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Publication numberUS20050143941 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/046,140
Publication dateJun 30, 2005
Filing dateJan 28, 2005
Priority dateFeb 23, 2001
Also published asCA2438792A1, US6853978, US20020120521, WO2002069542A2, WO2002069542A3
Publication number046140, 11046140, US 2005/0143941 A1, US 2005/143941 A1, US 20050143941 A1, US 20050143941A1, US 2005143941 A1, US 2005143941A1, US-A1-20050143941, US-A1-2005143941, US2005/0143941A1, US2005/143941A1, US20050143941 A1, US20050143941A1, US2005143941 A1, US2005143941A1
InventorsBradford Forth, Martin Hancock, Marcus Gasper, Peter Doorn
Original AssigneeForth Bradford J., Hancock Martin A., Marcus Gasper, Doorn Peter M.V.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for providing electronic devices to order
US 20050143941 A1
Abstract
A system and method of specifying reconfigure to order electronic devices is disclosed. A customer interacts with a reseller to specify the electronic device they wish to purchase, any software to be loaded on the electronic device prior to shipment. A portion of the software is provided by the customer to the reseller. An electronic device is selected from inventory stock and reconfigured. The electronic device is delivered to the customer capable of being used within the customer's specific application without further configuration by the customer.
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Claims(38)
1. A method of processing an order from a customer by a reseller of an electronic device, said electronic device comprising storage operative to store software, said method comprising:
(a) receiving a configuration from said customer by an order processing system, wherein said configuration comprises a first specification identifying software to be installed in a first electronic device, including at least a portion thereof to be provided by said customer;
(b) receiving by said order processing system, said portion of said software provided by said customer;
(c) retrieving a first electronic device from an inventory stock of electronic devices;
(d) reconfiguring said storage of said first electronic device based on said software, including at least said portion thereof received from said customer; and
(e) supplying said first electronic device to said customer wherein said first electronic device is capable of being utilized by said customer without further configuration according to said configuration.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein said first electronic device comprises an electrical energy meter.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein said inventory stock comprises new and used electronic devices.
4. The method of claim 1., wherein (a) further comprises:
receiving said configuration by an order processing system over a network from a network accessible web site.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein said software is communicated by said customer to said order processing system.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein (a) further comprises:
receiving a second specification identifying a second electronic device owned by said customer and accessible via a network; and
retrieving said configuration from said second electronic device via said network.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
(f) storing said order in a database coupled with said order processing system, said database operative to store said configuration and said software for all of said orders placed by said customer.
8. The method of claim 7, further comprising:
(g) receiving, by said order processing system, an identification of a prior order for a second electronic device previously ordered from said reseller, said prior order being stored in said database; and
(h) retrieving said prior order from said database; and
wherein (a) further comprises receiving said configuration from said prior order.
9. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
(f) assessing at least one need of said customer;
(g) recommending a particular configuration based on (f);
10. An order processor for providing an electronic device from a reseller to a customer, said electronic device comprising storage operative to store software, said order processor comprising:
an order receiver operative to receive an order for a first electronic device, said order comprising a configuration comprising a specification identifying software to be installed in said first electronic device, including at least a portion thereof to be provided by said customer;
a software receiver operative to receive said portion of said software from said customer;
a selection interface coupled with said order receiver and said software receiver operative to select a first electronic device from inventory stock;
a configuration interface coupled with said order receiver and said software receiver operative to reconfigure said storage of said first electronic device based on said software, including at least said portion thereof received from said customer;
a delivery interface coupled with said order receiver and operative to deliver said order to said customer according to said configuration such that said first electronic device is capable of being utilized by said customer without further configuration.
11. The order processor of claim 10, wherein said first electronic device comprises an electrical energy meter.
12. The order processor of claim 10, wherein said inventory stock comprises new and used electronic devices.
13. The order processor of claim 10, wherein said order receiver is further operative to receive said order via a network coupled with said order receiver.
14. A method of processing an order from a customer by a reseller for an electronic device, said electronic device being characterized by at least one model and at least one type, said electronic device comprising storage operative to store software, said method comprising:
(a) receiving by an order processing system, a first specification identifying a first electronic device to be ordered, said first specification identifying a particular one of said at least one model and type;
(b) receiving by said order processing system, a second specification identifying optional hardware to be installed in said electronic device;
(c) receiving by said order processing system, a third specification identifying software to be installed in said electronic device including at least a portion thereof to be provided by said customer;
(d) receiving by said order processing system, said portion of said software provided by said customer;
(e) providing said first electronic device of said specified particular model and type from an inventory stock maintained by said provider;
(f) installing said specified optional hardware into said first electronic device;
(g) configuring said storage of said first electronic device based on said software, including at least said portion thereof received from said customer; and
(h) supplying said first electronic device to said customer wherein said first electronic device is capable of being utilized by said customer without further configuration according to said first, second and third specifications.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein said first electronic device comprises an electrical energy meter.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein said inventory stock comprises new and used electronic devices.
17. The method of claim 14, wherein said software is communicated by said customer to said order processing system.
18. The method of claim 14, wherein said order processing system is coupled with a network, (a) further comprising receiving said first specification over said network, (b) further comprising receiving said second specification over said network, and (c) further comprising receiving said third specification over said network.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein at least one of (a), (b), and (c) are performed by an interface coupled with said order processing system, wherein said interface comprises a network accessible web site.
20. The method of claim 14, wherein (a) further comprises:
receiving a fourth specification identifying a second electronic device owned by said customer and accessible via a network; and
retrieving identifiers of a model and type of said second electronic device from said second electronic device by said order processing system via said network, said first specification comprising said identifiers.
21. The method of claim 14, wherein (b) further comprises:
receiving a fourth specification identifying a second electronic device owned by said customer and accessible via a network; and
retrieving identifiers of said optional hardware installed in said second electronic device from said second electronic device by said order processing system via said network, said second specification comprising said identifiers.
22. The method of claim 14, wherein (c) further comprises:
receiving a fourth specification identifying a second electronic device owned by said customer and accessible via a network; and
retrieving a copy of said software installed in said second electronic device from said second electronic device by said order processing system via said network, said third specification comprising said copy.
23. The method of claim 14, further comprising:
(i) storing said order in a database coupled with said order processing system, said database operative to store said first, second, and third specifications and said software for all of said orders placed by said customer.
24. The method of claim 23, further comprising:
(j) receiving, by said order processing system, an identification of a prior order for a second electronic device previously ordered from said reseller, said prior order being stored in said database; and
(k) retrieving said prior order from said database; and
wherein (a) further comprises receiving said first specification from said prior order.
25. The method of claim 23, further comprising:
(j) receiving, by said order processing system, an identification of a prior order for a second electronic device previously ordered from said provider, said prior order being stored in said database; and
(k) retrieving said prior order from said database; and
wherein (b) further comprises receiving said second specification from said prior order.
26. The method of claim 23, further comprising:
(j) receiving, by said order processing system, an identification of a prior order for a second electronic device previously ordered from said provider, said prior order being stored in said database; and
(k) retrieving said prior order from said database; and
wherein said prior order comprises said software, (c) further comprising receiving said third specification from said prior order.
27. The method of claim 14, further comprising:
(i) assessing at least one need of said customer;
(j) recommending a particular of said at least one model and said at least one type based on (i); and
wherein said first specification is based on (j)
28. The method of claim 14, further comprising:
(i) assessing at least one need of said customer;
(j) recommending said optional hardware based on (i); and
wherein said second specification is based on (j).
29. The method of claim 14, further comprising:
(i) assessing at least one need of said customer;
(j) recommending said software based on (i); and
wherein said third specification is based on (j).
30. A system for processing an order from a customer by a provider for an electronic device, said electronic device comprising storage operative to store software, said system comprising:
a server computer;
a first interface coupled with said server and operative to receive an order comprising a configuration comprising a first specification identifying software, including at least a portion thereof to be provided by said customer, to be installed in a first electronic device, said first interface being further operative to receive said portion of said software from said customer;
an order generator coupled with said server and operative to generate said order for said electronic device from said configuration, said order generator being further operative to generate said order including said software and transmit said order to said provider such that said provider may configure said storage of said electronic device based on said software and provide said electronic device to said customer, said electronic device being capable of being utilized by said customer without further configuration according to said configuration.
31. The system of claim 30, wherein said first electronic device comprises an electrical energy meter.
32. The system of claim 30, wherein said inventory stock comprises new and used electronic devices.
33. The system of claim 30, further comprising receiving said configuration by an order processing system over a network from a network accessible web site.
34. The system of claim 30, further comprising a database coupled with said server computer and operative to store said software, including said first portion, said interface further operative to retrieve said software from said database.
35. The system of claim 30, further comprising an electronic device interface operative to communicate with at least one electronic device owned by said customer and accessible via a network, said first interface being further operative to receive a second specification identifying a second electronic device owned by said customer, said electronic device interface being further operative to retrieve said configuration from said second electronic device over said network.
36. The system of claim 30, further comprising a database coupled with said server computer and operative to store said configuration for all of said orders placed by said customer.
37. The system of claim 36, further comprising:
a second interface coupled with said server computer and operative to receive a second specification identifying a prior order for a second electronic device previously ordered from said reseller; said prior order being stored in said database, said second interface being further operative to retrieve said prior order from said database and generate said configuration from said prior order.
38. The system of claim 30, further comprising a second interface coupled with said server computer and operative to assess at least one need of said customer and recommend a particular configuration based on said assessment, said configuration comprising said recommendation.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation under 37 C.F.R. § 1.53(b) of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/791,340 filed Feb. 23, 2001 (Attorney Docket No. 6270/47) now U.S. Pat. No. ______, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/791,340 incorporated by reference U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/792,699, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,671,635.

BACKGROUND

With the advent of high technology needs and market deregulation, today's energy market has become very dynamic. High technology industries have increased their demands on the electrical power supplier, requiring more power, increased reliability and lower costs. A typical computer data center may use 100 to 300 watts of power per square foot compared to an average of 15 watts per square foot for a typical commercial building. Further, an electrical outage, whether it is a complete loss of power or simply a drop in the delivered voltage, can cost these companies millions of dollars in down time and lost business.

In addition, deregulation of the energy industry is allowing both industrial and individual consumers the unprecedented capability to choose their supplier which is fostering a competitive supply/demand driven market in what was once a traditionally monopolistic industry.

The requirements of increased demand and higher reliability are burdening an already overtaxed distribution network and forcing utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements at a time when the deregulated competitive market is forcing them to cut costs and lower prices. Further, consumers of electrical power are increasingly monitoring and managing their own consumption in an effort to reduce costs and utilize their energy resources in the most efficient manner.

