Using energy more efficiently and targeted control of consumption

The modernization of the energy networks is currently considered to be the largest infrastructure project of all times. In Germany alone, around 40 million private households as well as a variety of actors, from end device manufacturers to electricity suppliers, have to be integrated into an intelligent power supply system, the so-called smart grid. The power supply systems will experience a paradigm shift, from demand-oriented power generation to supply-oriented consumption. The associated decentralized feed-in of energy will significantly increase the communication requirements in future energy information centers. Smart meters as well as the associated communication units form the basis on the subscriber-side for the intelligent power supply system of the future: the smart grid.

Bild Smart Metering

European and domestic specifications for the increased use of renewable energies and the associated decentralized and often unpredictable feed-in of energy require a model for the supply-oriented consumption (demand side management). In this model, the consumer is integrated into a dynamic process through suitable incentives (e.g. tariffs) and information in real time, in order to avoid peak demand periods as well as insufficient consumption levels. Energy networks and communication networks are meant to merge in this way. Digital smart meters and the associated communication gateways enable the collection, processing and data-link transfer of electricity consumption levels in new quality and virtually in real time. As a component of future energy networks and thus critical infrastructures, they require special protection – therefore, safety and reliability must be taken into particular consideration and protection profiles have to be appropriately defined and implemented.

The Smart Metering Lab of Fraunhofer FOKUS provides a manufacturer-independent test and development environment for practical tests of standards, interfaces and communication protocols. System extensions can here be developed and tested, the safe handling of measured and consumption data can be tested and evaluated. In the Smart Metering Lab, years of experience and developments in home networking are combined with ambient assisted living (AAL) research and complemented by activities in the fields of M2M communication, sensor networks/IPv6, RFID and NFC. Research and development partners of Fraunhofer FOKUS therefore profit from comprehensive know-how, especially in regards to questions of interoperability and the integration of smart metering components into the internet.

A variety of devices are used to measure, process and transfer the consumption data of different resources like electricity, water, gas and heating power, for example radio-based heat cost allocators, intelligent sockets with measuring function, water meters, gas and electric meters as well as network coupling units (gateways). Due to the large market, a variety of solutions by different manufacturers can be expected. The interoperability of these different components of a smart metering system, in regards to the communication interfaces as well as the exchanged data, is crucial for a functioning system. In addition, interoperability ensures free choice of manufacturer as well as expandability and is thus indispensable for the dynamic growth of the smart metering market.