As Advanced LTE becomes more of a day to day reality, industry is quickly moving towards the next mobile generation, 5G technology, which will bring important improvements in terms reduced latency, increased reliability and higher throughput.
Smart Grids can be thought of as computer intelligence and networking abilities applied to a dumb electricity distribution system, with the aim to improve operations, maintenance and planning so that each component of the electric grid can at the same time talk and listen. This set of operational features leads to automation, a key aspect in smart grid technologies.
But of course, in order be able to talk about Smart Grids, reliability of communications must come first, providing the basic infrastructure that ensures the trustworthiness of the link.
Its importance becomes clear when there is an electrical overload and real-time monitorization of the grid is required. In these cases, it is crucial to be able to take immediate action upon the network to avoid cascade failures in the electricity grid.
Nowadays, a regular Smart-Grid deployment can include thousands of remote points, typically unattended and rather isolated. Since utilities can’t always use their own infrastructure, especially in areas where the deployment of their networks are limited or scarce, the usage of third party networks provided by carriers reduce the necessary investment.
The following points must be considered when deploying a Smart-Grid network:
- Smart-Grid communications require advanced networkingprotocols such as VLANs, VRFs, QoS and Policy routing to guarantee service isolation
- Multi-carrier fall-back, in order to optimize service continuity
- Advance troubleshooting and management for easy deployments, specially under unknown conditions
- In-house HW design for flexible product development and integration of the latest technologies
- And of course, corporate security for critical applications, so that security threats are minimized
Although all these features contribute to ensure communications, corporate security mechanisms are by far the most critical due to three inherent factors to Smart Grids:
1. The isolation of locations points, than can also pose serious threats. In other words, how can we avoid access to the network in these unattended points? A single solution does not exist, and it is necessary to employ a set of technologies and tools, including:
– Device authentication with AAA using TACACS+
– Systems for detection of physical access (e.g. door sensors, cabinet alarms, etc.)
– Passwords for DMVPN based on serial number
– Real time monitoring system
– Destination packet filtering based on device MAC address
2. The existence of malware propagation, and the need to be fully protected against it. Common solutions among the largest electricity companies include dynamic rules per sessions, traffic pattern detection and SCADA firewalls; protocol-based filtering & traffic patterns detection; or PAT firewall & routing policies per traffic type.
3. The importance of data integrity, achieved by using DMVPNs to interconnect remote locations and ease management; IPSec, with the latest encryption (RC4, DES, 3DES and AES 256) and authentication (SHA-1 & 2); and digital certificates such as X.509v3, LDAP, PKIX, PEM and DER.
A different problem comes up when device failures occur, which require replacements and usually become a source of expense (both of money and time) mainly due to the distance that needs to be covered to get to them. If a power failure is disturbing, imagine it lasting a few hours or even days for a cause that could be avoided using state of the art technologies.
Hardware failures on remote locations can be triggered by the following circumstances:
– Dust & Temperatures. Because of their very nature, industrial devices are not allowed to make use of fans to keep temperatures below dangerous levels. But at the same time, unattended locations can vary from very low freezing temperatures in the winter to extreme heat in the summer. And there is also dust, which by leaking into a standard, non-sealed device, could severely affect the fan performance and circuitry. For that reason, and in order to ensure operation under the most radical circumstances, devices must use state of the art technologies to endure these scenarios without breaking down or malfunctioning.
– Electromagnetic Discharges. The powerful electric currents that flow through a Smart Grid create EM fields that, at times, interfere with other devices such as switches. As a result, they can become untimely activated, causing unpredictable effects in the grid and affecting other electronic devices in the surroundings. This, in turn, can lead to a series of internal voltaic arches that, in a cascade fashion, can literally burn down the devices inside the grid unless they are able to cope with potential differences on the order of kV.
– Power supply. Power supply is not always as stable as one would like it to be. This is particularly true at substations and transformation centers, where sharp variations of energy may occur. And there can be grounding differences too, fairly frequent when it comes to low & medium voltage substations. Outstanding standards and the presence of special multirange power supply units that endure these high voltage peaks becomes a necessity.