In order to meet these needs, both suppliers and consumers are installing ever larger numbers of Intelligent Electronic Devices (“IED”) throughout their facilities and energy distribution networks. IED's are intelligent power management devices designed to measure, manage and control the distribution and consumption of electrical power. One particular consumer or supplier may have hundreds or even thousands of IED's in place throughout their facilities (which may consist of multiple installations located in many disparate geographic locales) to manage their energy resources, with many more spare IED's in inventory as backups. Typically, these IED's are highly configured and tailored/customized to the specific applications and requirements of that consumer or supplier.

As the consumer or supplier updates or expands their operations, they must often order new or updated IED's either to replace outdated or broken devices or to meet the needs of their expansion. Typically, they will order generic devices from the manufacturer and configure them on-site prior to installation, for example, in an on-site “meter shop.” For large numbers of IED's, this can be a very tedious, time consuming and resource intensive, i.e. expensive, process, requiring highly skilled personnel. Especially if the consumer or supplier runs an expansive operation and/or fails to keep track of the different IED configurations that they already have in place.

Accordingly, there is a need for a system and method for ordering IED's from a manufacturer that, when delivered to the electrical energy consumer or supplier, are fully configured to that customer's specific needs and ready for installation “out of the box.”

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 depicts the structure of a framework module for use with the preferred embodiments

FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary framework module according to FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 depicts an exemplary framework incorporating the module of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 4-6 depict exemplary screen displays from the preferred framework development system along with exemplary frameworks.

FIG. 7 illustrates an overview of the preferred embodiment of customer and ordering interaction with the preferred order processing interface.

FIG. 8 illustrates a more detailed overview of the preferred embodiment of customer and ordering interaction for specifying custom IED configurations.

FIG. 9 illustrates a preferred order processing interface according to the preferred embodiments.

FIG. 10 illustrates the interface for specifying custom IED configurations.

FIG. 11 illustrates a preferred embodiment of a new order interface.

FIG. 12 is a block diagram of a portion of a power distribution system that includes an embodiment of an intelligent electronic device.

FIG. 13 is a graph illustrating one example of a characteristic curve for a current sensor.

FIG. 14 is a graph illustrating another example of a characteristic curve for a current sensor.

FIG. 15 is a graph illustrating yet another example of a characteristic curve for a current sensor.

FIG. 16 is a graph illustrating one example of a characteristic curve for a voltage sensor.

FIG. 17 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a portion of a network distribution system that includes the intelligent electronic device illustrated in FIG. 12.

FIG. 18 is a block diagram of another embodiment of a portion of a network distribution system that includes the intelligent electronic device illustrated in FIG. 12.

FIG. 19 is a first part of a flow diagram depicting operation of the network distribution systems illustrated in FIGS. 17 and 18.

FIG. 20 is a second part of the flow diagram of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a block diagram of a portion of a power distribution system that includes another embodiment of an intelligent electronic device.

FIG. 22 is a first part of a flow diagram depicting operation of the intelligent electronic device illustrated in FIG. 21.

FIG. 23 is a second part of the flow diagram of FIG. 22.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Intelligent electronic devices (“IED's”) such as programmable logic controllers (“PLC's”), Remote Terminal Units (“RTU's”), electric/watt hour/energy meters, protection relays and fault recorders are widely available that make use of memory and microprocessors to provide increased versatility and additional functionality. Such functionality includes the ability to communicate with remote computing systems, either via a direct connection, e.g. modem or via a network. For more detailed information regarding IED's capable of network communication, please refer to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/723,564, entitled “INTRA-DEVICE COMMUNICATIONS ARCHITECTURE FOR MANAGING ELECTRICAL POWER DISTRIBUTION AND CONSUMPTION”, filed Nov. 28, 2000. In particular, the monitoring of electrical power, especially the measuring and calculating of electrical parameters, provides valuable information for power utilities and their customers. Monitoring of electrical power is important to ensure that the electrical power is effectively and efficiently generated, distributed and utilized.

As used herein, Intelligent electronic devices (“IED's”) include Programmable Logic Controllers (“PLC's”), Remote Terminal Units (“RTU's”), electric power (watt/hour) meters, protective relays, fault recorders and other devices which are coupled with power distribution networks to manage and control the distribution and consumption of electrical power. Such devices typically utilize memory and microprocessors executing software to implement the desired power management function. IED's include on-site devices coupled with particular loads or portions of an electrical distribution system and are used to monitor and manage power generation, distribution and consumption. IED's are also referred herein as power management devices (“PMD's”). While the preferred embodiments will be described in relation to revenue type electric watt/hour meters (“revenue meter” or “meter”), one will appreciate that they are applicable to all IED's as defined above.

A Remote Terminal Unit (“RTU”) is a field device installed on an electrical power distribution system at the desired point of metering. It is equipped with input channels (for sensing or metering), output channels (for control, indication or alarms) and a communications port. Metered information is typically available through a communication protocol via a serial communication port. An exemplary RTU is the XP Series, manufactured by Quindar Productions Ltd. in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

A Programmable Logic Controller (“PLC”) is a solid-state control system that has a user-programmable memory for storage of instructions to implement specific functions such as Input/output (I/O) control, logic, timing, counting, report generation, communication, arithmetic, and data file manipulation. A PLC consists of a central processor, input output interface, and memory. A PLC is designed as an industrial control system. An exemplary PLC is the SLC 500 Series, manufactured by Allen-Bradley in Milwaukee, Wis.

A meter or electric watt hour meter or electric energy meter is a device that measures and records the consumption of electric power. In addition, meters may also measure and record power events, power quality, current, voltage waveforms, harmonics, transients and other power disturbances. Revenue accurate meters (“revenue meter”) relate to revenue accuracy electrical power metering devices with the ability to detect, monitor, report, quantify and communicate power quality information about the power which they are metering. An exemplary revenue meter is the model 8500 meter, manufactured by Power Measurement Ltd, in Saanichton, B.C. Canada.

A protective relay is an electrical device that is designed to interpret input conditions in a prescribed manner, and after specified conditions are met, to cause contact operation or similar abrupt change in associated electric circuits. A relay may consist of several relay units, each responsive to a specified input, with the combination of units providing the desired overall performance characteristics of the relay. Inputs are usually electric but may be mechanical, thermal or other quantity, or a combination thereof. An exemplary relay is the type N and KC, manufactured by ABB in Raleigh, N.C.

A fault recorder is a device that records the waveform and digital inputs, such as breaker status which resulting from a fault in a line, such as a fault caused by a break in the line. An exemplary fault recorder is the IDM, manufactured by Hathaway Corp in Littleton, Colo.

Various different arrangements are presently available for monitoring, measuring, and controlling power parameters. Typically, an IED, such as an individual power measuring device, is placed on a given branch or line proximate to one or more loads which are coupled with the branch or line in order to measure/monitor power system parameters. Herein, the phrase “coupled with” is defined to mean directly connected to or indirectly connected with through one or more intermediate components. Such intermediate components may include both hardware and software based components. In addition to monitoring power parameters of a certain load(s), such power monitoring devices have a variety of other applications. For example, power monitoring devices can be used in supervisory control and data acquisition (“SCADA”) systems such as the XA/21 Energy Management System manufactured by GE Harris Energy Control Systems located in Melbourne, Fla.

In a typical SCADA application, IED's/power measuring devices individually dial-in to a central SCADA computer system via a modem. However, such dial-in systems are limited by the number of inbound telephone lines to the SCADA computer and the availability of phone service access to the IED/power measuring devices. With a limited number of inbound telephone lines, the number of IED's that can simultaneously report their data is limited resulting in limited data throughput and delayed reporting. Further, while cellular based modems and cellular system access are widely available, providing a large number of power measuring devices with phone service is cumbersome and often cost prohibitive. The overall result is a system that is not easily scalable to handle a large number of IED's or the increased bandwidth and throughput requirements of advanced power management applications. However, the ability to use a computer network infrastructure, such as the Internet, allows for the use of power parameter and data transmission and reporting on a large scale. The Internet provides a connectionless point to point communications medium that is capable of supporting substantially simultaneous communications among a large number of devices. Alternatively, other type of networks could also be used such as intranets, extranets, or combinations thereof including virtual private networks. For example this existing Internet infrastructure can be used to simultaneously push out billing, load profile, or power quality data to a large number of IED's located throughout a power distribution system that can be used by those devices to analyze or make intelligent decisions based on power consumption at their locations. The bandwidth and throughput capabilities of the Internet supports the additional requirements of advanced power management applications. For example, billing data, or other certified revenue data, must be transferred through a secure process which prevents unauthorized access to the data and ensures receipt of the data by the appropriate device or entity. Utilizing the Internet, communications can be encrypted such as by using encrypted email. Further, encryption authentication parameters such as time/date stamp or the IED serial number, can be employed. Within the Internet, there are many other types of communications applications that may be employed to facilitate the above described inter-device communications such as hyper text transfer protocol (“HTTP”), email, Telnet, file transfer protocol (“FTP”), trivial file transfer protocol (“TFTP”) or proprietary systems, both unsecured and secure/encrypted.

A typical customer or supplier of electrical energy may have hundred's of IED's installed throughout their operation. With the advent of scalable networking, as described above, customers/suppliers are installing even more IED's to better manage their electrical power needs. While these IED devices are typically installed as part of a system, each may be required to be individually customized, configured and programmed for a specific application by the end user. In certain applications multiple devices must be customized with the same information. Giving the consumer the ability to customize single or multiple devices prior to receipt in the supply chain or at the manufacturing point of these devices is extremely advantageous and cost effective.

An IED consists of two main parts, hardware and software. The hardware includes the components which actually connect to the power distribution system to measure parameters or control the flow of electrical power. The hardware may further include display devices, local or remote, communications devices such as modems or network interfaces, or combinations thereof. It will be appreciated that an IED may comprise many different hardware components now or later developed. The various hardware components may be divided into two categories, those that are standard, i.e. included by default, with a particular type and model of IED and those that are optional and may or may not be included. The determination of which hardware is standard and which is optional is dependent upon the manufacturer and how they design their IED's. An option on one model of IED may be standard on another model.

The other main part of an IED is the software. The software includes firmware software and applications software. Firmware is the low level operating code which enables the IED hardware to function. The firmware provides the basic operating capability. The firmware may also be referred to the operating system. The firmware may include standard as well as optional components where the optional components may be used to support optional hardware.

The applications software includes one or more software programs designed to utilize and manipulate the IED and data that it measures and controls. Applications software may include measurement and recording applications, measurement and control applications, communications applications, etc. The applications software further includes standard applications software and custom applications software. Standard applications software includes those applications developed by the manufacturer and provided with the IED. Standard applications software typically performs the basic function for which the IED is designed. Custom applications software include those applications developed by an end user of the IED and which are specifically tailored to the needs of that particular end user. Custom applications software may also be developed by third parties or by the IED manufacturer. Custom applications software usually performs more complicated and customer specific operations. In the preferred embodiments, the applications software is developed within a software development environment known as ION (described in more detail below). Each software application program is referred to as a “framework” (described in more detail below). Standard or custom frameworks, or combinations thereof, are loaded on the IED to control the functions of the IED and direct the performance of a particular power management application.

