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Smart grid communications edge toward standards-based technologies

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, July 27, 2012

The networks that utilities have relied on for their communication for years have typically been built within vertical application silos that use proprietary, application-specific technologies.

This system has been used as companies deploy more meters and field-based network devices that enable distribution automation and other highly advanced substation functions, such as substation automation. However, a recent report from Pike Research shows that as new smart grid technologies emerge, utilities are increasingly assessing the communications networks they have in place, and are seeing them as strategic assets. This is leading them to adopt standards-based technologies which are used to support the company's Internet Protocol suite, in addition to all legacy protocols.

Smart grid vendors are responding to the trend by developing both standards-compliant and standards-capable solutions, the report stated.

Two years ago, a mere 3 percent of all global shipments of radio frequency-based communication modules for smart grid applications were developed on the back of standardized technologies. But research shows that number is expected to increase to more than 70 percent by 2015, and will continue to grow until it is 85 percent in 2020.

"The promise of standards-based, multi-purpose utility networks is finally arriving," says chief research director Bob Gohn. "While there is still room for innovative proprietary network elements, the momentum is clearly with standard IP-based wired and wireless technologies, whether provided by public carriers or on privately built networks."

With more utilities updating their systems to be compatible with a fully integrated, grid-wide communications network, they will need highly complicated networking and communications gear that is of much higher value than current technologies. This will drive sales within the market to hit $2.96 billion in sales in 2014, then slide slightly to about $2.6 billion per year in 2020. The high that will be set in 2014 will come as China, Europe and North America begin large deployments at the same time.

The report breaks down the current trends in the market, and outlines the potential opportunities for players in the wired and wireless networks sector, and how these industry leaders will help advance smart meters, distribution automation, substation automation and home area networks.

SUBNET's line of innovative products and solutions will help utilities as they begin their smart grid endeavors, as the company's software enables communication across any platform. 

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