SAN FRANCISCO, USA: The SIP Forum (www.sipforum.org) has recently formed a new Smart Grid Special Interest Group (SIG) with the focus of evaluating the appropriateness of using SIP as a protocol for a number of Smart Grid areas, including the Home Area Network (HAN), Utilities' Operational Network, and PEV (Plug-In Vehicle) deployments.
The Smart Grid is the modernization of the electricity grid using communication technology with the primary goals of reducing energy consumption, reducing cost (for utilities and consumers), increasing reliability and creating new services for all participants in the value chain.
While the current focus is on electricity, similar concepts can be applied to other utility systems such as water, gas, etc. Such a modernization has recently become a significant focus for governments, vendor communities (utility companies and partners) as well as Industry/Standardization organizations such as NIST, GridWise, IPSO, the IETF and IEEE.
The Smart Grid architecture requires a ‘communications overlay network’ which can help facilitate ‘intelligent communication’ (discovery, session establishment, routing, addressing to name a few) between various nodes of the heterogeneous Smart Grid network.
Several of the standards bodies and organizations mentioned above are working towards identifying standards and protocols that meet the goal of a robust, secure and interoperable Smart Grid network.
Challenges and opportunities
The Smart Grid initiative is founded on the premise that communication between devices using standard protocols will bring significant value to the electricity industry.
While there are many protocols and standards used by the electricity industry, none address the need for a common, ubiquitous network. Also, the majority of these protocols and standards are quite different from those used in the telecommunications industry.
The challenges facing the electricity industry are very similar to the challenges that the telecommunications industry faced a decade ago which subsequently led to the deployment of IP based networks and SIP as a de-facto protocol for session management.
It is the SIP Forum’s belief that the ‘communications overlay network’ of the Smart Grid industry is very similar to the communications network of the telecommunications industry, and it would benefit the Smart Grid immensely to assess how protocols such as SIP addressed the challenges in the telecommunications industry and how it may be able to address their challenges.
This will also greatly reduce the cycle of starting something new, making mistakes and re-doing it all over again. Why not learn from the mistakes made by the telecommunications industry for a similar problem?
The focus of the SIP Forum SIG will be to evaluate the appropriateness of using SIP as a protocol for the following Smart Grid areas:
* HAN (Home Area Network) – between devices and the Customer Energy Management System (Customer EMS) (The smart meter could be the Customer EMS or a separate device)
* Utility’s Operational Network, which comprises the following:
a. NAN (Neighborhood Area Network) – between HAN edge devices to collection points (smart meters and/or Customer EMSs are examples of HAN edge devices).
b. Backhaul-Network – that is responsible for transmission of the data between the collection points to the utility core network.
c. Core Network – which includes the complete back-end utility subsystem comprising of head-end systems, Meter Data Management Systems (MDMs), interface to enterprise/business applications (SAP, Oracle etc), Multimedia communication for field-force, surveillance etc.
* PEV (Plugin Electric Vehicle) – between Vehicles to the back-office control systems that manage charging, roaming, telemetry and other issues as well as inter-vehicle communication (for further study).
Furthermore, the Smart Grid SIG will also evaluate the appropriateness of SIP in the list of priorities identified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the document “NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Release 1.0 (Draft) ,” dated September 2009.
The current priority areas as identified by the above mentioned document are:
* Demand and Response and Consumer Energy Efficiency
* Wide Area Situational Awareness
* Electric Storage
* Electric Transportation
* Advanced Metering Infrastructure
* Distribution Grid Management
* Cyber Security
* Network Communications