In one embodiment, the custom software provided by the end user includes characteristic curves/data which improves the accuracy of an IED, as described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/792,699 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,671,635 which was incorporated by reference in the parent application (U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/791,340) captioned above and now incorporated explicitly as follows:

Monitoring of electrical energy by consumers and providers of electric power is a fundamental function within any electric power distribution system. Electrical energy may be monitored for purposes of usage, equipment performance and power quality. Electrical parameters that may be monitored include volts, amps, watts, vars, power factor, harmonics, kilowatt hours, kilovar hours and other power related measurement parameters. Typically, measurement of the voltage and current at a location within the electric power distribution system may be used to determine the electrical parameters at that location.

The voltage and current may be detected directly or using a transformer such as a current transformer or a potential (voltage) transformer. Transformers are typically used where the voltage and/or current are outside the acceptable range of devices used to monitor the electrical energy. Transformation of the magnitude of the voltage or current by transformers may be represented by a ratio. The ratio represents the difference between the voltage or current of the detected electrical energy and the corresponding voltage or current output from the transformer.

Transformers may be classified according to accuracy. Classification provides a comparative indication of the accuracy of transformation of a given transformer. An example accuracy classification system is provided by the ANSI/IEEE C57.13-1978 standard. In the ANSI/IEEE C57.13 standard, the accuracy classes are established based on the percentage of transformation error a transformer exhibits at a particular voltage and/or current, frequency and burden. The transformation error is the difference between the design ratio and the actual ratio under operating conditions. The burden is the amount of electrical load connected to the output of the transformer and may be expressed as volt-amperes (VA) and power factor, or as total ohms impedance with an effective resistance and reactive component.

A known problem with existing systems of accuracy classification is the relatively large differences in the percentage of transformation error that may be acceptable within a given accuracy classification. In addition, some existing systems of accuracy classification use a predetermined set of testing parameters that may not represent actual operating conditions. Further, accuracy of the transformation of the voltage and current may vary as system conditions vary. Inaccuracy in the transformation creates inaccuracies in the electrical parameters derived from the transformed voltages and currents.

Where the electrical parameters are used, for example, for measuring energy usage by a device or facility, the inaccuracy may result in erroneous billing. Further, consumers of energy that are interested in the quality of the energy supply may be provided flawed data. In addition, in instances where energy usage is controlled based on current system conditions, inaccuracy of the amount of energy being consumed may result in erroneous control decisions. Accordingly, a need exists for systems capable of providing improved monitoring accuracy to provide precise measurement and reporting of electrical parameters.

The disclosed embodiments relate to a system for improving the accuracy of measurement of electrical energy using metering sensors. Improved accuracy may be realized by developing characteristic curves based on actual operating conditions with the metering sensors. The characteristic curves may be used by an intelligent electronic device to improve overall accuracy. The characteristic curves may be generated by the intelligent electronic device or generated and transferred to the intelligent electronic device.

FIG. 12 illustrates a block diagram representation of an embodiment of a portion of a power distribution system 1010. The power distribution system 1010 includes a plurality of conductors 1012 and an intelligent electronic device (IED) 1014. The conductors 1012 are connected with the IED 1014 as illustrated. As used herein, the term “connected” or “coupled” may mean electrically connected, optically coupled or any other form of coupling allowing the flow of data, electricity or some representation thereof between devices and components that are connected or coupled.

The conductors 1012 may be, for example, electric transmission lines, electric distribution lines, power cables, bus duct or any other material capable of conducting electrical energy. The conductors 1012 are operable to allow the flow of electrical energy therethrough. The conductors 1012 are illustratively depicted in FIG. 12 in a three-phase circuit configuration; however the phase configuration is not limited to three-phases.

The IED 1014 may be a programmable logic controller (PLC), a remote terminal unit (RTU), an electronic power meter, a protective relay, a fault recorder or other similar intelligent device capable of monitoring electrical energy. In addition, the IED 1014 may perform other functions such as, for example, power distribution system protection, management of power generation, management of energy distribution and management of energy consumption. In one embodiment, the IED 1014 includes a plurality of metering sensors 1016, a line frequency measurement circuit 1018, an analog-to-digital (A/D) converter circuit 1020, a digital signal processing (DSP) circuit 1022, a central processing unit (CPU) 1024, IED memory 1026 and a communications circuit 1028 connected as illustrated in FIG. 12.

In addition, the IED 1014 includes a power supply 1030 that is connected with the conductors 1012. The power supply 1030 may provide a source of power to energize the IED 1014. In one embodiment, the power supply 1030 uses the electrical energy flowing on the conductors 1012 as an energy source. Alternatively, the power supply 1030 may use other energy sources, such as, for example, an uninterruptible power source, batteries or some other source of power.

During operation of the power distribution system 1010, the IED 1014 monitors the electrical energy present in the conductors 1012. The electrical energy is transformed by the metering sensors 1016 and provided as an output to the IED 1014. The output may be used by the IED 1014 to derive, store and display various electrical parameters indicative of the electrical energy present in the conductors 1012. The IED 1014 may selectively apply a plurality of characteristic curves, as will be hereinafter described, to improve the accuracy of the electrical parameters derived from the output of the metering sensors 1016.

The metering sensors 1016 may be any device capable of sensing the electrical energy present in the conductors 1012 and providing corresponding electrical signals. As illustrated in FIG. 12, the metering sensors 1016 may be mounted within and forming a part of the IED 1014. Alternatively, the metering sensors 1016 may be separate devices mounted away from the IED 1014, mounted on the IED 1014, or a combination of both. The metering sensors 1016 of the illustrated embodiment include a current sensor 1032 and a voltage sensor 1034. Although only one current sensor 1032 and one voltage sensor 1034 are illustrated in FIG. 12, any number of metering sensors 1016 may be included in other embodiments.

The current sensor 1032 may be, for example, a current transformer (CT) or other similar device capable of measuring current flowing in one or more of the conductors 1012. Well known types of current sensors 1032 include a wound type, a bar type, a bushing type, a window type, a clamp-on type, an optical type, a Rogoski coil type or a hall effect type. The current sensor 1032 may include a primary winding 1036 for measuring the primary current flowing in the conductors 1012, and a secondary winding 1038 for outputting a secondary current in direct proportion, and at a relationship, to the primary current.

The technique for measuring the current flowing in the conductors 1012 varies with the type of the current sensor 1032. The current sensor 1032 may be connected in series with one or more of the conductors 1012. In this configuration, the primary current flowing through the conductors 1012 also flows through the current sensors 1032. Alternatively, the current sensor 1032 may include a window (not shown) positioned to surround a portion of one or more of the conductors 1012. The window may be positioned such that the electromagnetic effect of the voltage and the current flowing through the conductors 1012 induces a current and voltage output from the current sensor 1032.

The current sensor 1032 may step down, or transform, the primary current flowing in the conductors 1012. The primary current may be transformed to a corresponding electrical signal that is compatible with the IED 1014. The primary current may be transformed to a range of, for example, 1 to 5 amperes by the current sensor 1032. The current sensor 1032 may also operate to isolate the IED 1014 from the voltage present on the conductors 1012.

The voltage sensor 1034 may be any device capable of measuring the voltage present on the conductors 1012. One example of the voltage sensor 1034 is a potential transformer (PT) that may be, for example, a multiple winding step-up or step-down transformer. In one embodiment, the voltage sensor 1034 may be a single-phase device connected in parallel with one of the conductors 1012. The primary voltage on the conductors 1012 may be measured by a primary winding 1036. A secondary voltage representing a stepped down version of the primary voltage may be an output from a secondary winding 1038. During operation, voltage present on the conductors 1012 is transformed, by the voltage sensor 1034, to an electrical signal compatible with the IED 1014. The secondary voltage may be, for example, a voltage in a range around 120 VAC.

In one embodiment, the metering sensors 1016 transform the voltage or current received at the primary winding 1036 based on a ratio. The ratio provides a relationship between the voltage or current present on the conductors 1012 and the corresponding output of the metering sensors 1016. The metering sensors 1016 may be manufactured with a single ratio, or multiple ratios that may be selected by, for example, taps located on the metering sensors 1016.

The metering sensors 1016 may also include an identifier. The identifier may uniquely identify each of the metering sensors 1016. Alternatively, the identifier may uniquely identify a predetermined group of metering sensors 1016. The identifier may, for example, be an identification number, such as, a serial number or a part number. Alternatively, the identifier may be letters, numbers or a combination of both. The identifier may be designated by the manufacturer of the metering sensors 1016 or may be designated as a result of development of characteristic curves as will be hereinafter described.

During operation, the metering sensors 1016 sense the electrical energy on the conductors 1012 and output a corresponding electrical signal. In one embodiment, the electrical signal is an analog signal that is received by the A/D converter circuit 1020. In another embodiment, the metering sensors 1016 may provide an output in the form of a digital signal and the A/D converter circuit 1020 may not be required.

The A/D converter circuit 1020 may be any circuit operable to convert analog signals to corresponding digital signals. During operation, the A/D converter circuit 1020 receives the output from the metering sensors 1016. The output may be received by the A/D converter circuit 1020 in the form of analog signals and may be converted to digital signals by any of a number of well-known techniques. In one embodiment, the A/D converter circuit 1020 may also perform amplification and conditioning during conversion. The resulting digital signals may then be passed to the DSP circuit 1022.

The DSP circuit 1022 may be any circuit that performs signal processing and enhancement. The DSP circuit 1022 may be used in conjunction with the A/D converter circuit 1020 in a well-known manner to enhance the quality of the digital signals. Enhancement may include, for example, noise removal, dynamic range and frequency response modification or any other technique for enhancing digital signals. Following processing by the DSP circuit 1022, the digital signals are provided to the CPU 1024.

As further illustrated in FIG. 12, the line frequency measurement circuit 1018 may also receive the output from the secondary winding 1038 of the voltage sensor 1034. The line frequency measurement circuit 1018 may be any circuit that performs frequency measurement of the output provided by the voltage sensor 1034. During operation, the line frequency measurement circuit 1018 receives the output from the voltage sensor 1034. The output may be used to determine the frequency of the primary voltage using well-known frequency measurement techniques. The frequency, along with any other frequency related information, may be converted to digital signals by the line frequency measurement circuit 1018 and provide to the CPU 1024. Alternatively, the line frequency measurement circuit 1018 may provide analog signals to the CPU 1024.