In Teldat, our continuous and absolute commitment to RTD has allowed us to overcome this complex grid of challenges, working alongside with the largest electricity companies, understanding their needs and incorporating them into our Regesta router family.
Will a niche solution by manufacturers like Apple, using ALL-IP, be made available?
Since the beginning of the 1990s, building automation systems in large industrial and office buildings have been an integral part of the construction industry. Intelligent and cost-intensive field bus systems from different manufacturers, provide via various sensors and actuators, a wide range of information, as well as control of numerous parameters such as individual room temperatures, light and control systems.
Nevertheless, the tasks of building automation systems go far beyond providing information related to the technical aspects of measurement and steering building equipment.
SME and Private Homes
Most users in SME’s and private homes do not benefit from this technology because of the high acquisition costs and the hardly measurable advantages in time and money that such systems give.
Many stand-alone solutions have been developed: Individual systems for heating control, air conditioning, lighting, electrical blinds for the windows and beamers installed on the ceiling, are only to mention a few examples. However, each system had to be independently programmed and controlled.
For quite some time numerous radio buses have been established besides field bus systems. The advantage of radio buses compared to wired buses are the simple retrofitting capacity and the independence of any electrical line. Light switches for instance can also be subsequently placed anywhere. Moreover, the price of a radio systems is often considerably lower than of conventional bus systems. The disadvantage of such systems was that they were only partially or not at all compatible.
A presumed susceptibility to faults has been avoided by choosing a certain frequency. Gateways connect the radio buses to the field bus system and even more importantly to the LAN.
Until recently all manufacturers tried to defend their systems. Meanwhile, several manufacturers have formed a strategic alliance in order to enable a better interoperability.
Currently, manufacturers like Deutsche Telekom, Gigaset, Philips and now also Apple have positioned themselves in the market.
HomeKit is the new iOS interface by Apple for a networked home or office as a comprehensive system. Developers can use libraries for instance in order to integrate the voice recognition Siri for their applications without having to write a single line of code.
For app developers and automation products HomeKit is the most important interface but end users cannot yet apply it. A central place for users to control their HomeKit products will be launched by Apple in the future. If everything works out the way Apple announces, we will only need one single app and Siri in order to control our lights, doors, heating and sockets. Not like at present, where we need to virtually have individual apps for every lamp.
When the HomeKit compatible product is connected to the iOS device you can control it or turn it on and off by Siri voice commands depending on the kind of product. Here are some examples:
- “Turn the light on.” or “Turn the light off.”
- “Dim the light.” or “Dim the light to 50 %.”
- “Set the temperature to 20°C.”
With the following commands you can make settings for rooms or environments:
- “Turn on all lamps in the training facility.”
- “Turn off the Support light.”
- “Dim the light in the kitchen.”
- “Dim the light in the demo room to 50 %.”
- “Set the thermostat in the first floor to 21°C.
- “Turn on the printer in the office.”
- “Siri, prepare everything for a party.”
- “Prepare the ambience for dinner.”
- “Activate the night time mode.”
It has been presumed for a long time that a future version of the Apple TV box could take a decisive role as the control center for home automation. Nevertheless, if the platform was only controlled by a mobile device it would not be “smart” anymore when the owner leaves the house with his device.
The secure coupling of a smart terminal device via VPN to the home LAN fills this gap. Not only all devices at home or in the company can be controlled from all over the world, but also all services of the home telecommunication center can be used. When the cleaning lady rings the bell you can see her and remotely open the door.
Siri: “Open the staff entrance door.”
Teldat is aware of this challenge. We support our customers within the scope of our router portfolio, with all ALL-IP products including VPN and VoVPN solutions as well as secure voice connections via SIPS and SRTP in the area of media gateways and PBXs. Together with other manufacturers, telecommunication companies and suppliers we develop these solutions and always implement the latest version in order to offer our customers the highest performance with the best possible security.