Smart Grid Meters Use IM

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Intelligent meters are using the XMPP “presence” standard to keep a better grip on power usage

Sustainable technology specialist EnerNOC has launched smart grid technology that uses the same presence technology found in instant messaging applications such as Google Talk or Yahoo Messenger.

The company announced this week that its PowerTalk system has been deployed in around 250 of the 5000 sites using its existing smart grid technology. “PowerTalk represents an important step forward. It is already driving significant efficiencies in our site enablement process, and we are actively investing in future applications of presence technology to make the existing electric power grid more responsive, efficient, and reliable,” said Tim Healy, EnerNOC’s chairman and chief executive.

The system uses the open standard Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) to allow individual smart meters to relay information to a central dashboard which EnerNOC terms a Network Operations Center (NOC). EnerNoc claims that the use of the open XMPP protocol is key to making sure the technology is scalable and easy to manage.

“The development of open, standards-based communications protocols will be central in the transformation of today’s electric power grid into the Smart Grid of the future. We believe that presence-enabled PowerTalk is helping to drive that evolution, even before the widespread deployment of Smart Grid hardware, such as Advanced Metering Infrastructure,” said Terry Sick, vice president of Product Development and Engineering at EnerNOC.

Whereas rival smart grid systems rely on automatically reading smart meters in the network according to a set schedule, EnerNOC claims its PowerTalk system uses presence technology to constantly monitor the status of each meter.

Smart meters are end-user devices that monitor electricity usage and can be used by home owners and businesses to more accurately measure their power usage. Combined with other technology in electricity distribution systems, smart meters can be uses to create so-called smart grids and are a major part of government plans to meet carbon emissions targets, with the UK government planning to install smart meters in all homes by 2020.

However the technology has been hit by security issues. In March, researchers from US security consultancy IOActive created a worm that could spread from one smart metering device to another thanks to the wireless technology that is used to connect them, according to reports.

Commenting on the security issues, The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said security will be critical to any widespread deployment of smart metering technology in the UK.