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Tropos GridCom™ architecture enables a full range of Smart Grid systems over a single IP network

Tropos partners with industry-leading Smart Grid solution providers, Itron, Echelon, and Elster

April 14, 2009 - Tropos Networks, the market leader in large-scale outdoor wireless IP broadband mesh networks introduced its GridCom architecture for building a wide area aggregation network for smart grid communications utilizing open-standard radios. To fully achieve the vision of a smart grid, a broadband network is required that creates a solid foundation upon which multiple smart grid systems can be deployed. The GridCom architecture delivers a resilient, scalable, high performance, and secure foundation for aggregating wide area smart grid communications.

The foundation for GridCom is field-proven technology that includes Tropos’ outdoor optimized routers; the patented Tropos Mesh OS built from the ground-up for large scale, mission critical outdoor network deployments; and a carrier-class centralized management and control system. As a standards-based architecture, GridCom seamlessly extends the utility’s existing enterprise network and systems to provide coverage across large geographical areas, enabling multiple smart grid applications over a single network. Compared to the GridCom architecture, alternative technologies for aggregating wide area communications do not provide the low latency and high bandwidth capacity for handling multiple bidirectional critical systems easily. In addition, over a 5-year period, GridCom is a fraction of the cost of any alternative approaches.

“Smart grid requires multiple real-time applications working in tandem over a single high speed IP network that is reliable, secure and has a minimum impact on the community,” said Fred Fletcher, assistant general manager of Burbank Water and Power. “We installed Tropos in Burbank and it met these requirements and more. We had concerns about how well Tropos might work with our high performance 10Gbps Ethernet network, as that had been an issue with other products, but they surpassed our expectations in performance, manageability, and security, and setup was trouble free. We incorporated the Tropos wireless mesh nodes into our cyber security perimeter that is designed to meet NERC CIP standards, which is an important criterion for us as we build our smart grid, and again that proved to be a straight forward implementation.”

Broadband communications – A key building block for Smart Grids
The vision of smart grids is that applications become more intelligent with more decisions and actions becoming automated. In order to achieve this goal, smart grid systems are data intensive and require real-time end-to-end communications. Rather than a utility making separate decisions for each system or getting locked in to a proprietary approach that may work for a single application, smart grids require a strategic decision for implementation of a wide area aggregation network. A common wide area aggregation network infrastructure enables application specific systems to be integrated and deployed over time.

Whether a utility starts building a smart grid by deploying an AMI or distribution automation system first, they eventually will end up implementing multiple systems to fulfill the vision of the smart grid. These automation and control systems require low latency, high availability, security, and resiliency to ensure proper operation. A common building block required by all of these systems is a wide area aggregation network. GridCom uniquely fulfills all of these requirements – today, enabling utilities to build smart grids, starting with a key element of the foundation.

GridCom – Built on field-proven technology
GridCom is based upon the Tropos System Architecture which is used today to deliver multiple real-time monitoring and control applications applicable to the smart grid such as providing the backhaul for advanced metering LANS; Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems; and video monitoring. In addition, mobile utility workers securely connect to the mesh for access to multiple IP applications which improve their efficiency; such applications include work order management and scheduling; mobile GIS; and the ability to complete and submit field reports. Examples of Tropos customers running a wide range of utility applications include Anderson Municipal Light and Power (Anderson, IN); Lafayette Utilities System (Lafayette, LA); and Burbank Water and Power (Burbank, CA).

Tropos has been delivering market leading wireless broadband networks to municipalities to enable them to build “Smart Cities” since 2003. Customers cost effectively and securely leverage their investment across multiple city departments, extending LAN applications out to mobile workers, improving efficiencies and enabling new applications. More than 750 customers around the world use Tropos today for a range of applications from intelligent transportation systems and public safety to mobile workers and public access.

“For Tropos, expansion into the smart grid market is a logical step and builds upon our technology and eight years of experience in building products used for mission-critical large-scale outdoor wireless deployments,” said Tom Ayers, president and CEO of Tropos. “Smart grids are a great opportunity for us to deliver our field-proven solutions into a new high-growth market.”

A White Paper on the role and requirements for broadband communications in enabling smart grids, including an overview of GridCom, is now available for download .

Delivering GridCom through strategic partners
Tropos has established relationships with several industry-leading smart metering and system vendors, including Itron, Echelon, and Elster. These vendors are working with Tropos on several fronts including interoperability validation, solution development, and joint marketing efforts for smart metering and other applications that utilities can leverage to create a multi-application business case. “The GridCom architecture provides a strong offering for utilities seeking to extend their enterprise network from the substation into their territory for multiple applications,” said Rich Creegan, vice president of marketing and strategy for Itron. “Since the Tropos architecture includes standards-based interfaces, it has been straightforward to integrate our Open Way ® smart metering solution with the network.”

“Echelon shares Tropos’ broad view of the smart grid,” said Jeff Lund, vice president of business development for Echelon. “As a standards-based IP infrastructure, the Tropos platform can be used by our Networked Energy Service (NES) advanced metering system, LonWorks based intelligent street lighting systems, and LonWorks based commercial demand response systems to build a true smart grid that connects a wide range of assets over a common IP infrastructure to deliver a variety of services that improve energy efficiency and quality.”

“Elster has a long standing commitment to offering utilities a wide range of technology choices for backhaul communications on the EnergyAxis System. Tropos is a natural partner for Elster as we extend this inherent communications flexibility into broader support of smart grids,” said Victor Sitton, vice president of product marketing for Elster Integrated Solutions.

Tropos’ global system integration partners deliver a wide range of applications and services to customers. Such partners will include GridCom as part of the solutions they offer utilities. 

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