The CPU 1024 may be a microprocessor, a control unit or any other device capable of processing instruction sets. The CPU 1024 may receive and process electrical signals representative of the electrical energy flowing on the conductors 1012 to derive the electrical parameters. In the illustrated embodiment, the CPU 1024 may process the digital signals provided by the line frequency measurement circuit 1018 and the DSP circuit 1022. The digital signals may be used to derive, for example, the voltage, current, watts, vars, volt amps, power factor, frequency and any other electrical parameters related to the electrical energy present on the conductors 1012. In addition, electrical parameters relating to energy consumption such as, for example, kilowatt hours, kilovar hours, kilovolt amp hours and other time-based electrical parameters relating to the electrical energy may be calculated by the CPU 1024.

The CPU 1024 may also utilize characteristic curves corresponding to each of the metering sensors 1016. The characteristic curves represent error correction to improve the overall accuracy of the IED 1014. The characteristic curves may be applied by the CPU 1024 to the electrical parameters measured and/or derived by the IED 1014. The electrical parameters may be adjusted as a function of the characteristic curves to improve accuracy in the operating characteristics of a particular metering sensor 1016. In addition, the characteristic curves may compensate for any other inaccuracies, such as, for example, those introduced by processing within the IED 1014. The characteristic curves may be stored in the IED memory 1026 that is connected with the CPU 1024.

The IED memory 1026 of one embodiment may be a non-volatile memory, such as for example a flash memory device or other similar memory storage device in communication with the CPU 1024. In another embodiment, the IED memory 1026 may include both non-volatile memory and volatile memory. In this embodiment, the volatile memory may store the characteristic curves and the non-volatile memory may store operational code used for operation of the IED 1014. The operational code may include instructions to retrieve and store the characteristic curves in the volatile memory when the IED 1014 is energized. Retrieval of the characteristic curves may be performed by the IED 1014 as will hereinafter discussed.

The characteristic curves may be stored in the form of, for example, a table, a representative mathematical formula or any other method of representing error correction as a function of the operating range of one of the electrical parameters. A table may be used by the IED 1014 to determine points along the characteristic curve based on interpolation or other similar methods of extrapolation. Mathematical formulas representative of the characteristic curves may be empirically derived based on curve fitting of experimental data. For example, one characteristic curve may be determined to fit:
φ=aI b +c   Equation 1
where φ may represent the phase error of the sensor, I may represent the current and a, b and c may represent constants that define the characteristics of the characteristic curve. Another exemplary equation for representing a characteristic curve is given by:
φ=ae bI +ce dI   Equation 2
where d may represent another constant. Other equations and corresponding constants may be empirically derived for inaccuracy resulting from for example, ratio error, temperature, harmonics, noise and any other varying characteristic that may affect the accuracy of the IED 1014.

Calculations to determine the constants may be performed by a number of well-known techniques. In one technique, a number of test points may be plotted graphically to develop the characteristic curves. The quantity of test points plotted may be a function of the amount of non-linear variation in the charateristic curve. The resulting constants may then be manually entered into the IED 1014 or electronically transferred to the IED 1014 as will be hereinafter discussed. In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may compute and store the constants during development of the characteristic curves.

FIGS. 13, 14 and 15 are some examples of characteristic curves that may be generated for a particular current sensor 1032 (FIG. 12). FIG. 13 represents, for a particular burden and frequency, a phase error 1050 for a range of primary current 1052. The phase error 1050 is also referred to as phase angle and may represent the difference between the phase of the primary current 1052 and the phase of a secondary current (not shown). The phase error 1050 may be used to adjust the phase of the secondary current during operation of the IED 1014 based on the magnitude of the primary current 1052.

Similarly, FIG. 14 represents, for a predetermined burden and frequency, an amplitude error 1054 for a range of the primary current 1052. The amplitude error 1054 may also be referred to as a ratio error and represents the error in the transformation ratio when the primary current 1052 is transformed to a secondary current (not shown). FIG. 15 illustrates, for a predetermined burden and primary current, a phase error 1056 for a range of frequency 1058. The phase error 1056 represents the difference between the phase of a secondary current (not shown) and the phase of a primary current (not shown in FIG. 15) as the frequency 1058 is varied.

FIG. 16 is an exemplary illustration of a characteristic curve for the voltage sensor 1034 (FIG. 12). FIG. 16 depicts an amplitude error 1060 for a range of secondary voltage 1062. The amplitude error 1060 represents the transformation error as the primary voltage (not shown) is transformed to the secondary voltage 1062. During operation, the IED 1014 may apply the amplitude error 1060 to the secondary voltage 1062. The illustrative examples of characteristic curves in FIGS. 13, 14, 15 and 16 are but a few of the many ways to identify the operational characteristics of a particular metering sensor under various operating conditions and should not be construed as a limitation on the present invention.

Referring again to FIG. 12, one or more characteristic curves may be determined through individual testing of each one of the metering sensors 1016. Testing of the metering sensors 1016 to generate the characteristic curves is accomplished by simulating operating conditions with a sensor-metering tester (not shown). The sensor-metering tester may be any device capable of simulating operation of the conductors 1012 and the IED 1014.

The sensor-metering tester may generate electrical energy and provide control of the associated energy parameters to simulate operation of the conductors 1012. In addition, the sensor-metering tester may perform derivation of the electrical parameters as a function of the output of the metering sensors 1016. During simulation of operating conditions with a particular one of the metering sensors 1016, the electrical energy is supplied to the primary winding 1036. In addition, a burden supplied by the sensor-metering tester is connected with the secondary winding 1038. The burden may be determined based on the resistance and inductance of the electrical interface between the IED 1014 and the particular one of the metering sensors 1016. In addition, the internal impedance of a particular IED 1014 designated for installation and operation with the metering sensors 1016 may be used to determine the burden. Alternatively, the actual electrical interface and the particular IED 1014 may be connected with the secondary winding 1038 to provide the burden.

During testing, the frequency, voltage and current of the electrical energy may be varied and the electrical parameters may be derived by the IED 1014. Alternatively, the sensor-metering tester may derive the electrical parameters in a fashion similar to the IED 1014. Where the derived values of the electrical parameters deviate from expected values, characteristic curves may be developed. Characteristic curves may also be generated for deviations in the derived electrical parameters caused by varying characteristics in other operating parameters. Examples of varying characteristics include, for example, operating temperatures, changes in the ratio of the metering sensors 1016, harmonics, noise or any varying characteristics affecting the accuracy of operation of the IED 1014. In addition, characteristic curves may be generated for non-varying characteristics such as, for example, materials of manufacture of the metering sensors 1016, window position or any other parameter that may affect accuracy. Accordingly, improved accuracy of the IED 1014 may be achieved during any operating scenario by determining the appropriate characteristic curves through testing.

In another embodiment, characteristic curves may be determined through testing of a predetermined group of metering sensors (not shown). The predetermined group may be a classification of the metering sensors 1016 based on the type of metering sensor, manufacturer model number, manufacturing lot, production run, repeatable test results or any other basis for grouping a plurality of the metering sensors 1016 exhibiting similar operating characteristics. In this embodiment, testing may be performed on a plurality of the metering sensors 1016 to develop average characteristic curves. The average characteristic curves may be applied to any one of the metering sensors 1016 in the predetermined group to improve accuracy of operation.

A number of predetermined groups may be stored in the IED 1014. In addition, a selection menu may be stored in the IED 1014. The IED 1014 may be configured using the selection menu to select the predetermined group in which the metering sensors 1016 that are connected with the IED 1014 are located. Accordingly, this embodiment provides improved accuracy of the IED 1014 without the necessity of individual testing of the metering sensors 1016.

Referring again to FIG. 12, during operation of the disclosed embodiments of the IED 1014, the CPU 1024 receives and processes the digital signals from the DSP circuit 1022. The CPU 1024 may apply the characteristic curves during processing of the digital signals to generate electrical parameters representing the electrical energy present on the conductors 1012. By application of the characteristic curves, the CPU 1024 is capable of improving the accuracy of the electrical parameters derived from the output of the metering sensors 1016.

In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may dynamically select characteristic curves during operation as a function of operating conditions. The operating conditions may be any condition within the power distribution system 1010 that may introduce error into the electrical parameters derived by the IED 1014. Operating conditions may include temperature, voltage, current, frequency, harmonics, noise or any other varying operating condition affecting measurement by the metering sensors 1016 and derivation of the electrical parameters by the IED 1014. The operating conditions may be sensed by the IED 1014. Alternatively, the operating conditions may be obtained by the IED 1014 from a source within the network 1042 (FIG. 17).

During operation within this embodiment, the IED 1014 may sense one or more of the operating conditions and selectively apply the characteristic curves during derivation of the electrical parameters. For example, where the accuracy of the measurement of electrical energy by the IED 1014 and the metering sensors 1016 is susceptible to changes in ambient air temperature, characteristic curves may be developed for each of a plurality of temperature ranges within the expected ambient temperature range. During operation, the IED 1014 may monitor an ambient air temperature sensor (not shown) and selectively apply one of the characteristic curves based on the ambient temperature. Alternatively, the temperature may be obtained from a server (not shown) on the network 1042 (FIG. 17) that includes ambient temperature data. Another example is selectively applying characteristic curves to correct errors introduced by harmonic conditions as a function of the frequency measured by the IED 1014. Selective application of the characteristic curves may improve the overall accuracy of the IED 1014 and reduce errors in measurement by the metering sensors 1016.

In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may be directed to apply some of the characteristic curves at all times while other characteristic curves may be selectively applied based on operating conditions. For example, a characteristic curve representing error correction for the position (e.g. centered, offset, etc.) of the conductors 1012 within the window of a window type current sensor 1032 may be continuously applied during operation. However, a characteristic curve for a particular noise or harmonic condition may be selectively applied when the IED 1014 senses the presence of that operating condition.

In yet another embodiment, the characteristic curves may be determined through testing and then stored in the metering sensors 1016. In this embodiment, the metering sensors 1016 include a memory device (not shown) fixedly coupled to each of the metering sensors 1016. The memory device may be a non-volatile memory device, such as, for example, a read only memory (ROM) or any other memory device capable of storing data representing the characteristic curves.

When the metering sensors 1016 are connected with the IED 1014, the IED 1014 may be activated to access and extract the characteristic curves from the memory device. The characteristic curves may be transferred to the IED 1014 through the electrical interface between the IED 1014 and the metering sensors 1016. In another embodiment, a separate data transfer line (not shown) coupling the IED 1014 and each of the metering sensors 1016 may be used for data communications. Following extraction, the IED 1014 may store and use the characteristic curves during operation as previously discussed. Alternatively, the metering sensors 1016 may provide ongoing access to the characteristic curves such that the IED 1014 may selectively access and use the characteristic curves during operation.

