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Power Line Communication - Where do we stand?

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posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 03:36 AM
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I'm currently looking at options for a wireless network solution for a small suburb (+/- 400 homes), i.e. a "Smart Village". One of the more important abilities of the network has to be remote metering of electricity meters.

Now, one of the options I'm looking at is PLC (Power Line Communication) or BPL (Broadband over Power Lines), which in my opinion is a good solution. But alas, this is not a widely used technology, and my question is why?

I'm aware of the typical pro's and con's of PLC, like slow speeds, and possible radio wave interference as con's, but these seem petty compared to the pro's (Okay, maybe not the speed part).
Still, there is a complete lack of usage of this technology. Most applications are limited to a single building. I understand that this sort of communication cannot go through a transformer (in a primary electricity network), but this can easily be circumvented.

This technology has huge potential, because let's face it, pretty much everything uses electricity in some form or the other. Yet, my coffee machine is not communicating with my alarm clock. It would be lovely to have a cup of coffee waiting for me when my alarm clock goes off.

So, if anyone knows why we don't see this technology all around us, I would love to hear it, also if anyone is using the technology in some way or the other, what's your experience? Is a "Smart village" (network linked suburb" a viable solution? Can it be done?

Thanx in advance.




posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 05:58 PM
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Is this the same line that will carry 230V to my power sockets that power the washing machine? I'm just wondering, as i have heard about this before. I remember the main against reason was probably something to do with the idea of 230v down a 'phone' line (Supposing a technical fault at the transformer for example). Would a local satelite dish not be better if the area was remote? I just think that maybe the world is not prepared to adapt its powerlines to something like that - how much would this tech cost?

I've seem the smart ideas implemented before, like smart houses, which yes do have that special ability to prepare your breakfast. I'm not sure where this tech could end.

Maybe it is easier to maintian the networks seperately, maybe more cheap.

Do you have any links for this? I would like to read about it so i can figure out some real pros and cons.


[edit on 6/3/06 by Shakeyjc]



posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 11:20 PM
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I think it is not widepread yet because Data still needs to be carried either by fiber-optic or telephone lines to skip the disruptive high-voltage lines, signals can only go so far until the information breaks down, for instance when we run Cat5e/6e data cable here in the U.S. it cannot be over 300 feet in length because electrical properties of the wire like attenuation, nearend crosstalk, farend crosstalk, powersum etc. all start acting strange, you start loseing packets left and right, moreso with the data travelling over high-voltage lines, you will need expensive signal boosters/reamplifiers to keep the integrity of the data up to par.

Petition your local service provider to go with FiberOptics if you can, between +/-400 homes you could easily pay for a FiberOptic network to be installed, it is alot cheaper than high-voltage copper transmission line maintenance (especially if you have a storm that takes out those lines.) and much more reliable with faster network speeds.


apc

posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 11:40 PM
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Networks over power lines are usually only viable within the single home over a single breaker box. It may be possible to connect two or more homes, but I have no clue how it could be done.

Your most viable project solution is WiFi with omnidirectional antennas in the attic of every home. If there is any way to get the antenna on the roof, signal quality would be greatly improved. If this is not an option, usable range will be limited based on the construction materials of the home and the area immediately surrounding the antenna. If range is an issue and roof mount is not an option, the antenna would have to be mounted on an exterior wall. It would then become directional with the house itself as a reflector, so this would need to be taken into consideration in the overall design (the possible need for bridging, static routes, etc).

Many power companies are already using WiFi nodes for meter reading, so the technology is readily available.



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 03:09 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. Pretty much the responses I was hoping for, confirming some ideas.


Originally posted by Shakeyjc
Is this the same line that will carry 230V to my power sockets that power the washing machine?

Yup. That's it. Or 110 V in North America.


Originally posted by Shakeyjc
Would a local satelite dish not be better if the area was remote? I just think that maybe the world is not prepared to adapt its powerlines to something like that - how much would this tech cost?

The area is not really that remote. It's pretty much a new development at the edge of the city (Pretoria). But 1. they’re looking for a high-tech, low cost solution, 2. remote metering will save lots of labour time. It will be much easier to sit in your office and do meter readings through a network with the click of a button, than to go to the site (each of the 400 homes) and walk from meter to meter.
A satellite is pretty much the most expensive solution of them all. PLC on the other hand is cheap, to say the least.


Originally posted by Shakeyjc
I've seem the smart ideas implemented before, like smart houses, which yes do have that special ability to prepare your breakfast. I'm not sure where this tech could end.

Personally I'm pretty excited about the tech, but it seems only usable in home environments, and not much further than that.


Originally posted by Shakeyjc
Do you have any links for this? I would like to read about it so i can figure out some real pros and cons.

This Site gives a pretty good idea about how it works. Be sure to see the different pages on PLC and BPL. BPL looks promising - but maybe only for under-developed countries. Thanks for your input!


Originally posted by DustintheWind
I think it is not widepread yet because Data still needs to be carried either by fiber-optic or telephone lines to skip the disruptive high-voltage lines, signals can only go so far until the information breaks down
...
you will need expensive signal boosters/reamplifiers to keep the integrity of the data up to par.
Petition your local service provider to go with FiberOptics if you can, between +/-400 homes you could easily pay for a FiberOptic network to be installed, it is alot cheaper than high-voltage copper transmission line maintenance (especially if you have a storm that takes out those lines.) and much more reliable with faster network speeds.

That's pretty much as I have it as well. The most important application for the technology seems to be "the last mile" of service. Even so, this (area of coverage) is too small for +/- 400 access points. And adding the amplifiers/boosters will mean co-operation from the local government (which runs the electricity services) and in the end get pretty messy. And at this stage Fibre optics are still quite expensive here, seeing that we have only one landline telecoms provider (but this will change soon) and they can pretty much ask for the lines what they want. Fibre optics would be ideal, but at this stage too difficult and expensive to implement.


Originally posted by apc
Your most viable project solution is WiFi with omnidirectional antennas in the attic of every home. If there is any way to get the antenna on the roof, signal quality would be greatly improved. If this is not an option, usable range will be limited based on the construction materials of the home and the area immediately surrounding the antenna. If range is an issue and roof mount is not an option, the antenna would have to be mounted on an exterior wall. It would then become directional with the house itself as a reflector, so this would need to be taken into consideration in the overall design (the possible need for bridging, static routes, etc).

That's pretty much the option I'm leaning towards... But as always there are many factors that influence this. Peer-to-Peer WiFi (or even a "small backbone") would be ideal, but the local laws on radio frequencies etc. are pretty strict. And when you go low enough (on frequency) you need line-of-sight antennas. Only problem is, people don't want all kinds of antennas defacing their pretty new homes, and we're independent from the builders/developers of the houses, so we'll have to get past them as well. Also, well need a CAT5 cable from the antenna/access point to the electrical meter, which means that we'll have to dig up their gardens...

But in the end, this solution seems to be the most viable, it just would have been much more exciting, and less hassle if I could implement PLC.


Originally posted by apc
Many power companies are already using WiFi nodes for meter reading, so the technology is readily available.

Yes, the technology is available, but anything we import from the US (or anywhere else costs pretty much 5 times what it costs in the US - or 10 times what it cost in Europe), thus we need to create our own solutions, and outweigh available options vs. developing new solutions.

Thanks again for the input... More ideas and input are always welcome!



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