Siemens to Open Up Smart Metering Communications for Meters Produced by Other Manufacturers

September 20, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Siemens Energy will open up its previously proprietary Distribution Line Carrier (DLC) communications protocol, which utilizes the low-voltage network as a metering communications channel. The company will thus give utilities the opportunity also to deploy meters produced by other manufacturers within its automated metering and information system AMIS. By opening up its DLC communications protocol Siemens is setting a milestone in the direction of open communication with smart meters and takes the first step toward establishing a new standard in high-efficiency metering communications via power line.

Siemens Energy offers holistic smart metering solutions based on its automated metering and information system AMIS as a key component of smart grids. Important features of this system are smart meters, which can transmit consumption data and load profiles either via telecommunications lines or via the low-voltage network to a central data processing station. For this automatic telemetering via the low-voltage network Siemens has developed a proprietary Distribution Line Carrier (DLC) communications application based on spread spectrum signal modulation. This form of modulation, which is based on spectral frequency spreading of the transmission signals, makes communications practically insensitive to interference signals and distortion. The protocol thus ensures hitch-free functioning of smart metering solutions within smart grids. With the opening up of its previously proprietary DLC communications application Siemens will now enable utilities also to deploy meters produced by other manufacturers within the AMIS smart metering system.

The DLC communications application can handle all changes in the physical communications parameters of a low-voltage supply network such as signal damping, noise, network disturbances, signal coupling and changes in the network configuration. It thus enables almost full availability of this communications technology. Furthermore, the application offers sufficient scope for the integration of future smart grid functions and enables the incorporation of an existing network automation structure based on IEC protocols.

With the increase in the feed-in of renewables-based power into the grid and the associated rise in the need to control consumption directly on the power consumer side, smart meters will increasingly develop into multifunctional smart grid components. To be equipped for the future Siemens recommends the deployment of meters based on a digital signal processor (DSP) architecture. This hardware design also allows the activation of future developments in smart grid communications protocols. It also allows further refinement of the metering function of the meter itself, for example the metering of grid parameters and communications functions within households. This takes place without having to directly access the meter via a software download from a central point. The Siemens DLC communications protocol already has a proven track record as part of smart metering and smart grid solutions such as those implemented at the utilities Energie AG in Austria, Arbon Energie in Switzerland and EnBW Ostwürttemberg Donau Ries AG (EnBW ODR) in Germany.