In another embodiment, the metering sensors 1016 may also contain sufficient processing capability to dynamically modify or substitute characteristic curves made available to the IED 1014. Modification and substitution may be based on the operating conditions. Example operating conditions that may be monitored and used as a basis for modification and substitution include temperature, noise, tap setting, operating ranges, harmonics, window position and other similar operational parameters that may affect accuracy. In this embodiment, the characteristic curves are made available for use by the IED 1014 at the direction of the metering sensors 1016.

Referring once again to FIG. 12, the communication circuit 1028 provides a mechanism for the transfer of characteristic curves to and from the IED 1014. The communication circuit 1028 may operatively cooperate with the CPU 1024 to format and pass commands and information. The IED 1014 may send and receive data and commands using transfer protocols, such as, for example, file transfer protocols (FTP), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Extensible Markup Language (XML) or any other protocols know in the art. In addition, the communication circuit 1028 includes a communication port 1040 operable to provide communication signals to a network 1042. The communication port 1040 may be, for example, an Ethernet card, a network interface card or some other network compatible communication device capable of connection with the network 1042. In addition, the communication port 1040 may include wireless communication capability, such as, for example, a wireless transceiver (not shown) to access the network 1042.

The network 1042 may be the Internet, a public or private intranet, an extranet, or any other network configuration to enable transfer of data and commands. An example network configuration uses the Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (“TCP/IP”) network protocol suite, however, other Internet Protocol based networks are contemplated. Communications may also include IP tunneling protocols such as those that allow virtual private networks coupling multiple intranets or extranets together via the Internet. The network 1042 may support application protocols, such as, for example, telnet, POP3, Mime, HTTP, HTTPS, PPP, TCP/IP, SMTP, proprietary protocols, or any other network protocols known in the art.

FIG. 17 illustrates a portion of one embodiment of a network distribution system 1070. The network distribution system 1070 includes at least one IED 1014, at least one browser 1078 and a plurality of servers 1080 connected and operatively communicating with each other via the network 1042 as illustrated. In the illustrated exemplary network distribution system 1070, the network 1042 includes components of a first intranet 1072, an Internet 1074 and a second intranet 1076. Communication within network 1042 may be performed with a communication medium that is included in wireline based communication systems and/or wireless based communication systems. The communication medium may be for example, a communication channel, radio waves, microwave, wire transmissions, fiber optic transmissions, or any other communication medium capable of transmitting data in wireline and wireless based communication systems.

The number and configuration of the components forming the network 1042 are merely an illustrative example, and should not be construed as a limitation on the almost unlimited possibilities for configuration of the network 1042. In addition, hardware within the network 1042 may perform one or more of the functions described herein, as well as other well-known network functions, and therefore should not be construed as limited to the configuration described. For example the function performed by the servers 1080 are illustratively described as different servers for purposes of clarity, however a single server, or more than one server may perform the functions of the servers 1080. Further, the general form of the architecture is connectionless thereby allowing for substantially simultaneous communications between a substantial number of devices, such as, for example, multiple IEDs 1014 and browsers 1078 within the network distribution system 1070. This form of scalability eclipses architectures that utilize point-to-point connections, such as, for example, those provided by telephony networks where a limited number of simultaneous communications may take place.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 17, the IED 1014 may communicate via the first intranet 1072. As generally known in the art, intranets are comprised of software applications and various computing devices (network cards, cables, hubs, routers, etc.) that are used to interconnect various computing devices and provide a communication path. The term “intranet,” as used herein, should be broadly construed to include any and all hardware and software applications that allow the IEDs 1014, the browser 1078, the servers 1080 and other computing devices to be connected together to share and transfer data and commands. Intranets are not limited to a particular physical location and may include multiple organizations using various communication protocols. Although not illustrated, other devices, such as, for example, printers may be connected with the intranet 1072, 1076 to make these devices available to users of the network 1042. As known in the art, various types of intranets 1072, 1076 exist and may be used with the disclosed embodiments.

The browser 1078 may be any application running on a computer that is capable of communicating over the network 1042. The browser 1078 may be an Internet browser, proprietary software or any other application capable of forming a connection with the servers 1080 to send and receive information. In addition, the browser 1078 may be capable of sending data to, and receiving data from, the IED 1014. The browser 1078 may include an intranet, a server or any other devices and applications discussed herein to interface with and communicate via the Internet 1074.

The servers 1080 are the primary interface to clients, such as, for example, the IED 1014 and the browser 1078, for all interactions with the applications or services available within the network distribution system 1070. The servers 1080 may operate to authenticate the clients, establish a secure connection from the clients to the servers 1080, and allow applications the clients are using to transparently access other resources of the network distribution system 1070. In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may perform some or all of the functions of the servers 1080. In yet another embodiment, the IED 1014 may act as the servers 1080. In the exemplary embodiment, the servers 1080 include at least one email server 1082, a plurality of firewall/gateway servers 1084 and at least one master server 1086. The master server 1086 further comprises a server machine 1088 and a database 1090 in operable communication with each other. In other embodiments, additional servers, fewer servers or an individual server may be used to fulfill these functions.

The email server 1082 may be any computer that includes associated communications hardware and an application capable of handling incoming and outgoing mail for the first intranet 1072. An example embodiment is a computer that operates with Single Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) using applications, such as, for example, MICROSOFT WINDOWS NT and MICROSOFT EXCHANGE SERVER. The email server 1082 communicates over the network 1042 using the first intranet 1072.

The firewall/gateway servers 1084 may provide a network interfacing function, an application launching function and a firewall function. In the network interfacing function, the firewall/gateway servers 1084 may be responsible for controlling traffic on the intranet 1072, 1076 and the interface with the Internet 1074. In addition, the firewall/gateway servers 1084 may include applications that can be launched by users of the intranet 1072, 1076 and the Internet 1074. An example traffic controlling function is accepting incoming HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) messages and fulfilling the requests embedded therein. Another example would be receiving dynamic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) page generation requests and launching the appropriate applications to fulfill those requests. Other transfer protocols, such as file transfer protocols (FTP), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Extensible Markup Language (XML) or other protocols known in the art may also be controlled by the firewall/gateway servers 1084.

In the application launching function, the firewall/gateway servers 1084 may include applications to manage the logical flow of data and commands and keep track of the state of sessions. A session is a period of time in which the IED 1014 or the browser 1078 is interacting with, and using the network distribution system 1070. Other applications operating within the firewall/gateway servers 1084 may include encryption and decryption software. Exemplary encryption and decryption software encrypts commands transmitted across the network 1042, and decrypts data received from the network distribution system 1070. In one embodiment, encryption may be done utilizing Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). PGP uses a variation of public key system, where each user has a publicly known encryption key and a private key known only to that user. The public key system and infrastructure enables users of unsecured networks, such as the Internet 1074, to securely and privately exchange data through the use of public and private cryptographic key pairs.

Authentication applications may also be included in the firewall/gateway servers 1084. Authentication applications may be performed for commands or data sent or received over the network 1042. Authentication is the process of determining and verifying whether the device transmitting data or commands is the device it declares itself to be. In addition, authentication prevents fraudulent substitution of devices or spoofing of device data generation in an attempt to defraud. Parameters such as time/date stamps, digital certificates, physical locating algorithms such as cellular triangulation, serial or tracking ID's, which could include geographic location such as longitude and latitude may be parameters included in authentication. Authentication may also minimize data collection and control errors within the network distribution system 1070 by verifying that data is being generated and that the appropriate devices are receiving commands.

The firewall function performs network security by isolating internal systems from unwanted intruders. In the example embodiment, the firewall/gateway server 1084 for the first intranet 1072 may isolate the IED 1014, the email server 1082 and the firewall/gateway server 1084 from all Internet traffic that is not relevant to the operation of the network distribution system 1070. In this example, the only requests allowed through the firewall may be for services pertaining to the IED 1014, the email server 1082 and the firewall/gateway server 1084. All requests not validated and pertaining to the IED 1014, the email server 1082 and the firewall/gateway server 1084 that are received from the Internet 1074 may be blocked by the firewall/gateway server 1084.

As used herein, the term Internet 1074 should be broadly construed to include any software application and hardware device that is used to connect the IED 1014, the browser 1078 and the servers 1080 with an Internet service provider (not illustrated). The Internet service provider may establish the connection to the Internet 1074. The IED 1014, the browser 1078 and the servers 1080 may establish a connection to the Internet 1074 with the Internet service provider using, for example, modems, cable modems, ISDN connections and devices, DSL connections and devices, fiber optic connections and devices, satellite connections and devices, wireless connections and devices, Bluetooth connections and devices, two-way pagers or any other communication interface device(s). For the purpose of the disclosed embodiments, it is important to understand that the IED 1014, the browser 1078 and the servers 1080 may operatively communicate with one another through the Internet 1074.

The server machine 1088 and database 1090 of the master server 1086 may be any computer running applications that store, maintain and allow interface to the database 1090. Applications, such as, for example, a database management system (DBMS) or other similar application may organize and coordinate the storage and retrieval of data from the database 1090. The database 1090 may be stored in a storage device, such as, for example, at least one hard drive, an optical storage media, or any other data storage device allowing read/write access to the data. The data in the database 1090 may be communicated throughout the network distribution system 1070 using the network 1042. The data within the master server 1086 may be centralized on one master server 1086 or may be distributed among multiple master servers 1086 that are distributed within the network distribution system 1070.

In one embodiment of the master server 1086, the database 1090 includes data for a plurality of metering sensors 1016. In this embodiment, characteristic curves for each of the metering sensors 1016 are stored in the database 1090 in one or more datafiles. The identifier associated with each of the metering sensors 1016 provides a common identifier for the corresponding characteristic curves. In another embodiment, characteristic curves for a plurality of predetermined groups of the metering sensors 1016 may be stored in the database 1090 and identified with an identifier.

The database 1090 may be accessed by the IED 1014 and the browser 1078 via the network 1042. Access to the database 1090 may allow the characteristic curves stored in the database 1090 to be transferred to a particular IED 1014. The characteristic curves may be selected from the database 1090 based on the identifier associated with a particular one of the metering sensors 1016 connected with the IED 1014. In another embodiment, the selection may be based on identification of the predetermined group to which a particular one of the metering sensors 1016 belongs. Initiation of the transfer may be accomplished by a request from the IED 1014. Alternatively, the browser 1078 or the master server 1086 may initiate the transfer. Prior to accessing the database 1090, the master server 1086 may perform verification. Verification ensures that requestor has the authority to make such a request. The verification could be in the form of a password, entry of the identifier associated with a particular one of the metering sensors 1016 or any other technique for verifying authorization.

In one embodiment, the use of email is the mechanism for transferring the characteristic curves to the IED 1014. In this embodiment, the characteristic curves are requested by the IED 1014 or the browser 1078 via an email message. Alternatively, the request may be accomplished by accessing the master server 1086 directly with the IED 1014 or the browser 1078 via the network 1042. The request may identify the email address of the particular IED 1014 and the desired corresponding characteristic curves. The master server 1086 of this embodiment is capable of sending an email to the identified IED 1014 that includes the characteristic curves. Since the master server 1086 is transferring the characteristic curves via email, the firewall/gateway server 1084 for the IED 1014 requires no additional configuration to allow the message to be delivered to the IED 1014.

Upon receipt of the email message, the email server 1082 may forward the message to the identified IED 1014. The IED 1014 may extract the characteristic curves from the email message directly. The IED 1014 may then format and store the characteristic curves for use during operation. Alternatively, the email may include an executable that the IED 1014 executes to extract and store the characteristic curves. In another embodiment, the email server 1082 is the designated recipient of the characteristic curves. In this embodiment, the email server 1082 is a translation device. The translation device includes an application that may extract the characteristic curves from the email message and download the characteristic curves to the IED 1014 via the intranet 1072. In addition, the translation device may format the characteristic curves prior to download.

In another embodiment, the characteristic curves may be supplied in a data file from the master server 1086. In this embodiment, the firewall/gateway server 1084 may be configured to allow the data file to pass through to the intranet 1072. As in the previously discussed embodiments, the IED 1014, the browser 1078 or the master server 1086 may request the characteristic curves. In one embodiment, the master server 1086 may transfer a data file containing the requested characteristic curves to a designated recipient, such as, for example, the browser 1078, the firewall/gateway server 1084 or some other translation device in communication with the master server 1086. In this embodiment, the translation device is an IED 1014 compatible device containing an application that functions to communicate with, and download the characteristic curves to the IED 1014 via the network 1042. In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may include capability to obtain or be assigned an IP address. In this embodiment, the master server 1086 may transfer the data file directly to the IED 1014. Upon receipt, the IED 1014 may translate the data file to a compatible format, store and begin using the characteristic curves during operation.

In yet another embodiment, the IED 1014 may have capability to communicate with a translation device that is an IED compatible device such as, for example, the browser 1078, the email server 1082, the firewall gateway server 1084 or some other device connected to the network 1042. In this embodiment, the request for characteristic curves is made by the IED to the translation device. The translation device in turn communicates with the master server 1086 to make the request. The master server 1086 transfers the requested characteristic curves to the translation device, which, in turn transfers the characteristic curves to the IED 1014.

FIG. 18 illustrates a portion of another embodiment of the network distribution system 1070. The network distribution system 1070 includes the email server 1082, the firewall/gateway server 1084, a master IED 1100, a first IED 1102 and a second IED 1104 that operatively communicate over the Internet 1074 and an intranet 1106 as illustrated. In this embodiment, the master, first and second IEDs 1100, 1102, 1104 may be physically located at the same location or may be dispersed among multiple locations.

The master IED 1100 may be configured to communicate by email and/or data file transfer in the manner described by the previous embodiments. In addition, the master IED 1100 may communicate with the first and second IED 1102, 1104 via the intranet 1106. During operation, characteristic curves transferred to the master IED 1100 include information identifying the final destination. The master IED 1100 may use the information to route the characteristic curves to itself, the first IED 1102 or the second IED 1104. In addition, the master IED 1100 may operate as a translation device to translate the characteristic curves into a compatible format or otherwise “unpack” and reconfigure the information received. In this embodiment, the IEDs 1100, 1102, 1104 may also communicate using peer-to-peer communications. As such, one of the IEDs 1100, 1102, 1104 may contain characteristic curves that may be transferred to another one oftheIEDs 1100, 1102, 1104.

FIG. 19 is a flow diagram illustrating operation of one embodiment of the network distribution system 1070. The operation will be described with reference to the devices identified in FIGS. 17 and 18. Operation begins with testing one or more of the metering sensors 1016 to determine characteristic curves at block 1120. At block 1122, the format for the characteristic curves is determined and the identifier for each of the metering sensors 1016 is established. Alternatively, the identifier for the predetermined group of metering sensors 1016 is established. At block 1124, the characteristic curves are formatted and stored in the master server 1086 according to the previously determined identifier.

The IED 1014 and the previously tested metering sensors 1016 are shipped to a customer at block 1126. At block 1128, the IED 1014 and the metering sensors 1016 are connected, and the IED 1014 is connected with the network 1042. At block 1130, a request is made by the IED 1014, the browser 1078 or the master server 1086 for at least one particular characteristic curve. The master server 1086 reviews the request and verifies authorization at block 1132.

Referring now to FIG. 20, following successful authorization, the master server 1086 determines whether the characteristic curves should be transferred via email or via a data file at block 1134. At block 1136, the master server 1086 determines if the IED 1014 will receive the characteristic curves directly. If yes, the data file or email is transferred to the IED 1014 at block 1138. At block 1140, where the IED 1014 is a master IED 1100, the master IED 1100 determines if the characteristic curves are for another IED 1102, 1104. If the characteristic curves are for the master IED 1100, the characteristic curves are received and stored for use during operation at block 1141. If the characteristic curves are for another IED 1102, 1104, than the master IED 1100 transfers the characteristic curves to the designated IED 1102, 1104 at block 1142. At block 1141, the IED 1102, 1104 receives and stores the characteristic curves.

If the characteristic curves are not transferred directly to the IED 1014 at block 1136, the data file or email is transferred to the transfer device which is the designated recipient of the characteristic curves at block 1143. At block 1144, the transfer device extracts, formats and transfers the characterized curves to the IED 1014. The IED 1014 receives and stores the characteristic curves for use during operation at block 1141.

FIG. 21 illustrates another embodiment of a portion of a power distribution system 1010 that includes an embodiment of the IED 1014. The same element identification numbers are included in FIG. 21 as in previously discussed FIG. 12 to illustrate that the IED 1014 of this embodiment includes operability and components similar to the previously discussed embodiments. For purposes of brevity, a discussion of the various components and operational aspects of the IED 1014 that were previously described will not be repeated.

The IED 1014 of this embodiment includes a first set of metering sensors that are external metering sensors 1146 and a second set of metering sensors that are the previously discussed metering sensors 1016. The external metering sensors 1146 may be connected with the conductors 1012 and the IED 1014 as illustrated. The external metering sensors 1146 include an external current sensor 1148 and an external voltage sensor 1150 that may be similar to the previously discussed current sensor 1032 and voltage sensor 1034, respectively. In one embodiment, the external metering sensors 1146 may be clamp on sensors. Clamp on sensors may provide simple and quick installation without requiring deenergization of the conductors 1012.

Both the metering sensors 1016 and the external metering sensors 1146 may be used by the IED 1014 to derive, store and display various electrical parameters indicative of the electrical energy present in the conductors 1012. The IED 1014 may switch between operation with the metering sensors 1016 and the external metering sensors 1146. Switching between the use of the metering sensors 1016 and the external metering sensors 1146 may be performed at the direction of a user of the IED 1014. Alternatively, the IED 1014 may selectively use the metering sensors 1016 and the external metering sensors 1146 as a function of operating conditions. For example, where the IED 1014 senses noise while monitoring with the metering sensors 1016, the IED 1014 may switch to the external metering sensors 1146 in an effort to minimize the noise. In another embodiment, the IED 1014 may selectively use a combination of the metering sensors 1016 and the external metering sensors 1146 to monitor electrical energy.

Similar to the previous embodiments, the external metering sensors 1146 may be tested to develop at least one first characteristic curve. In addition, the first characteristic curve may be obtained by the IED 1014 and applied during operation with the external metering sensors 1146 to improve accuracy. Further, a predetermined group of external metering sensors 1146 may be used to develop the first characteristic curve.

In this embodiment, the A/D converter circuit 1020 may generate separate digital signals representative of the output from the metering sensors 1016 and the output of the external metering sensors 1146. The separate digital signals are generated by the A/D converter 1020 on a first channel line 1152 and a second channel line 1154 for transfer to the DSP circuit 1022. The DSP circuit 1022 may perform signal enhancement and provide the enhanced digital signals to the CPU 1024 on the first and second channel lines 1152, 1154.

The CPU 1024 may select either the metering sensors 1016, the external metering sensors 1146 or a combination of both as previously discussed. In one embodiment, the CPU 1024 may use the external metering sensors 1146 and the first characteristic curve to perform monitoring of electrical energy. In this embodiment, the external metering sensors 1146 may be clamp on type sensors thereby allowing installation and activation of the IED 1014 without deenergizing the conductors 1012. Accurate monitoring of electrical energy by the IED 1014 using the external metering sensors 1146 may therefore be advantageously performed on a temporary basis without the need for permanent electrical installation.

In another embodiment, the CPU 1024 may use the external metering sensors 1146 to perform calibration of the metering sensors 1016. In this embodiment, the IED 1014 operates with improved accuracy as a function of the first characteristic curve. During operation, when a calibration function is initiated, the IED 1014 uses the outputs from both the external metering sensors 1146 and the metering sensors 1016 to derive two sets of the same electrical parameters. The IED 1014 may compare the electrical parameters derived from the metering sensors 1016 with same electrical parameters derived from the external metering sensors 1146 and the first characteristic curve. As a function of this comparison, at least one second characteristic curve may be generated for the metering sensors 1016. The second characteristic curve for the metering sensors 1016 may be stored in the IED 1014. Alternatively, the second characteristic curve may be stored in the metering sensors 1016 or elsewhere in the network 1042 as previously discussed.

In one embodiment, the IED 1014 is performing calibration of metering sensors while connected with the network 1042. As in the previously discussed embodiments, the IED 1014 may communicate with servers and other devices in the network 1042. In this embodiment, the second characteristic curve may be transferred over the network 1042 to the master server 1086 (FIG. 17) the browser 1078 (FIG. 17) or some other data storage device following generation. As in the previously discussed embodiments, the transfer of the second characteristic curve may be by email or by a data file. Initiation of the transfer may be similar to the previously discussed embodiments.

FIG. 22 is a flow diagram illustrating operation of another embodiment of the IED 1014. The operation begins at block 1160 where the IED 1014 is connected with the conductors 1012 and the external metering sensors 1146 as illustrated in FIG. 21. At block 1162, the IED 1014 is energized and the connection with the external metering sensors 1146 is sensed. At least one first characteristic curve corresponding to the metering sensors 1146 is located and obtained at block 1164. As previously discussed, the first characteristic curve may be stored in the IED 1014, the external metering sensors 1146 or elsewhere in the network 1042. At block 1166, the IED 1014 may be placed in a monitoring mode or in a calibration mode. If the IED 1014 is placed in the monitoring mode, the first characteristic curve may be selectively applied during derivation of the electrical parameters with the external metering sensors 1146 at block 1168. At block 1170, high accuracy measurement, derivation and display of various electrical parameters is performed.

