Smart-meter makers embark on common standards push

The utilities metering firms Elster, Landis+Gyr and Secure say their open-standards-based collaboration will speed up the rollout of gas and electricity smart meters in the UK

Three leading utility meter manufacturers have joined forces to work on developing standards that will let their smart meters work in any British home's smart energy system.

The Elster, Landis+Gyr and Secure said on Thursday that they will use open standards and available specifications for smart meter technologies to "dramatically accelerate the rollout of gas and electricity smart meters in the UK".

Smart meters are to be installed in homes and businesses across the country by 2020 as the basis for the UK's 'smart grid' and on Tuesday, the energy regulator Ofgem announced financial incentives for energy suppliers to invest in smart-metering technology. This intelligent network promises to improve energy efficiency by reporting usage far more accurately than at present and coordinating supply accordingly.

"Smart metering in the UK is a huge technical and logistical project," Elster executive vice president Frank Hyldmar said in a joint statement. "Interim solutions jointly developed by industry leaders can only ease the transition to open standards and enable an earlier adoption of smart-metering solutions."

Secure's managing director, Babu Babel, said in the statement that the initiative for common standards will "provide the market with workable solutions far more quickly than current processes and provide a bridge to an enduring interoperable market".

The standards will give energy suppliers a range of smart meters and in-home displays that use current GPRS networks, but that will also be upgradeable to use other communication standards, according to the statement. Last week, BT, Arqiva and Detica announced a partnership that will bid for the communications part of the national smart-grid rollout, using a long-range radio technology called FlexNet.

Elster, Landis+Gyr and Secure said they will formulate a roadmap for "interchangeable and interoperable command sets to support smart home area networks (HANs) based on Zigbee's smart energy profile (SEP) and wide area networks (WANs) based on DLMS protocols, ultimately ensuring that any smart product from any of the three can be installed as part of any given household's smart system".

The companies aim to have this interoperability in place in September 2011.

Landis+Gyr supplies smart meters for the Californian energy company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which admitted in May that thousands of its meters had technical problems. At the time, PG&E said one percent of its customers with smart meters had seen their utility bills go up due to the faults, but also pointed out that 99 percent billing accuracy is better than that achieved using traditional meters.

At this week's Black Hat conference, experts expressed fears over the security of Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems such as those used in smart grids, predicting that such systems' weak firewalls could be susceptible to attacks.

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