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Publication numberWO2012038764 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/GB2011/051819
Publication dateMar 29, 2012
Filing dateSep 26, 2011
Priority dateSep 24, 2010
Publication numberPCT/2011/51819, PCT/GB/11/051819, PCT/GB/11/51819, PCT/GB/2011/051819, PCT/GB/2011/51819, PCT/GB11/051819, PCT/GB11/51819, PCT/GB11051819, PCT/GB1151819, PCT/GB2011/051819, PCT/GB2011/51819, PCT/GB2011051819, PCT/GB201151819, WO 2012/038764 A1, WO 2012038764 A1, WO 2012038764A1, WO-A1-2012038764, WO2012/038764A1, WO2012038764 A1, WO2012038764A1
InventorsBenjamin John Pirt
ApplicantOnzo Limited
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Data transmission method and system
WO 2012038764 A1
Abstract
A method of transmitting data from a utility meter for measuring consumption of a utility to a remote host comprising the steps of: transmitting the data from the utility meter to the remote host via a publicly accessible communication network; transmitting a code associated with the data to the remote host via a private communication path between the utility meter and the remote host; and using the code to access the data and / or to verify authenticity of the data.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
A method of transmitting data from a utility meter for measuring consumption of a utility to a remote host comprising the steps of: transmitting the data from the utility meter to the remote host via a publicly accessible communication network; transmitting a code associated with the data to the remote host via a private communication path between the utility meter and the remote host; and using the code to access the data and / or to verify authenticity of the data.
A method according to claim 1 wherein the transmitted data is utility consumption data.
A method according to claim 1 or 2 wherein the transmitted data is encrypted data and the code is an encryption key.
A method according to claim 3 wherein a different encryption key is used and transmitted via the private communication path for each transmission of encrypted data.
A method according to claim 3 wherein the same encryption key is used and transmitted via the private communication path for more than one transmission of encrypted data.
A method according to claim 1 or 2 wherein the code is a hash value code, the method comprising the steps of: generating the hash value code by applying a hashing algorithm to the data prior to transmission; receiving the hash value code and the data at the host; applying the same hashing algorithm to the data received by the host to generate a second hash value code; and comparing the transmitted hash value code and the second hash value code to determine the authenticity of the received data.
7. A method according to any preceding claim wherein the publicly accessible
communications network is the internet.
8. A method according to any preceding claim wherein the private communication path is a power line communication path.
9. A utility meter configured to collect and transmit utility consumption data, the meter comprising a coding module configured to perform a coding operation on collected utility consumption data to generate a code associated with the utility consumption data; transmit the utility consumption data to a remote host via a publicly accessible communication network; and transmit the code to the remote host via a private communication path.
10. A utility meter according to claim 9 wherein the coding module is implemented in hardware, software or firmware.
11. A computer program comprising software adapted to perform the steps of:
performing a coding operation on utility consumption data collected by a utility consumption meter and generating a code associated with the coding operation for accessing the utility consumption data and / or verifying authenticity of the utility consumption data.
12. A computer program according to claim 1 1 wherein the utility consumption data is encrypted utility consumption data and the code is an encryption key.
13. A computer program according to claim 1 1 wherein the coding operation is a hashing operation and the code is a hash value code generated by performing the hashing operation on the utility consumption data.
14. A computer readable storage medium comprising the program of claim 11 , 12 or 13.
15. A computer program product comprising computer readable code according to claim 14.
16. An article of manufacture comprising: a machine -readable storage medium; and executable program instructions embodied in the machine readable storage medium that when executed by a programmable system causes the system to perform the function of generating a code associated with utility consumption data comprising the step of performing a coding operation on utility consumption data collected by a utility consumption meter; wherein the code is useable to access the data and/or verify authenticity of the data.
17. A host configured to receive utility consumption data from a publicly accessible communication network; to receive a code used to generate the coded utility consumption data from a private communication path; and to use the code to access the utility consumption data and / or to verify authenticity of the utility consumption data.
18. A computer program comprising software adapted to perform the step of using a code to perform a coding or decoding operation on utility consumption data received from a utility consumption meter, the computer program having program code adapted to use the code to access the utility consumption data and / or to verify authenticity of the utility consumption data.
19. A computer program according to claim 18 wherein the utility consumption data is encrypted utility consumption data and the coding or decoding operation is a decoding operation performed using an encryption key received from the utility consumption meter.
20. A computer program according to claim 18 wherein the coding or decoding operation is a hashing operation for generating a hash value code wherein the generated hash value code is compared to a hash value code received from the utility consumption meter.
21. A computer readable storage medium comprising the program of any of claims 18-20.
22. A computer program product comprising computer readable code according to claim 21.
23. An article of manufacture comprising: a machine -readable storage medium; and executable program instructions embodied in the machine readable storage medium that when executed by a programmable system causes the system to perform the function of accessing utility consumption data and / or verifying authenticity of utility consumption data, comprising the step of performing a coding or decoding operation on utility consumption data received from a utility consumption meter via a publicly accessible communication network using a code associated with the data and received from a utility consumption meter via a private communication path.
24. A system for transmitting utility consumption data from a utility meter to a host
comprising a utility meter according to claim 9 or 10 and a host according to claim 17.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Data Transmission Method and System

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a method and a system for transmitting data, in particular utility consumption data, from a utility meter to a host.

Background of the Invention

In recent years, there has been an increase in meters for supplied utilities such as gas, electricity and water that not only measure utility consumption but also transfer the measured utility consumption data back to the utility provider and / or to another party for analysis of utility consumption. So-called Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems allow for this transfer of data from a meter. Two-way communication of data is also possible in systems commonly known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) systems. The transferred utility consumption data may be used to simply generate utility bills. Alternatively or additionally, analysis of the transferred data can be used to provide consumers with detailed information on their utility consumption and advice on how they may reduce their utility consumption and / or utility bills, for example by shifting consumption to off-peak periods or by identification of areas in which a consumer's utility consumption is particularly high relative to average consumption.

An exemplary system for transmission of utility consumption data is the Onzo smart energy kit available from Onzo Ltd which a monitor that captures and transmits electricity consumption data to a display, which displays consumption data for viewing by a consumer and from which data can be transmitted via a personal computer to the utility provider or another party. Utility consumption data can be highly sensitive and confidential in nature. For example, data on utility consumption may not only reveal the amounts and timings of utilities consumed by a household, but may also reveal information such as times when a household is unoccupied, such as periods over the course of a week when utility consumption is low or zero. Utility consumption data may even be used to infer the appliances present within a household based on utility consumption "signatures". It is therefore desirable for transmission of utility

consumption data, and any information derived from this data, to be as secure as possible.

Summary of the Invention

In a first aspect the invention provides a method of transmitting data from a utility meter for measuring consumption of a utility to a remote host comprising the steps of: transmitting the data from the utility meter to the remote host via a publicly accessible communication network; transmitting a code associated with the data to the remote host via a private communication path between the utility meter and the remote host; and using the code to access the data and / or to verify authenticity of the data.

Optionally, the transmitted data is utility consumption data.

Optionally, the transmitted data is encrypted data and the code is an encryption key.

Optionally, a different encryption key is used and transmitted via the private

communication path for each transmission of encrypted data.

Optionally, the same encryption key is used and transmitted via the private

communication path for more than one transmission of encrypted data.

Optionally, the code is a hash value code, the method comprising the steps of: generating the hash value code by applying a hashing algorithm to the data prior to transmission; receiving the hash value code and the data at the host; applying the same hashing algorithm to the data received by the host to generate a second hash value code; and comparing the transmitted hash value code and the second hash value code to determine the authenticity of the received data.

Optionally, the publicly accessible communications network is the internet.

Optionally, the private communication path is a power line communication path.

In a second aspect the invention provides a utility meter configured to collect and transmit utility consumption data, the meter comprising a coding module configured to perform a coding operation on collected utility consumption data to generate a code associated with the utility consumption data; transmit the utility consumption data to a remote host via a publicly accessible communication network; and transmit the code to the remote host via a private communication path.

Optionally, the coding module is implemented in hardware, software or firmware.

In a third aspect the invention provides a computer program comprising software adapted to perform the steps of: performing a coding operation on utility consumption data collected by a utility consumption meter and generating a code associated with the coding operation for accessing the utility consumption data and / or verifying authenticity of the utility consumption data..

