Is it time to look into Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)?
A typical Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) network is extremely hard to manage because it entails low-cost, low-speed, low-power communication network elements, such as low-speed wireless MESH or a low-speed power line communication (PLC). All best-practice network monitoring tools developed for high-speed networks are basically useless for AMI communications management. Utility engineering teams equipped with the only AMI network management system provided by a vendor (typically relying on queries of data stored in the AMI’s database) are thus often ill-prepared to answer simple yet crucial business questions:
- What is happening now (in real/near-real time) in our AMI network?
- How many meters in our network would reliably receive an energy peak-shave signal?
- Does our smart grid network feature sufficient capacity to accommodate additional data loads for new smart grid features, programs, and services?
Utility engineering teams are looking for novel and advanced monitoring techniques such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which can look inside each data packet provided by a low-speed field network to a high-speed Data Center network. By analyzing data packet payloads, engineers can implement not only real-time AMI network monitoring but can also extract and analyze Energy Network information such as reverse energy flow, volt-ampere reactive, last-gasp from a meter during outage, etc.
Could DPI-based network monitoring become a universal approach for the Energy networks monitoring? Should DPI-based network monitoring be extended to other utility networks such as networks serving SCADA, networks serving Phasor Measurement Units, networks supporting IEC 61850 inter-substations communications?
Would it be possible to define and implement Energy Management functionalities not currently supported by their SCADA, DMS, OMS, or EMS if utility engineers would implement advanced data correlation and analysis tools on top of DPI?
Such capabilities, based on readily available toolsets, can be developed and customized to monitor and manage variety of utility-specific communications assets as well as a whole suite of Smart Grid applications, leveraging subject matter expertise from operators, technical advisors, user groups and product developers.