seventeen distinct requirements are presented in the following categories: General requirements Communication requirements Security requirements Data requirements Network requirements Installation & Maintenance requirements Customer requirements

The definition of user requirements has been highlighted in the report recommendations as a key area for future development. The report also includes extensive notes on factors related to the agreed requirements, and notes that there may be additional requirements – from other parties or that arise as the overall smart metering programme develops.

Solution Options
Following the establishment of the group, it was agreed that it would not be possible to consider all of the potential low power radio solutions. Six technologies were selected for detailed evaluation, based upon experience and application in smart metering, use in the ‘home automation’ communications markets and recommendations by group members. The six technologies below have an understandably European basis, except for ZigBee which has been successful in similar smart metering initiatives in America and Australia.


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Local Communications Development - Summary

The report provides details of eight alternative technologies that could also be considered. For each of the selected six solution options, the report presents a detailed set of information using a standard template. It covers such items as hardware, cost, data transmission speed, frequency, protocols, maturity and use in other markets and applications.

Desktop Evaluation
One of the major pieces of work by the group was a desktop evaluation of the solution option technologies against a set of agreed evaluation criteria specific to smart metering in Great Britain. A full description of the process undertaken, and the outputs, can be found in the report. The group agreed thirty six weighted criteria grouped into the following categories: Fit with requirements Interoperability Power Data Performance Radio Performance Security Future resistance Cost considerations Maturity – i.e. use in other markets, applications and products The group then saw presentations by each of the solutions representatives and over the course of two meetings used a traffic light system to evaluate the solutions against each of the criteria.



Local Communications Development - Summary

A great deal of supporting information was provided for each of the solutions by the representatives, and this forms one of the major elements of the report. Whilst completing the desktop evaluation process, it became evident that a number of solutions should be technically capable of meeting the requirements, and that the desktop evaluation process would not be sufficient to reach conclusions. Therefore it was agreed that one of the key recommendations from the group would be to undertake physical tests and trials to determine which would be most suitable.

Conclusions & Recommendations
The report concludes that the exercise had been particularly successful in engaging a wide audience on the topic, and that all concerned had learnt from working together. It further notes that, as a result of the work of the group, the solutions options are making encouraging steps towards meeting the requirements for smart metering in Great Britain. It further concludes that the work started by the group will provide a solid foundation for subsequent work, and importantly, that there are a number of technical options that are likely to be capable of delivering the requirements of smart metering in Great Britain. The report recommends a number of actions, key amongst them are: That work in this area continues in a timely manner, and that an earlier decision would help all parties to develop products supporting smart metering as soon as possible That the evaluation process moves from the desktop to independent field and laboratory testing That further work is done to understand and document specific user requirements – i.e. how much data would be sent, how large the files might be and how often they are expected to be sent To include stakeholders that have not, so far, been party to the work of the group – electricity distribution network operators are an example

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Local Communications Development - Summary

The recommendations section also includes an evaluation criteria/testing cross reference table to identify how each of the criteria could be evaluated in further work. It also includes short summary statements from the project on each of the six main solutions considered in the document. Finally, the report notes that there are still some outstanding issues to resolve, around data ownership, network ownership, last mile coverage etc.

Document Appendices & References
The report has several appendices: A cross check section to ensure the evaluation criteria cover all of the requirements, principles and assumptions A suggestion of criteria to evaluate technologies for ‘Last Mile’ suitability A synopsis of an early field test undertaken by members of the group Supporting statements and information on ZigBee, Bluetooth and AtEx regulations The report also provides a comprehensive documentation and online references. list of

The Full Report
The final version of the SRSM Local Communications Development Report is available to download or read online: From the group website: From the ERA website: If you have difficulties accessing the document, please send an email to the project team (details are above). You can also order a printed and bound version for less than £4.50 (excl. postage) to cover printing costs only from: