Intelligent Metering and Monitoring at the Network Edge

Retrofitting legacy systems with IoT technology

The Challenge

Pražská Teplárenská a.s is a utility company that operates a district heating system in Prague, the capitol of the Czech Republic. It pumps steam to 265,000 customer connections from 49 different heating plants and if it were laid out end to end it would be 696 km long, reaching all the way to Switzerland. Most utility operators have some legacy infrastructure that was never designed or built to support remote monitoring and control, but thermal energy distributors tend to have quite a bit more of it than most.

The Pražská Teplárenská a.s system combines some new, cutting edge technologies with their legacy steam infrastructure. Their Malešice CHP plant, for example, is equipped with new prompt-gamma neutron activation coal analyzers that enable real-time analysis of the hard coal being supplied to a boiler. Operators can apply appropriate process control measures like sorting, blending, and coal homogenization, increasing energy efficiency while simultaneously reducing pollutants and emissions. Gamma neutron activation coal analyzers didn’t exist back when the system was originally designed and built.

Data networking connections didn’t exist back then, either, and the company now wanted to deploy remote supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) for everything from the frequency controllers on the circulation and boiler feed pumps to the meters at the customer locations. But, in a 1000 year old city with winding streets, canals, and irregular property lines, there were too many places where installing cable connections would have been quite impractical. The company needed a wireless solution.

The Solution

The company deployed B+B SmartWorx cellular routers. The routers communicate with the central control using standard TCP/IP, but they’ll connect to remote networks and devices using a variety of protocols and interfaces. Built-in Modbus hardware interfaces connect heat meters on Modbus loops. Additional interfaces connect equipment via Wi-Fi, Ethernet and RS232/422/485. The routers convert the disparate protocols, aggregate the data and transmit it over the cellular data network.

About the Hardware and Software

B+B SmartWorx cellular routers not only provide protocol conversion, data aggregation, Internet connectivity and secure communications for virtually any device, they can be configured with custom scripts to support custom functions. Users may develop these with Linux, C, C++ or the Python language, although Linux is recommended. B+B SmartWorx also provides a downloadable library of these scripts and user modules, like our Modbus TCP to Modbus RTU module, which allows Modbus RTU data to flow over TCP/IP networks.

The cellular networks are not proprietary, of course, so B+B SmartWorx simplifies VPN tunneling with our SmartCluster VPN server. Smartworx Hub™, our device configuration, diagnostics & management platform, lets users manage and configure any or all of their B+B SmartWorx routers from a single location. It displays your entire device population right on your desktop.

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