Melbourne, Vic, Australia --- (METERING.COM) --- August 8, 2007 - The Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has committed itself to continuing to review opportunities for the adoption of open communications protocols and standards for its AMI program.

This was one of the outcomes of a recent open communications forum hosted by the DPI, with a view to moving to formalize standards (open or otherwise) to allow interoperability of multiple brands of AMI systems components, such as meters, to meet both the state’s and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) mandates to rollout AMI/smart metering.

As there are no mature open communications protocols and standards for AMI systems that have been implemented in any major AMI rollout in any international jurisdiction, the DPI was concerned that there is a risk that Victoria may become locked-in to a range of proprietary AMI communications protocols that adversely affect market dynamics and efficiency.

One of the key issues identified was the potential suitability of international open communications standards for the WAN and LAN communications – ANSI C12.22 used in North America and the European standard DLMS/COSEM. The DPI agreed to further assess the scope and coverage of these standards and to investigate their potential applicability for AMI rollout in Victoria.

The DPI also agreed to maintain a watching brief on international AMI developments for any open standards emerging at a national AMI level that could be utilized for WAN and LAN communications in Victoria. Advantages of a local open standard are that it allows tailoring to meet the local needs and can be updated without requiring the agreement of overseas jurisdictions. However, the development of such a standard is likely to take several years and hence delay AMI implementation in Australia, and also there is the risk that it would not be supported by many vendors, resulting in market capture by a few vendors and resultant higher prices.

Open access to key infrastructure, in particular data, emerged as another important issue and the DPI will review the AMI approach to ensure access to data for those parties entitled to the data.
 
Consumer representatives raised the issue of the customer experience with AMI, noting that there should be positive customer outcomes from AMI. In particular there should be importance placed on the ease, consistency and customer friendliness of interfaces to the customer, and the DPI will ensure that development of the proposed in-home display guidelines will encourage a common minimum interface functionality to these devices.

The current Victorian approach will achieve open communications at either end of the AMI system, with the ZigBee AMI profile likely to be prescribed for the connection of the meter to the Home Area Network (HAN), while the connections from the network management system to the B2B hub and MSATS are already open standards. This approach means that market B2B messaging will be used to send/receive commands and messages to/from specific AMI installations, with a specified market participant taking responsibility for the communications between the B2B hub and the metering installation itself. Also, the specification of standards for the HAN provides certainty to vendors interested in developing and offering HAN-based devices, including in-home displays.

The Victorian Minimum State-wide Functionality Specification is due for completion in September.