Wirepas and the Silicon Labs’ EFR32FG23 Sub-GHz SoC are taking on India’s Smart Metering Challenge

02/07/2024 | Chad Steider | 3 Min Read

In 2021, India announced an initiative to modernize its power grid to reduce losses and improve operational and financial efficiencies. A major part of this modernization revolves around the introduction of smart meters and building out India’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). As of 2023, Silicon Labs and Wirepas have seen early success in the India smart metering market with a combination of the Wirepas Sub-GHz LPWAN solution and the EFR32FG23 (FG23) sub-GHz SoC. This solution currently makes up around 1 million of the 7 million smart meters deployed as part of the initiative, with massive growth expected as the AMI rollout continues through 2024.

 

How Wirepas and Silicon Labs Meet India’s Smart Metering Challenge

The scale and time frame in which the Indian government hopes to complete its smart grid initiative brings never-before-seen challenges to this emerging market. Wirepas and Silicon Labs aim to address these challenges by offering a connectivity solution that does not rely on any centralized infrastructure, such as base stations, routers, or concentrators. Instead, each smart meter is equipped with a network interface card (NIC) that runs the Wirepas connectivity software. Due to the nature of the Wirepas’ decentralized mesh network architecture, the FG23 memory footprint and high level of integration make it an almost perfect fit for these applications by reducing the cost and complexity of the NIC design. The FG23-based NIC communicates with the meter, typically using a standard protocol, such as DLMS, to read meter indexes and send configurations. Conversely, the NIC connects to a gateway via a fully automatic and decentralized multi-hop mesh network, where each meter can act as a router for other meters. The gateway then forwards the data to a head-end system (HES) or a meter data management (MDM) system, where the utility provider can access and analyze the data.

 

One of the biggest challenges municipalities are seeing with the rollout of AMI is installing and configuring these newly formed networks. Typically, these networks require teams of experts to architect and optimize them for performance and each individual environment; however, with Wirepas, that is not the case. The Wirepas network begins forming as soon as the first meter is installed and expands as each additional meter is brought online with limited interaction from the electricians installing the meters. The best-in-class RF performance of the FG23 eliminates the need for costly and complex network planning or additional network infrastructure. With over a mile of point-to-point range, FG23 can reach even the most remote meters and allow them to connect to the network for monitoring and control. However, most smart meters will be deployed in more dense urban areas where support for many nodes is critical. Thanks to the Wirepas protocol, the FG23 can transmit at the lowest needed output power in these situations by finding an unoccupied channel for communication without impacting the rest of the network. This architecture has significant advantages in the license-free 865 MHz spectrum, allowing more nodes to be connected in a small area than in the licensed cellular spectrum.

 

Wirepas’ Network Uptime is Ideal for India’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Lastly, the uptime and security of these networks are critical for India to meet the goals of this project. Stringent Service Level Agreements (SLA) are imposed on these burgeoning networks so that infrastructure owners can ensure timely action can be taken at an individual meter level. The nature of the Wirepas network allows it to achieve extremely high uptimes due to the flexibility of the network and the fact that there is no single point of failure. The network can adapt and maintain communication as meters are added or removed from the network with minimal latency and no connectivity interruption. This also allows Wirepas and the FG23 to meet the strict response time requirements unique to the Indian market. By regulation, 90% of the commands sent to the electrical meters must succeed within 15 minutes of the initial request. Due to the distribution of these meters, meeting this requirement with technologies like cellular is challenging but is easily achieved with the Silicon Labs and Wirepas solution.

 

Sub-GHz SoC Offers Enhanced Security for Smart Metering Solution

The FG23 sub-GHz SoC enhances the security of the Wirepas network by adding extra levels of security with Silicon Labs Secure Vault, which not only provides an advanced crypto accelerator but also provides advanced features like DPA countermeasures, anti-tamper, and secure key management to protect the data and the device from both local and remote attacks. Secure VaultTM complements the protocol security of the Wirepas stack, making the combination one of the most secure solutions on the market.

The Wirepas and FG23 solution is a game-changer for the AMI market in India, as it offers a scalable, reliable, and secure connectivity solution that can meet the challenges and requirements of the smart grid project by lowering implementation and recurring costs compared to cellular-based solutions. The solution leverages the strengths of both Wirepas and Silicon Labs, which are leaders in their respective fields of LPWAN and wireless SoC technologies. It has proven its success in the Indian market, with 1 million smart meters deployed and more to come. Together, Wirepas and Silicon Labs have the potential to transform the power sector in India and pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable energy future.

Chad Steider
Chad Steider
Senior Product Marketing Manager
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