In the following excerpt, Jeff Scheb, director of product management at Landis+Gyr, discusses the importance of network interoperability to the future of utilities. This interview appears in the publication, "How Wi-SUN Technology Empowers Smart City and IoT Development," by Wi-SUN Alliance.
The Wi-SUN Alliance is a consortium of global corporations and world leaders in smart utility, smart city, and Internet of Things markets. To fully serve the requirements of a wide range of smart city applications, the Wi-SUN Alliance® sees the need for an open standards based, robust, and secure network for utilities and other smart city applications. The 300-member, 46-country Wi-SUN alliance is driving the development of the Wi-SUN Field Area Network (FAN), a robust, efficient, and secure wireless technology.
1. Where do you see Wi-SUN FAN applications in the next five years?
As “AMI 2.0” takes hold over the next few years, Wi-SUN FAN technology will likely become a ubiquitous requirement in new smart grid deployments, supporting diverse applications such as DA, DER, Load Management, and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging in addition to traditional AMI.
Some of the initial drivers for interoperability will be around supply chain diversification and cost reduction, especially with respect to large smart metering / AMI deployments. However, over the longer term the value of Wi-SUN FAN will be in easily integrating new sensors from multiple vendors and supporting other grid-focused applications. In this way Wi-SUN FAN becomes a platform that enables all kinds of new applications beyond what we are seeing today.
2. What new application opportunities do you see for Wi-SUN technology?
Many of the biggest opportunities for growth in new applications could be in smart cities / smart communities and other areas outside the traditional utility space. Today we are seeing some traction in smart street lighting systems, and in the future, this could expand to other kinds of smart infrastructure. Utilizing different sensors, such infrastructure can help with applications like public safety, traffic monitoring, noise detection, and pollution monitoring. Other areas for which Wi-SUN is well suited include integration of EVs and DER onto the Grid.
3. How will the continued adoption of 5G impact Wi-SUN FAN developments and adoption?
5G is inherently a broadband technology, and while it enables many fascinating and perhaps life-altering applications, it is quite simply overkill for many of the same applications where Wi-SUN FAN will be well suited. Nor is 5G likely to be as cost-effective as mesh for supporting applications like AMI or streetlighting, which simply do not require large amounts of data or extremely low latency. Other cellular LPWAN technologies such as LTE-M and NB-IoT may overlap somewhat with Wi-SUN FAN capabilities. However, there are a number of differentiators and scenarios for which Wi-SUN’s underlying RF mesh networking technology is better suited.
Near term, 5G technology is likely to complement Wi-SUN. For example, 5G makes a great high-speed backhaul option from the FAN border router back to the data center, similar to how fiber is used today. While some high-bandwidth grid sensing applications can benefit from a high-speed connection, in other cases a mesh network’s inherent peer-to-peer capabilities offer advantages. Combined with concepts such as distributed intelligence and greater edge computing, mesh networks can support more localized decision-making without as much reliance on centralized headend systems. This layered intelligence approach, including edge-, community-, and system-level processing and decision making, is likely to win the day while also suiting Wi-SUN FAN architecture.
We are likely to see more and more hybrid solutions incorporating both Wi-SUN based mesh networking and 5G/cellular technologies in order to reap the best of both.
"How Wi-SUN Technology Empowers Smart City and IoT Development," by Wi-SUN Alliance, highlights how Wi-SUN FAN technology is making cities and IoT smart. The e-book features a one-to-one with Wi-SUN Alliance President, Phil Beecher, as well as visions and insights from eight leading Wi-SUN promoter member companies. Download the Wi-SUN Alliance E-Book.