For a distribution system operator (DSO) facing the roll-out of AMS (Advanced Metering System), the choice of platform for collecting data is critical. In this article I will highlight the reasons why I think RF mesh networks are superior to other systems.
In the unlikely event of single node failures, the failing node won’t distract the transmission of data for other nodes in a mesh network because each node is connected to several other nodes. The data can easily find alternative ways through the network.
Additional devices in the network will improve the network traffic instead of degrading it, because every device added can be considered a node. More nodes = stronger mesh network.
3) Autonomous configuration
By design, nodes in a mesh network learn about their neighbors and paths to other nodes, so there's normally no need to configure each node. This is good for most parts of the mesh network. In some cases it might be useful to override some of the autonomous behavior by specifying certain rules based on specific knowledge of the topography or distribution of meters and concentrators etc.
Expansion and modification of the mesh topology can be done without disrupting other nodes.
5) Start small
Since the mesh network can dynamically scale as you add nodes to the system, it allows for an incremental build-up. In many roll-out scenarios, the system will be built in phases and partly in parallel in order to meet the deadlines for full coverage. Even if the system can be built in random order, I still recommend to build the network incrementally, so the new nodes can reach the mesh. This way communication can be verified at the time of installation.
6) Increased coverage
Working together, nodes can reach other nodes by signaling through the mesh network rather than directly to the target node. In a sense, they can transmit data around corners and around obstacles
7) Fast and low-cost installation
The installation of radio mesh is relatively simple compared to e.g. powerline communication, wich requires complex installation and interruptions in the power grid. As the meters need to be changed anyway to allow more frequent meter readings, the installation cost of adding the radio is very low. Installation of concentrators to collect the data from the mesh can easily be added to existing infrastructure such as transformer stations and power masts. As a bonus the concentrators can now also be used to monitor existing infrastructure.
RF mesh networks have proved to be a powerful and cost effective way of building up a distributed network over large areas with millions of meters. Take a look at this article to learn how to plan mesh network in AMS.