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Protocol standardization and testing

Standardizing utility data communications interfaces

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Pierfrancesco Cioci Pierfrancesco Cioci
Head of Section Intelligent Networks & Communication

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Communication between information technology (IT) systems is increasing within distributed IT architectures. Standardized communication interfaces offer the energy and utility industry a cost-effective open solution for such communication.

In a typical energy IT environment, several components and devices from different manufacturers have to interoperate flawlessly. Communication standards are a basic requirement to realize open infrastructures and device interoperability.

Cost and efficiency gains through data communications standards
Standards organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have been developing data communication standards for the energy industry for many years.

Examples are IEC 61850 for communication within the substation, IEC 60870-5 for the communication between substation and control center. For communication between control centers the preferred protocol is ICCP where CIM is used in the control center.
For smart metering and smart grids the protocols of choice are DLMS, M-BUS, SML.

The current trend is towards protocols that offer more functionality, modularity and flexibility. The result is standards that comprise more than just a communication protocol—data models and configuration languages are also included.

Data communication standards offer utilities numerous advantages:

  • enables supplier independence, avoiding a vendor lock-in situation
  • decreases engineering and maintenance costs
  • increases efficiencies and decreases costs of integrating standards-compliant systems
  • decreases prices with more products on the market due to more widely used standard communication protocols across the industry
  • increases global knowledge share and best practices among organizations already implementing standards through user groups and conferences organizations
  • improves product quality evaluation through standards-based testing and certification services offered by independent test organizations.

Understanding the benefits and risks of standardized communication protocols
Using communication standards involves a project approach that differs significantly from that used for implementation of a vendor-specific solution.

DNV GL’s Protocol Competence and Test Center offers expertise to help clients understand the advantages and potential risks of using standardized communication protocols.

Inter-device connectivity doesn’t automatically imply inter-device operability. We can identify and manage the risks for the manufacturer and end-user in order to be able to achieve an interoperable and genuinely open system on schedule and within budget. Our approach covers the complete product lifecycle from conception to operation. We are familiar with the latest protocol developments.

Independent insight for reliable use of communications standards
We are much more than an IT consultant. We are familiar with the energy market and we understand energy and utility client priorities. DNV GL is actively involved in IEC and IEEE working groups that define the standards and test procedures. We also have extensive experience testing data protocol implementations and providing related consultancy services.

We can assist all parties involved in a project with the reliable use of communication standards, independently and without bias—from initiation of the project, right through to the operational phase.

Benefits of DNV GL’s Protocol Competence and Test Center include:

  • one-stop shopping; all relevant areas covered
  • selection of the most cost-effective communication standard and vendor solution
  • assurance that the system meets your requirements
  • assurance – before implementation – that the systems from various suppliers will interoperate flawlessly
  • advanced test tools to speed up development, implementation and problem solving
  • apecification of equipment complying with the latest standards
  • advice focused on integration and migration aspects
  • quick-start with customized training and workshops.