Wi-Fi mesh vendor Tropos Networks has immersed itself deeper into the smart-grid market by moving beyond providing the access network and introducing more smart-grid management elements.

The vendor announced the GridCom 2.0 architecture that allows utilities to seamlessly integrate and manage the multiple wireless networks that utilities are building to accommodate various smart-grid applications. Network requirements vary across the coverage area based upon the multiple smart-grid applications and number of devices that need to connect to the network. For instance, a utility may deploy a mesh network in urban areas to accommodate heavier data traffic and point-to-multipoint solutions in more sparsely populated areas to deal with longer distances.

“This mix of different management systems creates operational headaches,” said Narasimha Chari, co-founder and chief technology officer with Tropos. “We’re streamlining that whole process with a single console to monitor and manage all of the different wireless networks.”

Two new products are included in the GridCom 2.0 vision. The Directional Radio Systems provide delivery of long-range communications for sparse and rural areas or serve as backhaul for Tropos’ mesh networks. These new point-to-point and point-to-multipoint products are designed to extend Tropos’ mesh networks and support 3.5 GHz WiMAX and 4.9 GHz public-safety Wi-Fi, as well as the 5.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz unlicensed bands and WiMAX in other bands.

Tropos also announced the 1310 Distribution Automation (DA) Mesh Router for communications with DA devices such as reclosers, otherwise known as circuit breakers, and switches. The router is designed to be connected with several different vendors’ DA devices in order to reduce operational costs and network management complexity. The Tropos Control, which manages the DA Mesh Router, then unifies wireless network management to provide real-time visibility into the network and monitor aspects ranging from performance to security.

As a result, utilities now can build a single private network across their distribution areas and control applications such as DA, AMI backhaul, substation automation, video security and mobile workforce, Tropos said.

While smart meters emerged as early applications for the smart grid, utilities now are focusing on DA as a way to reduce operational costs, since the technology can be used to monitor electricity outages and power quality.

“Smart meters have received a lot of attention, but we have seen a shift in the last 12 to 18 months with a lot of network deployments starting with DA, because they see pure operational efficiencies and can layer applications on top of that,” Chari said.
Moreover, Tropos has been selling into several municipally owned utilities, and the plan is that the solution eventually will be used for other city communications, with the smart grid being the lead application.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.