Clock Syncing in the Utility Industry
Due to the advent of new technologies such as the web and revenue metering, the The utility market is undergoing a major transformation that relies less on mainframes and more on PCs. With the shift the proliferation of PCs acting across a network and that fact that the PCs are operating in a time critical environment makes time synchronization an important concern when running a network. Revenue metering requires that the meters be reset with accuracy time to make their time based data logging accurate.
Beagle Software addresses the problem with 2 network time sync solutions that can maintain a slew of PCs in sync. The following is a brief discussion of the changing environment, the need to keep the correct time and two ways to do it.
The Industry's Changing Environment
The need to maintain PCs set to the correct time is important. Since the advent of remote meter reading, time of day usage charges and rates have proliferated.
Many utilities today communicate with their meters over the phone line using MV90 protocol. The meter has a clock that sends back the time of day usage. Having the correct time is critical since many customers today are charged a different rate based on the time of day. In a deregulated environment, these rates can vary significantly. The calling utility can reset the time on the meter, but obviously needs to know what time it is.
A revenue meter communicates with the utility's system control center to provide information about electricity consumption or production. It accurately measures the amount of electricity that has been used or produced over intervals as short as five minutes. The utility reads this information once or more per day.
Revenue meters communicate to the utility through the public telephone network. They have built-in modems that send data to the utility over phone lines via the MV90 protocol.
Time Sensitive Meter Storage Parameters:
The move from Mainframe to PCs
Electric and gas utilities are learning what many other businesses have known all along: In an unregulated market, the customer is king. Customers expecting the freedom to buy electricity at the best prices from any supplier are demanding more and better services from their utilities. That includes better rates, as well as help cutting their electricity bills. For utilities facing deregulation, the ability to offer topflight customer service is becoming a matter of survival. To provide it, they're turning to information technology, especially the World Wide Web.
Further, many utilities are moving from mainframe environments (such as IBM's Systems Network Architecture networks) to TCP/IP networks and have installed an ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) backbone. The goal: to balance the need for legacy systems with the desire to move to faster client-server systems.
Typically the kind of interaction will include daily or hourly meter reading. While common in the commercial market, industry experts expect more residential customers to opt for real-time metering, increasing the amount of data collected as well as the number of people needed to analyze it.
The Beagle Software Solution
Beagle Software offers two solutions for keeping a network synchronized: ClockWatch Client/Server and ClockWatch Enterprise. Both feature a central timeserver available to LAN based clients. Generally Client/Server is a good choice for smaller (less than 15 clients) networks or where distributed control is desired. Enterprise shines in larger networks or situations where a central control point is favored.