Referring now to FIG. 23, if the IED 1014 is placed in the calibration mode at block 1166, determination of whether at least one second characterization curve exists for the metering sensors 1016 is performed at block 1172. If the second characteristic curve exists, it is obtained at block 1174. At block 1176, the electrical parameters derived with the external metering sensors 1146 and the first characteristic curve are compared with the same electrical parameters derived with the metering sensors 1016 and the second characteristic curve.

If, at block 1172, characterization curves do not exist for the metering sensors 1016, the electrical parameters derived with the external metering sensors 1146 and the first characteristic curve are compared at block 1178 with the same electrical parameters derived with the metering sensors 1016. At least one second characteristic curve for the metering sensors 1016 may be generated for any differences in the electrical parameters identified to be outside of predetermined thresholds at block 1180. At block 1182, the second characteristic curve for the metering sensors 1016 is stored. Storage of the second characteristic curve may be in the IED memory 1026, the first metering sensors 1016 or elsewhere in the network 1042. The IED 1014 may use the second characteristic curve during operation, as in the previously discussed embodiments, at block 1184.

The embodiments of the IED 1014 may provide improved accuracy for measurement, display and reporting of energy parameters. Accuracy improvement is achieved by generating characteristic curves for a particular one of the metering sensors 1016, 1146 or predetermined groups of the metering sensors 1016, 1146 through testing. The characteristic curves may be determined prior to installation of the metering sensors 1016, 1146; or the IED 1014 may perform self-testing to develop the characteristic curves. The characteristic curves may be stored in the IED 1014, or the metering sensors 1016, 1146, and selectively used during operation to minimize inaccuracy. Alternatively, the characteristic curves may be transferred to the IED 1014 using the network 1042. The resulting dynamic calibration of the IED 1014 provides improved accuracy in measured and calculated electrical parameters representative of the electrical energy present in the conductors 1012 during varying operating conditions.

With reference to FIGS. 1-11, with the various available hardware options as well as the infinitely configurable nature of the software applications which can be installed, IED's are highly customizable devices and capable of performing a wide variety of power management functions. The preferred IED's utilize a unique object oriented software architecture where a framework defines the software architecture and operating structure of an IED, defining the way the power monitoring information is accessed, transferred and manipulated by the device. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,650,936 and 5,828,576 disclose and further describe such object-oriented structures on power meters that can be readily configured to exactly match a user's unique requirements. While the preferred embodiments utilize this object oriented software architecture, it will be appreciated that the disclosed invention is applicable to non-object oriented based IED's which have the capability to load custom applications software for the purpose of defining the way the power monitoring information is accessed, transferred and manipulated by the device

The integrated object network (ION™) is an object oriented software construct operating within the IED which defines the way information, specifically power monitoring information, is accessed, transferred and manipulated inside the device. The ION™ network is comprised of a variety of discrete units called modules. By combining or linking several modules together, one can create functions to suit a particular application. The resultant combination of these functions, referred to as a framework, is utilized by the IED to translate and manipulate data received from the IED inputs. An IED may have several frameworks operating at any given time, operating independently or in combination with other frameworks to perform various management, control, communications or other functions of the IED.

As shown in FIG. 1, a module 150 contains inputs, outputs and setup registers, or combinations thereof. The setup registers contain configuration settings for the module which alter how the module processes the data. Examples of modules are: an Arithmetic Module, which allows a user to apply defined mathematical and logical functions to the inputs, such as multiplication, addition or square roots; a Display Module which allows for the creation of custom front panel display screens (for use with IED's with standard or optional display devices); an External Boolean Module which allows for a single Boolean register which can be defined as either on or off; a Sag/Swell Module which monitors the voltage inputs for disturbances and, upon detection of a disturbance, breaks the disturbance into discrete components for a more detailed analysis. A complete list of modules is contained in the “ION™ Reference Manual”, printed by Power Measurement Ltd., located in Saanichton, B.C., Canada. An exemplary example of a Pulse Merge Module is illustrated in FIG. 2. The module 152 receives pulse inputs from a number of modules N 153 a, and responds according to the module function as a pulse output 154 a, which is able to be input into another module. The function could be, for example, an AND, OR, or NOT Boolean function. The response can also occur as an Event 154 b, which writes the pulse event into a log. There are no register settings required for this exemplary module.

Frameworks are created and manipulated by connecting multiple modules together. Control of the functionality and data manipulation of the IED can be accomplished by one, or several frameworks stored in the IED software applications. They are created in the software package called ION Designer, a component of the Pegasys software manufactured by Power Measurement, located in Saanichton, B.C., Canada. FIG. 3 illustrates a portion of a framework 160 that contains a Pulse Merge Module 162, which receives inputs from Module A 164, Module B 166 and Module C 168 and outputs a pulse into Module D 170. For example, Module A, B and C are Maximum Modules, configured to monitor a source value and send an output pulse 165 167 169 every time the source reaches a new maximum value. The pulse output 171 from the Pulse Merge Module 162 is connected to Module D 170, an Alert Module, which is configured to alert the appropriate party that a maximum value has been reached in the system. FIGS. 4-6 depict exemplary screens from the ION designer software package along with exemplary frameworks.

Frameworks essentially utilize the raw data generated by the IED to produce useful results and/or perform useful functions. Frameworks ultimately create and manipulate the functionality of the device and they can be designed in a way that permits and promotes customization and expansion of devices. This customization/expansion quality of the frameworks is extremely valuable to customers because the cost of customizing or expanding a frameworks™ based device is much less than the cost of replacing or reworking an existing program or solution. IED's may be reprogrammed and reassigned to new applications quickly simply by loading new frameworks into the device. “Core” frameworks refer to those frameworks that are not subject to potential customization by the consumer whereas “custom” frameworks™ refers to those frameworks which may be customized or developed by the end user or third party. Core frameworks are provided by the manufacturer. In one embodiment, the manufacturer may also develop and provide custom frameworks.

As was noted above, IED's are highly customizable and configurable to the specific needs of the end user's power management applications. However, this requires effort on the part of the consumer of such devices to configure and tailor the IED's to their needs. It would be impractical for the manufacturer to offer every conceivable combination of options and software and would likely lead to higher manufacturing costs. Further, the capabilities of the IED's make it impossible to predict how an end user may want to use the functionality of the device. It is therefore desirable to provide a system through which a customer can order an IED pre-configured to their specific needs such that the device is ready to be installed and used within the customer's specific power management application upon receipt from the supplier or manufacturer of the device. Further, such a system should integrate with the manufacturing or supply chain of the IED's so as not to add complexity to the manufacturing or supply process.

Typically, an IED end-user will order generic devices from a manufacturer or distributor and customize those devices to their specific needs on-site. In most cases, the user has their own “meter shop” and personnel who install and maintain the IED's owned by the user. The disclosed embodiments permit the end-user to order IED's from a manufacturer or distributor specifically customized to their needs including all options and software such that when the IED is delivered, it is ready to be installed out of the box.

The disclosed embodiments relate to a build-to-order system for conducting interactive electronic commerce and more particularly to a method for specifying custom hardware and software configurations when ordering IED's so that they are configured to exactly match a customers unique requirement before shipping the device. Further, a medium is provided to allow the sharing of both core and custom framework solutions with other customers as well as the ability to clone and/or modify existing frameworks solutions when ordering a customized device. The disclosed embodiments allow the customer to provide this information in advance over the Internet such that the IED device is ready to perform as desired by the user as soon as it is installed. This is similar to “Plug and Play” for computers and their attached peripheral devices.

On the Internet, the number of sites allowing remote electronic ordering (e-commerce) of products is increasing daily. At a typical e-commerce site a consumer can access online catalogs, containing text and other graphical and multimedia based information about specific items. A consumer can select products, choosing which options they may desire, purchase the products online and even receive instant confirmation of their order upon completion of their transaction. U.S. Pat. No. 5,710,887 discloses such e-commerce shopping where consumers are able to select and add products to their “electronic shopping carts” where U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,909,492 and 5,715,314 further describe the consumers confirmation of their order.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,963,743 and 5,991,543 disclose customized testing software for build-to-order systems, specifically computer systems, however they fail to disclose enabling the customer to order an IED device and specify and customize the hardware and software/frameworks configuration.

In one embodiment, a system and method of providing/building and configuring IED's to order is provided. It will be appreciated that while the disclosed embodiments are described in terms of the manufacture of IED's, they are applicable both to the manufacture of IED's as well as to the provision of IED's through other parts of the supply chain, such as from aftermarket, original equipment manufacturers (“OEM”) or other secondary providers or suppliers. Any entity which provides IED's to end-users is contemplated. For example, a dealer or OEM of IED's retrieves a stock IED from their inventory and configures it according to this invention prior to shipping it to the customer/end-user.

A customer/end-user, such as a supplier or consumer of electrical energy, places an order with a manufacturer or provider of IED's. In addition to the customer identification and payment information, the order includes three primary parts: a first specification of the type and model of IED the customer wishes to purchase; a second specification of the optional hardware they would like added to the IED; and a third specification of the software to be installed on the IED prior to delivery. The order specifies all of the parameters necessary to provide one or more IED's to the customer that meet the customer's specific needs and require no further configuration to be installed in the customer's application.

The first specification is used to select a particular product from a the product line offered by a manufacturer or dealer. Typically, a manufacturer of IED's will design and manufacture one or more discrete sets of devices directed to different operating goals or customer bases. Each of these discrete sets or types of IED's may have different combinations of capabilities as well as different price points driven by market parameters such as by categories of customers. For example, one type of IED may be targeted to a utility/supplier of electrical energy while a different type of IED may be targeted to a consumer of electrical energy. The two different types may share common capabilities but may also offer unique capabilities desirable to their target market only. Further, as a manufacturer develops their technologies, new IED types or models may be introduced with added, improved or updated features and capabilities. A particular type of IED may further include various models. In this case, all models of an IED within a particular type may share common attributes such as a common form factor or a common base set of capabilities. In addition, each model within a particular type may offer additional optional capabilities or improved features. For example, All type A meters may have the capability to store measured data in a memory. A type A, model 1 meter may be able to store 20 readings while a type A, model 2 meter may be able to store 40 readings. Again, each model within a particular type may be targeted to a specific market category or price point. It will be appreciated that product offerings are manufacturer independent and that types and models may vary and that further, some capabilities or features may be added via optional hardware as described below.

Once a customer has specified which type and model of IED they want, they may also specify optional hardware to be added to the IED. The optional hardware typically includes hardware which adds non-standard features or capabilities which can be added to any model or type or any model within a particular type. It will be appreciated that hardware which is optional on one type or model of device may be standard on another model or type of device. Optional hardware includes, but is not limited to, network interface cards such as Ethernet cards, modems or other communications devices, additional memory storage, remote display devices, current transformers, power supplies, terminal strips or LonWorks™ distributed network functionality control hardware. In some cases, the customer may not wish to add any optional hardware, for example, to keep costs down. In this case, the customer will specify no optional hardware.

