Industry Group Established for Wireless Smart Meters

Jan 25, 2012
Hiroki Yomogida, Nikkei Electronics

Eight Japan- and the US-based firms established an industry group for wireless communications used for smart meters.

The eight firms are Analog Devices Inc, Fuji Electric Co Ltd, Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT, independent administrative institution), Renesas Electronics Corp, Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd, Omron Corp, Osaki Electric Co Ltd and Silver Spring Networks Inc.

The name of the group is "Wi-SUN Alliance." It certifies a logo to ensure interconnection among wireless communication technologies used for smart meters of various manufacturers. This is the first time that an organization has been established for the certification of wireless communications for smart meters.

The eight companies are related to the smart meter industry and work as promoters for the organization. Fuji Electric and Osaki Electric are major meter manufacturers in Japan. Analog Devices and Renesas Electronics are major manufacturers of semiconductors for meters. Silver Spring Networks has widely introduced smart meters in California, the US.

They will cooperate to establish a system to certify a logo for ensuring the interconnection and promote the use of smart meters in the global market.

Recommending use of 'IEEE802.15.4g' low-power-consumption wireless standard

Wi-SUN Alliance promotes the "IEEE802.15.4g" wireless communication standard, which is currently being standardized by the US IEEE802.15 Committee. 15.4g is a physical layer standard for the wireless communications of battery-powered equipment items.

15.4g was established mainly by Tokyo Gas Co Ltd and Fuji Electric as a standard that is optimal for remotely checking gas meters, etc and exchanging information between meters and home appliances. It features a low power consumption and can be used for meters that operate for about ten years without replacing batteries.

The name Wi-SUN is an acronym of "Wireless Smart Utility Network." And the Wi-SUN Alliance expects that 15.4g will be used not only for smart meters but also for the wireless sensor networks of various infrastructures. Also, Wi-SUN is a popular name of the working group for IEEE802.15.4g.

Chips for wireless communications using 15.4g are currently being developed by several semiconductor makers such as Analog Devices and expected to be widely used. However, there was an uncertainty about the interconnection among devices supporting the standard because there was no organization that certifies the compatibility with the standard such as Wi-Fi Alliance for wireless LAN and ZigBee Alliance for ZigBee.

This time, Wi-SUN Alliance announced that it will be engaged in activities like those of Wi-Fi Alliance in the field of wireless LAN. In other words, it plans to ensure the interconnectivity by making a system to certify a logo as well as to do marketing activities for the promotion of 15.4g. It seems that the alliance will also promote the use of 15.4e as a MAC layer standard.

Wi-SUN Alliance organized its first promoter's meeting Jan 24, 2012, in Tokyo. After the meeting, it plans to establish test specifications to certify the compatibility with 15.4g, select an organization that conducts certification tests and design a logo mark. The alliance aims to establish the test specifications by the summer of 2012.

Wi-SUN Alliance intends to recruit member companies of the organization for the promotion of 15.4g by inviting related organizations and companies in and outside Japan.