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Standardisation and certification of functionalities

IDIS Webinar “Useful advice for a massive rollout” – part 2

For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic

This is the second part of the IDIS Association’s webinar, titled “Useful advice for a massive rollout”. In this continuation, we discussed the importance of standardization and certification of all functionalities. Our experts, Mr. Joren Moelans, Mr. Nenad Medjeral, and Mr. Marko Mismas shared their opinions on the matter.

Click here to read the first part of the webinar

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Is it necessary for all the functions used during a massive rollout, to be defined by the appropriate specification and confirmed by the appropriate certification program?

 

Nenad Medjeral:

The commissioning process depends on how utilities are running their process. This process in some countries is defined and specified by regulators or the utilities that are big enough to do it on their own. Coming up with a unified process and specification would take time and harmonizing the common points is time-consuming.

 

The certification makes sense, if the common process is defined. In some markets, it’s already done by regulators and some bigger utilities.

 

Having the process well specified is the precondition to verify if the device is following the process and requested functionalities. That would help and improve the rollout and the installation of the devices.

 

Marko Mismas:

For massive rollouts, utilities typically don’t rely on just one supplier. To achieve interoperability on the interfaces of different suppliers, they need to have the implementation done by standards and certified by a certification program.

 

For specific functions, used just on specific rollouts, the lab interoperability test must be done. Then, a massive pilot operation has to be conducted. After all that, the massive rollout can start.

 

Joren Moelens:

Standardization is really important. It makes life easier for everyone. Not only for the utilities, but for the suppliers also.

Sometimes, utilities need specific use cases that require additions or even deviations from standardized products. This is mostly driven by legislation in different markets.

 

If you use the standardized solution, you lower the risk of ending up with a vendor lock-in or interoperability problems of the meters. These standards are not always sufficient. You also need the certification label to be sure that the meter implements the standard in the appropriate way.

 

The country-specific or utility-specific part is the hardest. You’ll get the specification for the standardized product easily, but what with the extras? You need testing and certification for that as well, because the chances are that this is where the deviations and most bugs can appear. My advice is to rely on the standards and not to develop your own specification from the ground, especially if you’re a small utility.

Which standards with certification programs guarantee interoperability and interchangeability in the field when two communication technologies are used?

 

Joren Moelens:

At Fluvius, we now have one communication channel, with adding a second communication to reach 100%. We don’t plan to integrate two communication stacks in one meter. This is a cost-driven decision. When we incorporate a second technology, we do it by using a different meter.

 

We have a base model, that has the cheaper technology and to close the gap we will use another. It would be more costly to put both communications in all the meters and it wouldn’t be efficient because the second communication channel would not be used in 90% of the time. If you choose to have a meter with two technologies, I think the standardization should be done on the application level and the application layer should be agnostic from the communication used. This is where the IDIS Association is helping.

 

Marko Mismas:

Currently there is the G3PLC-Alliance's hybrid specification with certification program, that is covering two communication technologies. It is also backwards compatible with PLC and RF communication and just the PLC communication. This allows the utilities to use PLC and RF to easily achieve 100% coverage.

 

Dual implementation can also be more investment-proof for future use cases and needs. If you implemented one communication, you have the ability to add, step-by-step, additional communication interface to your smart meters, so you can cover the future cases.

 

Nenad Medjeral:

IDIS specification and certification process can be used for two technologies. From the very beginning the specification is structured in a way to be communication agnostic. It covers the application level so that all the metering points are seen identically. IDIS specification starting from Package 2 is open to any type of IP based communication.

 

G3PLC-Alliance is coming up with a hybrid solution, and it can be easily integrated in the IDIS specification as an additional communication profile.

 

The certification process itself is easily expandable in that sense. It’s possible to certify it even today. If we have a dual communication solution with the communication profiles which are already available in the IDIS specification, it can be certified. I’m expecting further evolution in that aspect from the IDIS Association.

To cover all user-specific functions with appropriate specification and certification programs, the utility has three options: together with IDIS Association, with its own resources or with external consultants.

What do you think this decision depends on?

 

Nenad Medjeral:

Both IDIS association and consultants are not exclusive. They could also be combined, depending on the utilities know-how.

 

We already have a working model in the IDIS Association. If there is an organization that covers more utilities or countries, then that organization can contact the IDIS Association directly and trigger the work on country-specific IDIS extension.

 

Joren Moelens:

It depends on few things: a size of the utility, the internal knowledge and the amount of resources that utilities can spend on this project.

 

External consultants are good for utilities with limited knowledge of smart metering. They are good for the start, but not always sustainable in the long term.

 

You can create specification or certification programs by yourself, like big utilities do, or you can rely on standardization organizations like IDIS and work with them. That way, utilities can have less in-depth knowledge and everything is done in collaboration.

 

Maybe this hybrid solution is the best to have the best chance that your country-specific extensions will be taken up in the next evolution in the standard itself.

 

Marko Mismas:

The IDIS Association is a good way to go, but it doesn’t cover all the local needs and legislations. Taking an external consultant who will take care of those specifics in coordination with IDIS Association is a good idea and the best combination to bring good results.

 

The conclusion:

Utilities should use international standards and certified products. It’s the only way to prevent the vendor lock-in or ending up with an obsolete system. Interchangeability is also a big advantage when the supplier is faced with logistic problems.

IDIS specification is created to be independent from communication channels and the emphasis is on the application level so it can be easily adapted.

It’s important to do everything in collaboration with the IDIS Association to synchronize all the use cases and to include them into the specification and certification program easier. Even the country-specific functionalities should be tested, analyzed and studied in great detail.