The smart grid concept promotes a holistic approach to leveraging common infrastructures. So how can utilities integrate such diverse systems as meter data management, customer information systems, SCADA/distribution management systems and demand side management to build an intelligent grid infrastructure
We have turned the term smart grid around and characterized Carina’s utility information solutions as ‘grid smart’. The industry challenge has been just that – leveraging common infrastructures. The problem in the past has been vendors deploying proprietary closed system designs unable to interface easily with existing legacy systems. Open system architecture for both metering data management software and remotely upgradeable hardware firmware is becoming a necessity to utility companies’ requirements for automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and metering data management (MDM) deployments. The answer to utilities ultimately integrating diverse systems is for them to write into their AMI/MDM procurement packages and their request for proposals requirements for open hardware and software system designs and require vendors to comply with standard protocols in proposed solutions.
The challenge of providing utilities with true two-way communication with their customers is evolving to a large degree. Carina’s ‘intelligent collar’ provides communication and data flow ‘out’ to the utility wirelessly or through fiber or cable backhaul, and back ‘in’ to the consumer via HomePlug, Zigbee or 900Mhz systems for a variety of functions. The collar, in Carina’s case, provides the intelligence to perform not only all of the basic AMI functions (reading the meter, remote disconnect/reconnect, voltage reads, outage management and demand side management), it also has the intelligence to effectively manage meter data and provide real-time reporting and operational information back to the utility. These open architecture designed systems (which are meter-manufacturer independent) provide progressive utilities with options and solutions that are flexible, adaptable, integratable and affordable.
The challenge for smart utility companies today is two-fold. One challenge for utilities has been the lack of truly flexible and adaptable utility AMI productivity hardware and software providers and systems. In the past, changing or upgrading an existing productivity process meant a major expenditure, and resulted frequently in investment in yet another legacy system. Another utility industry challenge is the need for each company to create a sense of urgency for developing a long-range plan, system requirements and a clear forward-looking vision – one that positions the company’s leadership to require its future vendors to deliver flexible and adaptable smart infrastructures that are designed with meeting current needs effectively while keeping future growth and functionality in mind.
We, at Carina, have a clear objective. It is to approach each client with a clean slate. We don’t assume that we know more than they do about what they need. We listen. We seek to understand the current state of technology adoption, the leadership’s buy-in and the staff’s preparedness for change. CarinaPoint AMI/MDM solutions are adaptable and flexible so the offering is tailored to the specific requirements of each client. What we don’t have is a set of fixed solutions that we try to force-fit into a client’s existing infrastructure.
At Carina, we make smart meters intelligent. CarinaPoint hardware coupled with CarinaXchange software is a complete solution capable of remote firmware upgrades and adaptive report generation and information systems. The CarinaPoint Solution inherently protects smart grid investments while maintaining the ability to integrate with many existing legacy systems. An example of an adaptive solution is our pre-pay energy management product, FlexPay. The system features all of the AMI/MDM intelligence in the collar to facilitate communication to the home consumer via Zigbee, 900Mhz or HomePlug inside to a customer inside unit. This module empowers the customer to view and manage energy consumption as it relates to real-time pricing while simultaneously educating them on the benefits of home automation and conservation. On the utility side, the CarinaPoint solution is designed with the flexibility to allow the utility to place our collar under a variety of meters while adapting our solution to meet their own functional needs such as in-home demand-side management and remote water and gas reading. This solution provides the flexibility to be deployed over time, while integrating these functions remains seamless as the utility moves toward a full deployment objective.
About Jay Newkirk
Jay Newkirk has had a distinguished career in computer systems technology and applied mathematics for government and commercial applications for over four decades. He was the co-founder of Computer Systems Technology, Inc. serving as its COO. Subsequently he invested in Carina Technology, Inc., formed its Board and now serves as the Chairman of the Board as well as President and CEO.