Optionally according to the third aspect, the utility consumption data is encrypted utility consumption data and the code is an encryption key.

Optionally according to the third aspect, the coding operation is a hashing operation and the code is a hash value code generated by performing the hashing operation on the utility consumption data.

In a fourth aspect the invention provides a computer readable storage medium comprising the program of the third aspect.

In a fifth aspect the invention provides a computer program product comprising computer readable code according to the fourth aspect. In a fifth aspect the invention provides an article of manufacture comprising: a machine -readable storage medium; and executable program instructions embodied in the machine readable storage medium that when executed by a programmable system causes the system to perform the function of generating a code associated with utility consumption data comprising the step of performing a coding operation on utility consumption data collected by a utility consumption meter; wherein the code is useable to access the data and/or verify authenticity of the data.

In a sixth aspect the invention provides a host configured to receive utility consumption data from a publicly accessible communication network; to receive a code used to generate the coded utility consumption data from a private communication path; and to use the code to access the utility consumption data and / or to verify authenticity of the utility consumption data.

In a seventh aspect the invention provides a computer program comprising software adapted to perform the step of using a code to perform a coding or decoding operation on utility consumption data received from a utility consumption meter, the computer program having program code adapted to use the code to access the utility consumption data and / or to verify authenticity of the utility consumption data.

Optionally according to the seventh aspect the utility consumption data is encrypted utility consumption data and the coding or decoding operation is a decoding operation performed using an encryption key received from the utility consumption meter.

Optionally according to the seventh aspect the coding or decoding operation is a hashing operation for generating a hash value code wherein the generated hash value code is compared to a hash value code received from the utility consumption meter.

In an eighth aspect the invention provides a computer readable storage medium comprising the program of the seventh aspect. In a ninth aspect the invention provides a computer program product comprising computer readable code according to the eight aspect.

In a tenth aspect the invention provides an article of manufacture comprising: a machine -readable storage medium; and executable program instructions embodied in the machine readable storage medium that when executed by a programmable system causes the system to perform the function of accessing utility consumption data and / or verifying authenticity of utility consumption data, comprising the step of performing a coding or decoding operation on utility consumption data received from a utility consumption meter via a publicly accessible communication network using a code associated with the data and received from a utility consumption meter via a private communication path.

In an eleventh aspect the invention provides a system for transmitting utility consumption data from a utility meter to a host comprising a utility meter according to the second aspect and a host according to the sixth aspect.

Description of the Drawings

The invention will now be described in more detail with reference to the drawings in which:

Figure 1 illustrates an AMR or AMI system according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 illustrates an exemplary arrangement for use in the system of Figure 1 for transmission of utility consumption data from a meter to a host;

Figure 3 is a flowchart illustrating a method according to a first exemplary method of the invention; and

Figure 4 is a flowchart illustrating a method according to a second exemplary method of the invention. Detailed Description of the Invention

Figure 1 illustrates an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) or Advanced Metering

Infrastructure (AMI) system according to an embodiment of the invention and comprising an electricity meter 10, a gas meter 20, and a water meter 30; and a host 70 which may for example be a server or a computer configured to function as a server. An AMR system may be configured to send data from a meter. An AMI system may be configured to both send data from a meter and receive data at the meter. The system is configured such that utility consumption data may be transmitted from each meter to the host using a direct or indirect internet connection 50 between each meter and the host 70. Additionally, the system comprises a coding module 40 that assigns a code to the utility consumption data, and the system is configured to transmit a code to the host 70 via a private communication path 60 of the AMR or AMI, and to transmit the utility consumption data via the internet connection 50. Transmission of data via the AMR or AMI metering infrastructure is very secure and reliable, although bandwidth is relatively low and cost per data packet is relatively high. In contrast, transmission of data via the internet typically has higher bandwidth and lower cost per data packet than that of metering infrastructure, but public accessibility to the internet makes communication less secure than communications through the private AMI communication path. Therefore the combination of the internet for transmission of utility consumption data and metering infrastructure for transmission of a code for security purposes may provide fast, low-cost and secure transmission of utility consumption data from the meter to the host.

