Utility Networks and the Smart City

Utilities need to think critically about the types of communication technologies underpinning their smart utility/smart city strategy, as well as how and where the different communication layers can be consolidated and integrated. The integration and interoperability of the various communication layers to enable better visibility, management, and sharing of data are major issues within the smart city context.

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Multi-purpose AMI networks meet and exceed the requirements for future-ready smart city programs. As enabling platforms for new technologies come on to the grid, next-generation multipurpose AMI networks offer more advantages than other networking technologies. AMI networks provide the ability to prioritize messages over other traffic, which is not permissible with cellular or broadband internet. In fact, data traffic on cellular networks has the lowest priority. With broadband Internet, utility traffic is treated like any other packets in the network.

The versatility of modern AMI networks makes them more cost effective than the piecemeal communications approaches of the past. AMI networks communicate through a self-healing mesh architecture for built-in reliability. Additionally, the network can be enabled for advanced end-to-end security, meeting and exceeding even the strictest data privacy requirements. And unlike cellular, additional devices can be added without incurring new monthly data fees. Finally, utility staff are not faced with troubleshooting outside networks, as with consumer Wi-Fi connections.

As the true enabler of the smart grid, multi-purpose AMI networks provide two-way communication capabilities for moving data from the utility head-end system to endpoints, while managing how that data is used and secured.

  • It can be distributed regionally—RF mesh technology can be regionally distributed, so the operator can target specific areas without needing to deploy the entire service territory.
  • It’s self-healing—If one module loses communication with the network, the network automatically finds another path to bring communications back to the head-end system. So, the network operator never needs to worry about the entire network being down.
  • It’s self-forming—The network’s intelligence enables the signal to find the optimal route back to the head-end system. This is particularly important in areas with many obstructions, such as mountains or high-rise buildings.

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