Smart Metering

Today things are made smart and processes are becoming smart which enhances the life style of humans in many ways. One such example is the “Smart Metering”. All over the world, the mechanical energy meters are replaced by digital energy meters and currently advanced to smart meters which provide accurate results for greater period of time.

Digital energy meter is an electronic device that measures and stores the consumption of electric energy periodically and communicates the stored information to the provider (utility) via wired communication (Optical port, serial communication) as well as wirelessly for monitoring, analysis and billing. The wireless energy meters are referred as Smart Meters and most commonly used in industrial segments for various reasons and low end energy meters (wired communication) are used in domestic, commercial segments which supports digital interface such as RS232, RS485 serial communication.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Since the smart meters include wireless communication such as GSM/GPRS, low power radio, etc the readings can be updated in the central database from anywhere in the world and facilitates the customer (User) with plenty of information’s such as daily usage, peak demand, last interval demand, load profile, voltage profile, sag and swell events, phase information, power factor, tamper notifications, etc. This type of system is named as “Advanced Metering Infrastructure“(AMI). Such a huge amount of information is more important in building a smart grid by which the amount of power generation can be predicted based on power demands.

Automatic Meter Reading

Smart meters with AMI system are more advanced and expensive which makes them overrated for domestic segments. Similar to the “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” (AMI), Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system is available as an automated way to collect basic meter reading from low end energy meters that are widely used in domestic segments where a system is required for collection only. AMR includes a handheld reading entry device where data from Smart Meters is acquired by connecting the device to the digital ports typically RS232 or RS485 serial ports using dedicated serial cables. The technician will have to plug these cables to the meter of concern and the handheld device will acquire the readings automatically. Likewise the technician will acquire data from each and every meter of his zone and the acquired readings are transferred to the central database for billing.

Though AMR has become common way of reading meters, it can be made more advanced. At present there are many wireless technologies available for small data transfer at very low costs. Among the various wireless technologies, BLE is the most popular. With the BLE enabled smart phones together with an Android app will simply replace the handheld AMR system which performs the similar functionality with wireless operation. Also a tiny BLE module with serial interface (RS232) like eStorm-B1 is sufficient to enable wireless connectivity for the energy meters.

Smart Metering using eStorm-B1 BLE Module

In previous blog, we have discussed in detail about eStorm-B1 BLE module application as a UART to BLE Bridge with a brief demo video. In this blog, we will demonstrate a Smart Metering application which can be realized by interfacing eStorm-B1 with energy meter via RS232 interface and by replacing the traditional handheld reading device with Smart AMR Android app running in Android smart phone with BLE connectivity.

The following video shows the demo of Smart Metering application,

In this demo, a digital energy meter is upgraded to a smart meter by adding eStrom-B1, an NXP KW31Z based BLE module via already available RS232 serial interface. In the other end, an Android Smart phone is equipped with a custom designed Android application “SMART AMR” which will communicate with the smart meter via BLE connectivity and acquire the reading when required.

The following are the features of Smart AMR Android application,

  1. Secured login – User name and password protection for authorized person login only
  2. Area selection – User configurable settings for selecting region, circle and section of his/her zone
  3. GPS based location mapping – Automatic mapping of the user’s present location
  4. One touch reading acquisition – Complete list of available registered meters in the particular location with complete details such as consumer name, ID, meter number, phase, load information and one touch acquisition of old, new reading and energy consumption.
  5. Auto update – Automatic update of acquired readings to central database via available 3G/4G connectivity in Smartphone.

This type of setup is very much suitable for AMR systems which can replace the handheld systems with the low cost smart phones and can reduce the burden on technicians by reducing more physical works that are present in the current handheld systems.

About Embien: Embien Technologies is a leading provider of embedded design services for the Semi-conductor, Industrial, Consumer and Health Care segments. Embien has successfully executed many projects like based on IoT such as healthcare Wearables, Gateways, and Data Analytics etc. Embien also offers a set of wearable design collections complete with electronics, firmware and Cloud that can be used to shorten product development costs and time significantly.

With wide spread proliferation of low cost wireless technologies such as WiFi, BLE etc and smart phones, there is a need to provide such connectivity to systems across application domains. For example, nowadays wellness industry expects the products such as thread mills to communicate with user phones and provide details of the calories spent so far along with the running pattern.  While it might be possible to incorporate the wireless features in newer designs, there are many cases in which the existing systems need to provide these new features with minimal design changes due to reasons such as re-engineering complexity, costs etc.  This calls for Bluetooth to Serial Adapter that can be interfaced to existing systems over UART and enabling wireless connectivity easily with minimal changes.

In this blog, we will discuss in detail about such an application where by Embien’s eStorm-B1 platform is used as a Bluetooth UART module and performing BLE communication to an Android mobile app.

eStorm-B1 Bluetooth UART Module

Embien recently launched “eStorm-B1”, an automotive ready BLE module as a part of its eStorm offerings. The module supports many peripherals and interfaces such that it can be used as a standalone system or can embed in an existing system to enable BLE communication.

