September 21, 2023
By Blake Marchand
Trilliant, an international provider of utility solutions for advanced metering and smart grid systems, recently announced a custom-made product for the North American market with the release of its Trilliant Libra Series Edge-Ready Smart Electric Meter. The meter’s technology will allow utilities to enter the connectivity sphere by providing peer-to-peer data acquisition and analytics, while enabling new energy management features that benefit both customer and utility.
“Our customers wanted something new — a meter that enables dynamic transactions, edge computing, backwards compatibility and flexibility, all at the very best cost — and we listened,” said Steven Lupo, Managing Director, Canada, at Trilliant of their new product.
“As a technology company with significant international experience, we have launched Libra to go beyond the usual base functions, providing new functionality that utilities need without having to immediately replace existing infrastructure.”
Lupo added that with the enhanced focus on connectivity throughout various industries, as well as the progression toward a more electrified future, “There’s no time like the present to look at potentially aging infrastructure as a whole. When it comes to utilities, the smart grid and the smart metering network is part of that.”
When it comes to increasing demands on the grid from electrification, Lupo said, data and analytics can provide increased visibility on where the demand is and how EV charging and solar systems are interacting with the grid.
“Our utility customers are looking at the grid holistically as a much different set of infrastructure pieces today versus even five or ten years ago. Our technology is unique in its bandwidth, it’s unique in its integration to various pieces of the grid — to bring that data back and really give the utility a dashboard and bird’s eye view of the system,” said Lupo.
Another important aspect is supporting the continued technological progression of the industry. “We’ve built additional CPU power and RAM into that device to be able support a multitude of future applications on Trilliant’s platform. And that’s foundationally and fundamentally different than anything you can buy on the market today.”
In comparison to a traditional meter, Lupo explained, “The simplification is this: the device that is deployed today on every home and business in this province (Ontario), this country, and most of the U.S. as well, has not fundamentally changed in the past 70 years. They went from an analog register to a digital, but the fundamental technology has not changed. This model, the Trilliant Libra, will do just that.”
On the consumer level, the Libra Smart Meter, “will enable transactive energy, direct connectivity into the home – so integration with Google Assistant, Alexa, all of that is included in this device. When you think about how we manage energy we’ve entered into the consumer realm.”
With the ability to integrate various smart devices, he noted: “What’s happening is the utility has been left in the cold a little bit, until now. This technology answers that and brings them (the utility) into the fold in terms of the innovation that’s required to include them in that connectivity puzzle, and why not? They’re the supplier of these services and therefore can do that much more.”
“There’s certain harmonics in the system that leave a signature, so the system can pick those up. This type of data granularity simply was not available in previous versions of metering in the Americas.”
The utility will also be able to have a more proactive relationship with consumers. Ultimately, the more information consumers have on how they consume energy, the more potential there is for efficiency.
“With data and the ability to use analytics to look at that data and say, ‘this air conditioner doesn’t look right, it’s consuming way too much power on this one given house,’ they (the utility) want to be able to send a notification to the cell phone or the Google display or the other devices via the meter that can say ‘we think there’s something that can be optimized here’.”
These are value-added services that help to bridge the connectivity, IoT gap for utilities and consumers. But the core functionality is for the utility as the service provider, allowing for peer-to-peer data acquisition and analytics, field serviceability, and advanced communications support.
“The service provider needs to be aware of what is happening at the edge. They’re responsible to deliver this commodity to your home and they need to do it safely first and foremost.”
By having data available at the home level, utilities can respond to outages and issues in real time, rather than waiting for customers to alert them. For example, if there is a potential ‘hot-socket’ issue at the meter — some form of arcing or temperature increase — this device will flag that and send a notification in-real time.
In comparison, a legacy system will connect to a single endpoint and back, without knowing what’s around it.
“You’re not getting the whole picture. You’re getting a bunch of singular inputs in a one-to-one relationship. Peer-to-peer – Trilliant has always had these type of mesh networks that are self-healing – they’re talking amongst themselves, as well as talking to the utility’s network operations centre. Now, you’ve got a community of feedback.”
In the example of a storm/power outage, “with peer-to-peer there is an effort of those systems to talk amongst themselves to provide much more useful information, as opposed to just flooding the system with all kinds of notifications.”
It allows for granularity in the field and provides actionable information to utilities.
“Our technology allows meters on one transformer to provide critical information to the utility and do it in a way that gives them visibility of exactly what’s happening in the field.”
This provides additional safety-related elements to allow utilities to maintain their infrastructure more effectively.
Looking ahead, Lupo explained, “The ability to support and engage in distributed energy models will be absolutely critical to the future. That distributed type model is coming for utilities and they need a system that can connect all that and manage it accordingly, and our system is perfect for that.”
When it comes the realities of increased electrification providing strain on the grid, Lupo said a lot of that speculation is based on assumption. Enabling data acquisition and analytics provides a clear picture of what the grid can support, where its deficiencies are, and ultimately allow utilities to prepare for the future informed by concrete information.