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Advance Metering Infrastructure

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Basit Lashari's picture
Business Strategist K-Elelctric

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  • Member since 2019
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  • Dec 23, 2019 12:45 pm GMT

Integration of technology is changing the dynamics of each business and transforming the way we operate and create value for customers. So is the case for power utilities. Power utilities are now looking toward smart grid(s) (SGs), grids capable of having two-way communication. SGs is a complex combination of technologies in order to achieve maximum reliability and efficiency of power system. The ideal SG design must be able to address the advance challenges like incorporation of distributed energy resources, load handling and demand adjustments, restoration and self-healing of grid and power quality delivered to the consumer. Moreover, market enabling, flexible pricing and cost and asset optimization are also few of the targets that have to be achieved by ideal SGs.

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Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI), An Introduction:

SG is complex multilayer system. All the layers are highly correlated among themselves. Solid foundation and functionality of each layer is instrumental in performance of SG. Following matrix shows relationship between layers with summarized role of each layer. 

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The very basic layer is AMI and is also an integration of number of technologies. This infrastructure includes smart meters, communication networks & meter data management system (MDMS). Smart meters collect time-stamped data and this data is communicated to AMI host systems aka Head-End Systems (HES) through communication channels. This data is then sent to MDMS that manages, validates and cleanse the data before making it available for usage to utility service provider. AMI enables two-way communication among the layers of the system and makes the system more controlled and flexible in multiple dimensions.

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Smart Meters:

End user energy meters are state-of-the-art electronic hardware with software capable of time-stamped measurements and data collection in desired time intervals. These devices have established communications with the system and are capable of transmitting the data in required time slots set by system administrators. Unlike Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), bidirectional communication of AMI makes smart meters capable to accept commands and act accordingly. From a list of many a business use case for instance can be triggering remote disconnection of consumer through smart meter in case of default of payments. At consumer level in home devices illustrates the data collected by smart meters, making them aware of their energy usage based on time series data. This helps consumer to optimize their energy use and reduce energy expenses. When distributed energy resources come into play the system provides an improved solution to their economically optimized contribution in overall energy mix.

Smart meters generally provide following functionalities:

Quantitative measurement: the meter should be able to accurately measure the quantity of the medium using different physical principles, topologies and methods.

Control and calibration: although varies based on the type, in general, the meter should be able to compensate the small variations in the system.

Communication: sending stored data and receiving operational commands as well as the ability to receive upgrades of firmware.

Power management: in the event of a primary source of energy going down, the system should be able to maintain its functionality.

Display: customers should be able to see the meter information since this information is the base for billing. A display is also needed as demand management at customer end will not be possible without the customer’s knowledge of the real time consumption.

Synchronization: timing synchronization is critical for reliable transmission of data to central hub or other collector systems for data analysis and billing. Timing synchronization is even more critical in case of wireless communication.

Events Logging: recording, as well as communicating to utility service provider, of important events to provide information about the changes in condition of hardware and software. This is important for analysing the health of the system and possible electricity theft attempts.

In this context features of smart meters can be summarized as below,

  •  Time-based pricing.
  • Providing consumption data for consumer and utility.
  • Net metering.
  • Grid failure and outage notification.
  • Remote command (turn on/off) operations.
  • Load limiting for Demand Response purposes.
  • Power quality monitoring including: phase, voltage and current, active and reactive power, power factor.
  • Energy theft detection.
  • Communication with other intelligent devices.

List is long for features and functionalities of smart meters and varies from provider to provider.


Smart meters send the collected information to the analysing system and receive commands from operation centre. Therefore, standard communication is a corner stone of AMI. Considering the increase of smart meters and multiple users in each utility, designing and selection of highly reliable communication system for transfer of huge data is a challenging task and requires careful consideration of the following factors:

  •  Huge amount of data transfer.
  • Restriction in accessing data.
  • Confidentiality of sensitive data.
  • Representing complete information of customer’s consumption.
  • Showing status of grid.
  •  Authenticity of data and precision in communication with target device.
  • Cost effectiveness.
  • Ability to host modern features beyond AMI requirements.
  • Supporting future expansion.

Different topologies and architectures are used for communication in SGs. There are also different mediums and technologies available for communication like GPRS, optical or copper fiber, power line carriers (PLC), internet and like. Cost and spectrum are two main factors driving the decision of selection of technology by utility.  

Data Management Systems:

Utilities require systems for storing, validating and analysing the data provided by smart meters. This data is used for multiple applications like billing, reaction to changes and emergencies in the grid, consumer profiling and other. Some of such modules are listed below,

  •  Meter Data Management System (MDMS)
  • Consumer Care & Billing System (CCB)
  • Outage Management System (OMS)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Power quality management and load forecasting systems
  • Mobile Workforce Management (MWM)
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Asset Management System (AMS)

MDMS could be considered as central module with core responsibility to perform validation, estimation and editing on the AMI data to ensure accurate flow of information to the requesting module for further applications. Features and functionalities provided by MDMS varies from vendor to vendor. Some provides the data available for the use by other applications, while other products include additional application suites in their system. Other modules are used for specialized tasks. Among them application of data analytics is the hottest topic under discussion. The purpose of modules is to use all available data to enhance customer experience by improving decision making.

Standards and Protocols:

To meet complex business needs of individual utility, operating in different markets and regulatory environments, having universal language and standards for AMI are inevitable. For AMRs the domination in this dimension is with DLMS/IEC62056, IEC61107 and ANSI C.12.18.

Device Language Message Specification (DLMS)/ Companion Specification for Energy Metering (COSEM) is the common language in AMR/AMI. DLMS is a generalized concept for abstract modelling of communication entities. COSEM sets the rules for data exchange with energy meters. The role and function of DLMS/COSEM can be defined as:

  1. An object model to view the functionality of the meter as seen at its interface(s).
  2. An identification system for all metering data.
  3. A messaging method to communicate with the model and to convert the data to a series of bytes.
  4. A transporting method to relay the information from the metering equipment to the data collection system

DLSM has four sets of specifications:

  • Green Book: describes the architecture and protocols.
  • Yellow Book: covers all the questions concerning conformance testing.
  • Blue Book: describes the COSEM meter object model and the object identification system.
  • White Book: contains the glossary of terms.


Smart meters at end points, communication network and data management systems are the three systems making up the required cost for the deployment of AMI. Dedicated hardware and software is required by each layer. Once software is designed the expansion cost only requires cost for hardware installation. Advancements in smart meter technology, communication networks and data storage solutions is bringing the cost required for AMI downwards. Following figure shows estimated AMI deployment estimated cost in different sectors,

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AMI is an effective tool for utilities to handle complex challenges. This valuable tool allows the operators and utility companies to have firsthand information on the status of their network for planning, performance optimization and advance in customer experience.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts on the prospects of AMI.

Basit Lashari's picture
Thank Basit for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 23, 2019

Great overview of the reasons AMI has the industry buzzing-- but what do you think remain the largest current roadblocks to overcome?

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