Of the available interfaces such as CAN, SPI, I2C etc, this particular demo uses UART as the choice of communication. For such application, eStorm-B1 will act as a slave module which can receive commands from the host processor via UART and do actions accordingly.

The following block diagram depicts the setup of eStorm-B1 as a UART to BLE bridge,

 Bluetooth to Serial adapter

eStorm-B1 – UART to BLE Bridge Setup

The host processor and the module are connected via TTL UART interface. Interrupt signal from eStorm-B1 can be routed to a digital input of the host processor with interrupt detect functionality such that the host processor is made aware of the connection event occurred between the devices. eStorm-B1 can operate in sleep mode where it consumes ultra low power and the module can be switched between active and sleep mode suitably when data transfer is required.

Bluetooth UART module communication

Based on a simple command set, the host processor can speak to the eStorm-B1 module and in turn communicate with another BLE device such as a smart phone, tablet or an IoT gateway.

The following picture illustrates the serial command sequence between the eStorm-B1 BLE module and host processor via UART,

UART to BLE command sequence

Serial Command Sequence

The following video shows the real time demo of eStorm-B1 UART to BLE bridge application typically applicable in many IoT device developments for enabling BLE communication on existing system.

To show case the same, instead of a host MCU, a PC is used and connected to the eStorm-B1 over an USB to UART bridge. PC is connected to eStorm-B1 module via UART interface using an external commercially available UART to USB converter. Tera term, a terminal emulator is used to transfer the data’s from Laptop to eStorm-B1 module via UART. On the other end, a custom Android application installed in Smartphone is used to receive and transmit the data via BLE. UART to BLE Bridge is suitable for various device designs such as wearable device in healthcare, key finder, tire pressure monitoring system in automotives, asset tracking in industries, etc.

Apart from the above mentioned features, the eStorm-B1 also supports rich peripheral options such as timers/PWM, ADCs, GPIO’s which adds more advantage for standalone system developments in various domain applications such as automotive, industrial, healthcare etc.

About Embien: Embien Technologies is a leading provider of embedded design services for the Semi-conductor, Industrial, Consumer and Health Care segments. Embien has successfully executed many projects for IoT product developments such as healthcare/wellness wearable’s, data acquisitions systems, Gateways, and Data Analytics platforms etc. Embien also offers a set of wearable design collections complete with electronics, firmware and Cloud that can be used to shorten product development costs and time significantly.

Understanding the growth of new technologies and keeping in mind of giving an added value to its existing product eStorm-L1, Embien launched an Android app named “DAQ Suite”. With experience in developing Android app for many segments such as IoT, healthcare, automotive etc we have developed “DAQ Suite” for enhancing user experience in multiple industrial applications such as remote control, remote data acquisition/logging, etc.

This blog is the sequel of the blog “eStorm-L1 as GSM based remote switch” demonstrating the relay control and sensor monitor via an Android app. The following video shows the remote monitoring and control application typically applicable in industrial domain and many other verticals. The demo is setup using the GSM based remote switch and android application controlling the device through SMS command.

For the demo purpose we have connected two LED’s and two switches for demonstrating the relay control and sensor monitor functionality respectively. In the real time application, the LED could actually be a relay with suitable external DC supply for coil excitation and switch could be a sensor/transducer output preferably a digital high/low signal or even a pulse type output. The device stores all the configuration settings corresponding to the user, IO, etc in the EEPROM and hence preserved even on power cycling. Also the device has an option to erase the memory on site and start the user settings from the initial factory default.

The DAQ Suite android app includes the following menu options

  1. Device type selection setting – To select the type of the device need to be monitored or controlled. Available device will be listed in the Device model list box.
  2. User settings – To set the user details such as name, phone number, password, device description, and phone number to be taken for call actions etc.
  3. Relay settings – To set the on duration, ON/OFF delay etc. For multiple relays, the name of the device attached to the relay can be set.
  4. Update settings – To set the update interval for how much time interval the user need to receive the SMS about the current status of the relay and digital input. Many options can be chosen from the list view such as on change, periodic, both and none.
  5. Call actions settings – To set the action to be done on the relay upon calling the device. Either the relay can be switched ON/OFF.

The main screen of the DAQ suite includes the status of the SMS command being sent and time information of the last received/sent SMS. The control switch to toggle the relay and the status LED of the digital inputs is also included in the main screen.

Upon every operation, a SMS will be sent to the device with the predefined command set and the respective status of the digital inputs and relay will be displayed on the main screen based on the acknowledge SMS from the device.

DaqSuite, the user friendly Android App for GSM based remote switch and sensor monitor applications is available in Google Play store. Feel free to try it or contact us for more information.

About Embien: Primary focus of Embien technologies lies in the Industrial Automation segment. We have a rich experience in working on industrial automation and control systems with customers across geographies to enable their factories and assembly lines run efficiently. Our team have developed protocol stacks for various industrial protocols and enabled them in customer devices. We have created various Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) systems to make easier the interface with the machine. Our Machine to Machine (M2M) service offering includes developing system capable of remote monitoring and controlling of machines, PLC’s, etc.