The meters are installed in any location receiving one or more discrete utility supply including, without limitation, a house, apartment, apartment block, office, office block, factory, shop or shopping centre. Although Figure 1 illustrates a system comprising electricity, gas and water meters it will be appreciated that the system could comprise fewer (including only one) or more utility meters.

The meter may measure utility consumption at fixed intervals, for example once every month, once every week, once every day, once every hour, once every minute or once every second. It will be appreciated that the higher the measurement frequency the higher the accuracy of information on utility consumption that can be derived from the measurements.

The measurement of utility consumption may be in the form of real power, reactive power and / or total amount of electrical energy consumed in the case of an electricity meter; water flow rate and / or total volume of water consumed in the case of a water meter; and gas flow rate and / or total volume of gas consumed in the case of a gas meter. The utility consumption data transmitted to host 70 may be the data as measured alone. Alternatively or additionally, the data may be processed, e.g. compressed, prior to transmission and a data processing module may be implemented in hardware or software for this purpose.

Exemplary meters of this type include any meter suitable for use in a system configured to transmit utility consumption data, such as a meter used in an automatic meter reading system or a meter used for advanced metering infrastructure.

The coding module 40 may be implemented in hardware, software or firmware and may be a component of the meter 10, 20 and / or 30. Alternatively, the coding module 40 may be a component that is in communication with, but discrete from, any of the meters. In one embodiment, the coding module is implemented in firmware running on the meter.

Access to the private communication path 60 of the AMR or AMI is, unlike the internet, not made available to the public and as such transmissions using this communication path are typically more difficult to intercept and / or alter than transmissions using the internet. Exemplary dedicated communication paths of the AMR or AMI are Power Line

Communications (PLC), Broadband over Power Line (BPL), fixed Radio Frequency (RF) networks, WiMax and mesh radio networks, or hybrid networks.

The utility meter may comprise, or be in communication with, a wired or wireless modem for transmitting utility consumption data via the internet. Alternatively, the meter may comprise, or be in communication with, another means for communicating the utility consumption data, such as through a ZigBee or Bluetooth network. This is illustrated in Figure 2, in which the meter 10 comprises a ZigBee end device 201 that transmits the utility consumption data to a ZigBee Ethernet gateway 203 connected to a computer 205 for transmission of the utility consumption data to the host 70.

Transmission of utility consumption data to the host may occur automatically, for example at regular intervals such as once every day. Alternatively or additionally, data may be transmitted in response to a user instruction. For example, and with reference to Figure 2, a user may send data to the host from computer 205.

Figure 3 illustrates a first transmission method.

According to this method, in a first step 301 the mathematical method known as hashing is applied by the coding module 40 to the utility consumption data using a hashing algorithm to generate a code, which in this case is a hash value. The utility consumption data is transmitted via the internet to the host (step 303), and the hash value code is transmitted via the dedicated communication means of the metering infrastructure (step 305). An ID value may also be sent with the hash value code transmitted over the metering infrastructure and with the utility consumption data transmitted over the internet in order that the hash value code and utility consumption data may be connected to one another upon receipt of both transmissions at the host 70.

Following receipt of the utility consumption data at the host 70 at step 307, the same hashing algorithm is applied to the utility consumption data received at host 70 at step 309. This hashing may be done using hardware, software or firmware of either host 70 or another component (not shown).

The hash value code received over the metering infrastructure and the hash value code generated in the second hashing at the host 70 are compared at step 311. If the hash value code that is generated in this second hashing is not the same as the hash value code received via the metering infrastructure then the data has been altered (maliciously or otherwise) before reaching the host 70. In that case, an alert may be issued to check security of data transmitted between the relevant local IP address and the host, and the received data is not considered to be authentic and is not used in any analysis of utility consumption. The utility consumption data may be re-sent once any security risks in the internet transmission of utility consumption data have been identified and resolved (step 313).

If the hash value code that is generated in the second hashing is the same as the hash value code received via the metering infrastructure then the utility consumption data is considered to be authentic, and may be used in analyses of utility consumption in the location where the measured utility consumption occurred, including but not limited to: identification of utility-consuming appliances, identification of events associated with operation of utility consuming appliances, and comparison of measured utility consumption to a peer-group or national average.

