SmartSynch’s Wireless Smart Meter Patents Pay Off with Consumers Roll Out

SmartSynch is a Jackson, Mississippi, provider of smart grid solutions and one of the few such companies which leverage existing cellular networks. 

SmartSynch owns at least 14 patents and pending patent applications, including at least two patent families relating to wireless data transmission and management technology.

The first dates back to an original filing date of 2001 and includes U.S. Patents Nos. 6,946,972 and 7,250,874, entitled “Systems and methods for wirelessly transmitting data from a utility meter” (collectively “Wireless Transmission Patents”)

The second patent family includes U.S. Patents No. 7,289,887 (‘887 Patent), 7,349,766 and 7,451,019, originally filed in 2003 and entitled “Systems and methods for remote power management using IEEE 802 based wireless communication links” (collectively “IEEE 802 Patents”).

The Wireless Transmission Patents are directed to methods of transmitting and receiving utility meter data in which an interface board (18) obtains electrical usage data from a meter board (12) and packages it for transmission to a remote host computer (28) via a pager board (24) and a pager system (26).

The interface board (18) also monitors power quality data including average phase voltages and angles from the meter board (12), and when there are power quality events such as power outages and high/low voltage events, notifies the remote host computer (28).

Raw load profile data is read from the serial meter port (16) via an interface serial port (20) and stored in an input buffer by a microprocessor (32).

The microprocessor (32) performs a process called differential compression whereby it calculates the difference between two meter reading values and compresses the data if necessary for transmission.  According to the Wireless Transmission Patents:

[C]ompression may be turned on and off as the stream of raw data words are read from the input buffer by examining the data value of the current word to determine whether the difference between it and the data value of the last data word read can be represented by a single byte.

In this way, streams of data which vary in size can be transmitted efficiently over a wireless network.

The IEEE 802 Patents are directed to methods for energy management wherein a host controller distributes energy data to an on-premise processor, which in turn uses 802.11 based wireless protocols to communicate with utility meters.

802.11 is a suite of wireless technical standards for local area networks (LAN).  The 802.11 protocols are based on using TCP/IP protocols and were developed to facilitate interworking of existing hardware and software for use with wireless LAN equipment.

The IEEE 802 Patents generally relate to integrating energy data into wireless communications and include some rather broad claims, including claim 1 of the ‘887 Patent:

1.  A method for energy management comprising:

receiving energy rating data at an on-premise processor transmitted by a distribution network from a host processor and storing the energy rating data in a memory, the rating data including a schedule pertaining to time and energy costs;

receiving at the on-premise processor a message from an end device requesting energy rating data, wherein the message is communicated using a wireless communication link, the wireless communication link relaying the message through at least one other end device;

retrieving the energy rating data from the memory and sending a response message including the energy rating data using the wireless communications link from the on-premise processor to the end device;

determining independently in the end device whether to generate an activation signal based at least in part on the energy rating data; and

the end device allowing or reducing power load consumption according to the determination.

According to a recent SmartSynch press release, its technology “securely deliver[s] smart grid data on all major cellular networks, enabling quicker, easier, more scalable and strategic smart meter deployments for utilities.”

And the utilities are paying attention:  SmartSynch recently announced that it was selected to provide the advanced metering system for Consumers Energy’s rollout of 1.8 million smart meters to the utility’s electricity customers in Michigan (see the Greentech Media article here).

The press release says Consumers is “the largest U.S. utility to choose a cellular-based communication system for the smart meter deployment phase of its grid modernization program.”

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.