New developments in smart meters

Monday, 13 February, 2017

Application-oriented research organisation Fraunhofer says it will revolutionise energy management with the development of a new, high-tech electric meter.

The company exhibited a prototype at the BAU 2017 architecture fair and hopes to make it commercially available in the (European) summer. The device breaks down total energy consumption by appliance and uses algorithms that identify 20 or more consumer devices. Fraunhofer says it could deliver savings of over 12%.

The process uses Fraunhofer’s NILM (non-intrusive load monitoring) technology, which is based on a simple principle: each device has a pattern of energy consumption that gives rise to a type of signature or ‘fingerprint’ within the power grid. Using algorithms, it is possible to identify this signature within total energy consumption and so determine energy consumption rates for individual appliances. Only one meter capable of taking three-phase current and voltage measurements is needed to do so, which eliminates the laborious installation and maintenance of submeters.

A software program visualises the power consumption of each device in real time, so users can determine when appliances are operated. They can also identify appliance faults, as this state gives rise to altered consumption signatures. If a refrigerator develops a faulty seal, for instance, increased energy use will draw attention to it.

Fraunhofer says there are implications for industry, trade and the service sector as well. Companies can analyse their power consumption during production and determine what components in a product use high levels of energy during manufacture. Peak load times in the power grid can also be recorded and therefore avoided.

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