Good Times in Amsterdam
As you may have seen from our previous post, last week Ambient attended the Metering, Billing/CRM Europe 2011 conference in Amsterdam. The show was the first time we have taken a good hard look at the European market and we have to admit, we liked what we saw. Many of our suppositions about the regional opportunities were correct, and we are looking forward to exploring the region further.
One key observation was the popularity of power line communications (PLC) in Europe’s electrical metering market. While a protocol we know well (and of course support in the Ambient Smart Grid communications platform), PLC is not as popular here in the U.S., with the predominant “competitor” being radio frequency (RF) communications. The argument against PLC in the U.S. is the transformer to customer ratio in the U.S. being lower than in the typical European distribution architecture. For gas and water metering systems in the U.S. and abroad, RF plays the dominant role for communications – which means an integrated metering solution in the European market. Precisely the type of architecture we have become proficient in through our partnership with Duke Energy. We are well versed in real-world deployments using PLC, RF or both and that is one reason we find the European market so intriguing.
While in Amsterdam, we also couldn’t help but notice the issues surrounding industry standards also exist in Europe just as they do in the U.S., and includes a number of different European coalitions and standards bodies shaping the products that eventually make it to market. When we mention PLC communications, there are many different types of PLC, with different interested parties pushing each one. We can’t help but feel short-term battles for standards dominance will continue on both sides of the ocean.
While it is certainly important that today’s devices adhere to some kind of standards based communications, we can’t help but ask if they will adhere to and be interoperable with newer technologies and standards that will undoubtedly develop in the coming years, before field assets reach end of life. What then? At Ambient, we are firm believers in the long-term interoperability and flexibility that comes with truly open communications architecture, and we will continue to push the conversation in that direction domestically and abroad.