What factors do you consider critical when working with your customers and their utility partners to deliver reliable utility communication services?

Pete CainPete Cain, Agilent Technologies,

Two aspects determine the critical factors. One is choice of technology, which often involves a “pick and mix” to suit the different circumstances at the consumer premises. The second is timeline; from planning/evaluation to manufacturing and then installation/maintenance.

Historically utilities have used proprietary systems. From mHz wired systems, to MHz RF mesh and point to point networks, these might be based on published standards, but rarely have the detailed measurement support enjoyed by multi-vendor technologies. Test equipment must have the versatility to measure and generate signals where the equipment’s basic accuracy & traceability underlie the long term consistency of the system operation. Equipment that gets installed will have a much longer lifetime than most consumer electronics. The test vendor has to be an established supplier.  

Interoperability is the future. It means additional cross vendor testing, but provides a focus for test equipment suppliers, promoting the availability of off-the-shelf test tools. Agilent is a contributor to the NIST sponsored SGIP, and is known for providing proven solutions in many common technologies.

For evaluation, good in-band & out-of-band performance with measurement flexibility is essential to understand the operational limits of the target system in extreme conditions, including interference. Process control in manufacturing demands consistency of performance and low residual errors. I&M is moving towards a combination of consumer unit swap-out and system based monitoring. Where field troubleshooting is required, portability and ease of use are key.

Jani LyrintzisJani Lyrintzis, EB, 

The key to effectively delivering reliable, utility communication services to customers and their utility partners starts with familiarizing one’s self with the customer’s market and solution systems they use. Extending the depth of communication beyond the initial customer relationship, there’s a need to understand the customer’s partner networks and the services they provide to their clientele, as often new solutions are developed collaboratively between the customer and their partners.

For example, EB recently provided a hybrid satellite-cellular data connectivity module in a compact form factor, compatible with next generation satellite networks such as TerreStar Network. This unique product was a first for the utility market, and was made possible through a series of modifications to meet various customer needs. EB does not offer one-size-fits-all products because customer needs can vary significantly. Each solution has to be tailored to the customer and their market with multiple considerations, which can include environmental requirements, operating temperature range requirement, how the power supply will be solved, is there a need for mobile or a fixed solution etc.