By using the method illustrated in Figure 3, the utility consumption data may be readable if intercepted, however any modification to the message, either malicious or otherwise, will be detectable. Figure 4 illustrates a second transmission method in which the utility consumption data is not readable if intercepted.

According to this method, the utility consumption data is encrypted at step 401 by any known encryption method requiring a unique key for decryption. The encrypted utility consumption data is transmitted via the internet to the host (step 403), and the encryption key code is transmitted via the metering infrastructure (step 405).

An ID value may also be sent with the encryption key code transmitted over the metering infrastructure and with the encrypted utility consumption data transmitted over the internet in order that the encryption key and the encrypted utility consumption data may be connected to one another upon receipt of both transmissions at the host. In this case, a different encryption key may be used each time data is transmitted, however in another arrangement the same key may be used for two or more different sets of utility consumption data in order to reduce the amount of data transmitted through the metering interface.

Following receipt of the utility consumption data and encryption key at the host (step 407), the encryption key code is used to decrypt the utility consumption data received by the host 70 at step 409. In another method, transmission the utility consumption data is password protected rather than encrypted, and the code sent via the metering infrastructure is the password rather than an encryption key.

In another method, any of the aforementioned methods may be combined. For example, the utility consumption data may be both encrypted and password protected, in which case both an encryption key and password are sent via the metering infrastructure.

The apparatus described above may be implemented at least in part in software. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the apparatus described above may be implemented using general purpose computer equipment or using bespoke equipment.

The hardware elements, operating systems and programming languages of such computers are conventional in nature, and it is presumed that those skilled in the art are adequately familiar therewith. Of course, server functions may be implemented in a distributed fashion on a number of similar platforms, to distribute the processing load.

Program aspects of the technology can be thought of as "products" or "articles of manufacture" typically in the form of executable code and/or associated data that is carried on or embodied in a type of machine readable medium. "Storage" type media include any or all of the memory of the mobile stations, computers, processors or the like, or associated modules thereof, such as various semiconductor memories, tape drives, disk drives, and the like, which may provide storage at any time for the software

programming. All or portions of the software may at times be communicated through the Internet or various other telecommunications networks. Such communications, for example, may enable loading of the software from one computer or processor into another computer or processor. Thus, another type of media that may bear the software elements includes optical, electrical and electromagnetic waves, such as used across physical interfaces between local devices, through wired and optical landline networks and over various air-links. The physical elements that carry such waves, such as wired or wireless links, optical links or the like, also may be considered as media bearing the software. As used herein, unless restricted to tangible non-transitory "storage" media, terms such as computer or machine "readable medium" refer to any medium that participates in providing instructions to a processor for execution.

Hence, a machine readable medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, a tangible storage carrier, a carrier wave medium or physical transaction medium. Nonvolatile storage media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks, such as any of the storage devices in computer(s) or the like, such as may be used to implement the encoder, the decoder, etc. shown in the drawings. Volatile storage media include dynamic memory, such as the main memory of a computer platform. Tangible transmission media include coaxial cables; copper wire and fiber optics, including the wires that comprise the bus within a computer system. Carrier-wave transmission media can take the form of electric or electromagnetic signals, or acoustic or light waves such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media therefore include for example: a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD or DVD-ROM, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical storage medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM and EPROM, a FLASH-EPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave transporting data or instructions, cables or links transporting such a carrier wave, or any other medium from which a computer can read programming code and/or data. Many of these forms of computer readable media may be involved in carrying one or more sequences of one or more instructions to a processor for execution.

While the foregoing has described what are considered to be the best mode and/or other examples, it is understood that various modifications may be made therein and that the subject matter disclosed herein may be implemented in various forms and examples, and that the teachings may be applied in numerous applications, only some of which have been described herein. It is intended by the following claims to claim any and all applications, modifications and variations that fall within the true scope of the present teachings.

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Non-Patent Citations
Reference
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Classifications
International ClassificationG01D4/00
Cooperative ClassificationY02B90/241, Y04S20/32, G01D4/002
European ClassificationG01D4/00R
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