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Renesas Electronics and Wi-SUN Alliance Lay the Foundation for Smart Meter Success

By Peter Knazko, Director Wi-SUN Alliance Board, Renesas Electronics

Smart meters are revolutionizing the way we deliver power and water, but their global deployment still has a long way to go. Technology standards are an important part of that journey because they make utilities more confident in their infrastructure investments. That’s why Renesas Electronics and Wi-SUN Alliance are working together to create a robust certification path for meter vendors.

One of the most important communication standards for utilities is the Device Language Message Specification (DLMS)/Companion Specification for Energy Metering (COSEM). DLMS/COSEM is an application-layer interface protocol that allows smart meters to communicate with other equipment. It supports utilities in industries ranging from electrical companies through to water and gas delivery.

In 2020 the Alliance completed a three-year project with the DLMS User Association, which extended its own certification program with a Wi-SUN Field Area Network (FAN) 1.0 Profile.

Now, the Wi-SUN Alliance is working on certification for version 1.1 of the Wi-SUN FAN, with Renesas providing the tools to support that project.

Why DLMS?

Originally adopted in Europe, DLMS/COSEM is the global standard for smart metering technology.

COSEM is the part of the standard that supports the meter as an information server. It can retain information on well over 100 types of data objects, ranging from basic things such as the serial number of the meter, to sensor measurements and pricing information. It can also turn relays on and off.

The DLMS part of the standard provides connectivity from the meter to the communications network, and is flexible enough to connect over a simple serial interface or atop a wireless mesh network like Wi-SUN. This is the part that metering communications module providers will be able to certify for Wi-SUN compatibility.

Why use DLMS with Wi-SUN?

Utilities that need DLMS technology to drive metering solutions often prefer Wi-SUN as their wireless communication network technology. It brings several key benefits to the table:

  • It’s open

Wi-SUN is based on open standards, meaning that there are no proprietary licensing fees.

  • It’s reliable

As a proven mesh-based sub-GHz networking protocol, Wi-SUN also provides the reliability that utilities need for critical wireless communications in highly distributed environments. If a device in the metering infrastructure fails, then other meters can still relay each other’s signals, getting them back to a central control point.

Connecting meters to the utility across a wireless mesh network can alert operators to service outages in real time, enabling them to address problems quickly. Wi-SUN’s sub-GHz technology supports this communication even indoors thanks to its good signal penetration.

  • It’s secure

Wi-SUN is like most other wireless communication technologies, in that it encrypts its data before transmission. However, Renesas considers it more secure because utilities and their integrators can read and verify the underlying code to ensure its data privacy. They don’t have to rely on the assurances of proprietary technology vendors.

  • It’s interoperable

Utilities often don’t have their own internal engineering groups, instead relying on integrators and vendors to make their products interoperable. This has led to siloed multi-vendor deployments, or inflexible single-vendor lock-in.

The interoperability of an open-standard solution is valuable to utilities, introducing more competition and lowering their price point while offering them the flexibility of a multi-vendor portfolio. Wi-SUN already enables utilities to specify more than one vendor in their RFPs. These vendors can make their products interoperate by supporting the Wi-SUN specification.

Why Renesas?

As one of the few Wi-SUN Alliance member organizations focusing on silicon manufacture, Renesas was the first choice to provide the tools that support the DLMS Wi-SUN FAN certification process. Originally Renesas Technology, we formed in 2003 as a joint venture between the semiconductor divisions of Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric. In 2010, we merged with the chip group of NEC Electronics to become Renesas Electronics. We were a founding member of the Wi-SUN Alliance in 2012.

Since the Alliance announced the Wi-SUN FAN Certification Program in 2018, we have joined other members in certifying products for use by utilities and service providers as they participate in smart city deployments across the globe.

We were the first semiconductor vendor to have a Wi-SUN FAN 1.0-certified solution (since updated with a 1.1 version). We provide the Wi-SUN firmware for free in our silicon, which also includes tools for managing meter telemetry.

We have also been deeply involved with promoting DLMS, especially in Latin America, where it is gaining particular traction with utilities. In Mexico, the monopoly utility has found Wi-SUN to be better than alternatives for wireless metering communications. In Brazil, utilities have adopted our reference design as a gold standard, and we are engaged in a government-funded engineering organization certified as a Wi-SUN certification lab that has relationships with several of the country’s distribution utilities.

What Certifying DLMS/COSEM means for utilities

In our communications with utilities, we have found them excited by the idea of a Wi-SUN FAN certification for DLMS/COSEM. Utilities buying Wi-SUN-compatible meters can connect with even more confidence. It’s just one more step to reducing friction in the sales cycle.

Wi-SUN certification for DLMS makes an already appealing wireless standard even more attractive for metering infrastructure. It empowers utilities to get what they want.

This creates better utility infrastructure that serves the greater public good. Utilities with reliable, interoperable equipment can reduce the amount of necessary maintenance, enabling them to focus on the other demands associated with running an electrical, gas, or water delivery network.

This is the perfect time to create a path for DLMS/COSEM Wi-SUN certification. While deployments to date have been impressive, Grandview Research predicts a 7.6% CAGR for electricity smart meters alone between 2023 and 2030 as it rises from $13.06bn to $21.81bn in revenue.

Easing the decision to purchase a Wi-SUN and DLMS/COSEM smart meter will prove invaluable as we pursue even more efficiency to drive down costs, improve performance, and preserve natural resources in our utility infrastructures.