With governments increasingly recognizing the need to control energy consumption and reduce waste, the requirement to make utilities smart is not only desirable, but also the law in many countries. Although the needs of electricity, gas and water utilities are different and highly specific, each utility type requires similar foundational technologies in terms of smart devices, connectivity and data processing.
In February 2021, Semtech, Acklio, American Tower do Brasil, bmp TC, and Everynet participated in a webinar hosted by the Utilities Telecom & Technology Council America Latina (UTCAL). The event provided an overview of the key benefits of the LoRaWAN® protocol for smart electricity metering with end-to-end standard-based Device Language Message Specifications (DLMS) communications over LoRaWAN relying on the adaptation layer using Static Context Header Compression (SCHC) technology (pronounced “chic”). Here are some highlights from the webinar’s Q&A session:
Could you please give some examples of PoCs or projects that have been implemented with DLMS over LoRaWAN with the SCHC adaptation layer?
Nadine Berezak-Lazarus, bmp TC: One example is a proof of concept in the Ivory Coast where they have implemented the SCHC protocol to enable DLMS over the LoRaWAN solution for electricity metering. Through this solution, several metering data are collected every day like typically the indexes, events, load profiles, minimum and maximum tensions, etc.
Rémi Demerlé, Semtech: Lar.tech, one of the LoRa Alliance® members, implemented 50,000 electricity meters in Russia using DLMS over LoRaWAN and they are currently enjoying a meter-reading rate above 95% on a monthly basis. They are also collecting interesting data such as load profiles, log books and time of use, and are running over single phase and triple phase electricity meters.
Regarding the possibilities of LoRaWAN in mesh networks, are there any prerequisites we should be aware of? Are equipment and devices ready for this configuration already?
Rémi Demerlé, Semtech: LoRaWAN is a star network, quite the opposite of mesh. The benefit of mesh is related to power-based devices such as electricity meters and street light poles. The mesh network is not recommended for battery-powered sensors because the predictability of the battery lifetime would be unforeseen. The fact that the battery lifetime of devices cannot be guaranteed is the first reason why mesh networks are not best choice for utilities in water and gas. The second reason lies within the fact that mesh networks cannot guarantee a proper separation between network equipment and sensors causing more liability risks.
Sony Nolais, Acklio: However, there is a terrific opportunity to have LoRaWAN networks and its wide coverage complement RF mesh systems. This would exploit the interoperability given by DLMS standard, which ensures that the data from the utility can be collected in the same format from a mixture of different connectivity technologies.
Specifically referring to Brazil, has LoRaWAN been deployed in the country?
Octavio Silva, Everynet: Yes, it has been deployed and is very active. With respect to the energy vertical market, there are many use cases that Everynet has implemented in the utility sector which are linked to water, energy and gas metering. Another use case relates to the tracking of any asset: cars, cargo, goods, people and things in general. Everynet manages millions of messages coming from these devices every day.
Moises Silva, American Tower: The asset tracking use case has played a very important role in Brazil providing the tracking of cars and cargo through a secure and precise LoRaWAN network on a national level. There are also many Smart Cities applications using the national LoRaWAN network, including infrastructure monitoring, people’s safety and security, smart lighting, and gas supply and replacement.
Is it possible to use TCP instead of UDP to guarantee the delivery of the packets?
Sony Nolais, Acklio: Indeed, the SCHC adaptation layer can support TCP. Yet, in most cases, DLMS is implemented using UDP rather than TCP. Therefore, UDP is implemented for DLMS over LoRaWAN connectivity.
Also, to ensure packets delivery, SCHC features error acknowledgement modes that reschedule the sending of packets that have not been received. This provides the benefits of UDP in a more reliable connectionless communication.
What are the roaming capabilities between different LoRaWAN networks? Are there any standardization or practical cases around it?
Rémi Demerlé, Semtech: The LoRa Alliance has announced roaming (Jan 26, 2021: Roaming now available in more than 25 countries) between network operators starting with a group of first adopters. All specifications are available and real practical cases are already ongoing in Europe, but in other countries as well.
Can SCHC sustain high-latency connection such as satellite links?
Sony Nolais, Acklio: SCHC supports high latency. Acklio works with space communication agencies like the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) to demonstrate the benefits of SCHC in high throughput broadband and IoT satellite systems, in the perspective of global IoT coverage, or combined LoRaWAN/satellite connectivity.
For additional information, you can watch the webinar “Improved Connectivity with LoRaWAN® Innovations: Smart Measurements, Sensors and Much More!” on demand.
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