Finally, the customer specifies the software which they want loaded on the IED. As was noted above, the software which operates the IED is divided into two types, the firmware and the software applications or frameworks. The firmware is loaded by the manufacturer or secondary provider according to the type and model of the IED as well as the optional hardware installed. Further, standard or core frameworks may also be loaded which provide basic or generic functionality for the device.

In addition, the customer may specify custom frameworks to be loaded on the IED prior to shipment. These custom frameworks may be frameworks developed internally by the customer for tailoring the IED to a specific task. As will be described below, the new IED being ordered may be intended to replace a defective IED in the field. In this case, the customer desires that the new IED to be configured exactly like the existing device so that the two devices can be swapped with no further effort involved in configuring the new device. Another example involves a customer which is expanding operations and needs to order many IED's all configured identically for a new application or to a particular device or set of devices which are currently installed in the existing installation. In this case, the customer may provide their custom frameworks to the manufacturer so that all of the new IED's can be pre-configured as described above. Custom frameworks may also be developed by other customers and shared or traded, or may be developed by third parties or by the manufacturer or secondary provider of the IED and offered as options. Further, the customer may specify a custom combination of optional custom or standard/core frameworks developed and provided by the manufacturer or a combination of optional, standard/core and custom frameworks. By allowing the specification of custom frameworks, standard/core frameworks, and combinations thereof, the customer is enabled to buy configured-to-order devices.

In the preferred embodiments, the ability to specify the IED model/type, optional hardware and custom frameworks in an order for an IED is provided via an automated order processing interface. It will be appreciated that there may be many alternative methods of processing orders, both manual and automated, and all such methods are contemplated. The interface is preferably implemented as an Internet or extranet accessible web site (described in more detail below). Alternatively, the interface may be accessible via a private network such as an intranet, extranet or combination thereof with a publicly accessible network such as a virtual private network utilizing the Internet. The web site may be an open site where anyone can order an IED or may be a secure site requiring customers to register or log in for access. Alternatively, the interface may be implemented as an electronic mail interface which processes orders via electronic mail interactions, either secure or unsecured. Further, the interface may be implemented using telephony based services such as automated telephone or operator assisted interfaces or facsimile based interfaces.

The preferred interface provides the functionality to receive an order for one or more IED's from a customer. The interface preferably also provides the functionality for a customer to modify an existing order that has not shipped out yet. The order includes the specifications of the type and model of IED, the optional hardware and the custom frameworks to be loaded. In one embodiment, the interface also allows customers to order generic or non-custom IED's with optional hardware and core frameworks but without specifying custom frameworks. The combination of the three specifications, IED type and model, the optional hardware and custom frameworks is referred to as a “configuration.” As described above and in more detail below, the preferred order processing interface receives the configuration from the customer. In one embodiment, order entry web pages are provided which allow the customer to enter all of the information specifying the configuration of the IED's they wish to buy. For receiving the configuration information, the interface may provide pull-down menus, pick lists or text entry fields as are known. In one embodiment, the order entry web pages implement a e-commerce based catalog and shopping cart data construct as are known. Further, the interface provides the functionality to allow the customer to provide/upload their custom frameworks to the order processing interface. The custom frameworks will be passed to manufacturing (described in more detail below) where they will be loaded on the IED once manufactured.

In an alternative embodiment, the configuration may be selected from a database of stored configurations. This database is coupled with the interface and may be publicly available to any customer or exclusive to a particular customer. When specifying a configuration from the database, the customer may choose to provide/upload their custom frameworks to the order processing interface or the custom frameworks may also be stored in the database (as will be described below). In one embodiment, each customer has a private library of configurations stored within the database and accessible only to that customer. In still another embodiment, a customer can share configurations, including frameworks, with other customers. In addition, public libraries of custom configurations and/or frameworks may be provided for the customer to select from.

In another embodiment, the order processing interface provides a mechanism to receive batch or bulk orders for IED's. In one embodiment, a customer may upload a list of devices and configurations to the interface. The interface then parses the list and processes the order as described for the desired devices. In another embodiment, the interface communicates with a customer's client side product specification/computer design software program such as used by a construction company that designs and constructs buildings. The design software program facilitates the overall design process for the construction project and typically is capable of generating an inventory of parts and supplies needed to construct the building. Included within that inventory is a specification of the power management devices that will be necessary. This specification can be communicated directly to the order processing interface by the design software. The order processing interface then parses the specification into the individual products and configurations and processes the order as described. For example, the automated services such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) or BizTalk, which use the extensible markup language (“XML”) as the data interchange format, may be utilized in conjunction with the order process to allow batch ordering and processing of orders and hence reducing or eliminating the human intervention required during the ordering process. For example a construction company may utilize an automated service to order and track the products required to complete a building, managing delivery dates and other scheduling issues, such as delivery and ordering of building supplies and materials which may include, among other things, IED's. The construction company's automated service places the building requirements into a data file and transfers the data file request to the automated order processing interface of the virtual meter site. The order processing interface, which is configured to determine the custom needs of the requested devices based on the data file, initiates the device order request and returns an order confirmation to the construction companies automated service. The ordered IED's then follow the manufacture process as outlined earlier.

In yet another alternative embodiment, a customer may order a new IED by specifying that the new IED be configured identically to an existing IED owned by the customer. In one embodiment, the database described above stores the configurations for all previous orders placed by a particular customer. When the customer orders a new IED, they have the option of selecting the configuration of a previously ordered IED from this database. The customer may specify the previous order by entering the serial number, network address, such as the device's Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, or other tracking identification of the existing device or may select the configuration from a list. In another embodiment, configurations of existing IED's owned by a customer are maintained on a customer owned computer coupled via the network with the order processing system. This allows the customer to upload the configurations of previously ordered IED's to the order processing interface when placing a new order for a new device.

In addition, the preferred embodiments provide the capability to clone existing installed devices. In this embodiment, the customer specifies a serial number, tracking number or other identification such as a network address, e.g. IP address, of a network accessible IED having a configuration they wish to use on the new IED they are ordering. Using the identification, the order processing interface automatically communicates directly with the existing IED in the field via the network. The order processing interface downloads the configuration, including the type and model of IED, the installed optional hardware and custom frameworks to generate the order for the new IED. The communications between the existing IED and the order processing interface is preferably secure but maybe unsecured as well. This functionality enables a customer to easily order new IED's configured exactly like existing IED's without having to remember the configuration information or de-install the device.

In another embodiment, an interface is provided to assist a customer who is unsure of what configuration they need for their application. This interfaces performs an assessment, such as through an interactive hierarchical series of interrogatories presented via a web page, to determine the custom needs of the particular customer. Once the needs are assessed, the interface computes a custom configuration, including the IED type and model, the optional hardware and custom frameworks to accomplish the customer's application. This may be performed using a look up table which correlates answers to various specific questions with pre-defined custom configurations.

At each step of the order process, as the configuration is determined, the interface validates the choices of the customer. In an alternative embodiment, the validation is a batch process which occurs once the customer has finished specifying the desired configuration. A particular choice may be invalid where the specified type or model of IED is no longer manufactured or otherwise available, the chosen optional hardware is incompatible with the specified type or model of IED, or the custom frameworks specified by the customer are outdated or incompatible with the specified hardware. In one embodiment, the order processing interface automatically provides valid substitutions for the invalid choices. In another embodiment, the invalid choices are flagged for the customer and they are permitted to re-select valid choices.

Once the customer has completed their order specified all of the IED's and corresponding configurations that they wish to purchase, they submit the order. Upon order submission, the order may be confirmed back to the customer who then has the opportunity to review the order and make any changes. Once confirmed, the order is processed and sent to manufacturing as described in more detail below. In one embodiment, IED's and corresponding configurations are added to a shopping cart data structure, as is typically done in e-commerce based web sites. When the customer is finished ordering, they can “check out” their shopping cart to complete the order process. Once the order is submitted and confirmed, it is also stored in a database, as described above, for future reference in future orders.

The interface further provides order management capabilities which allow a customer to review past orders and check the status of current orders, such as the real time shipping status. Further, functionality is provided for a customer to manage and maintain there own private configuration library. For orders which have not yet shipped, the customer is also provided with tools which allow modification to the order, such as adding or deleting IED's from the order or modifying configurations. As will be discussed in more detail below, where a change is made to the configuration of an IED after the manufacturing of that IED has begun or after the affected manufacturing step has completed, the order processing system generates a re-work order which will cause the completed IED to be re-sent through the manufacturing process to implement the change. In one embodiment, the order processing interface provides secure private custom web based portals for customers to manage and maintain their own IED and configuration datasets as well as interact with the order management capabilities.

The order processing interface described above is integrated with the manufacturing/supply process of the IED provider so as to automate the fulfillment of the orders. The order processing interface continually watches, based on events such as order or update submission/confirmation, for new order or updates to existing, but not yet complete, orders and feeds this information to the manufacturing processing system. Receipt of a new order or a re-work order from the order processing system triggers the manufacturing processing system. The manufacturing processing system then implements the manufacturing/supply process. The order may first be validated by an order validator (or re-validated if the order processing system has already validated it) to ensure that the configuration is manufacturable. If an invalid configuration is determined, the order can be flagged and returned to the order processing system which can then contact the customer to correct the problem. Alternatively, a suitable substitution for the invalid configuration may be automatically provided. For example, where an older model of a particular IED is requested but no longer available, the newer model may be automatically substituted. Once the order is determined to be valid, an IED of the specified type and model is constructed (or retrieved from inventory in the case of a secondary supplier). Once constructed, the specified optional hardware is installed. Finally the core and custom frameworks are loaded into the device. Further manufacturing steps may be performed. For example, refer to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/792,699, entitled “SYSTEMS FOR IMPROVED MONITORING ACCURACY OF INTELLIGENT ELECTRONIC DEVICES,” captioned above. In one embodiment, the necessary configuration information is retrieved by manufacturing from the database described above at each manufacturing stage. For re-work orders, the IED to be altered is recycled through the manufacturing process to the appropriate stage where the modification is to be made.

Once complete, the IED is ready for shipment to the end-user. The IED includes all of the requested hardware and software and is ready to be installed and utilized within the customer's specific application upon delivery.

Referring back to the figures, and in particular FIG. 7, there is shown an overview of the preferred embodiment of customer and ordering interaction with the order processing interface 119, also referred to as the Virtual Meter Web Site 119, for ordering standard/generic device configurations. The order processing interface web site is served by a web server computer 111. The customer first enters the Virtual Meter Site via a home page or custom portal web page using an Internet World Wide Web browser program 110 operating on their local computer, which is connected over a network, such as the Internet to the web server 111. An exemplary browser is Internet Explorer™, manufactured by Microsoft Corporation, located in Redmond, Wash. It will be appreciated that this may be a secure connection using secure sockets layer (“SSL”), encryption such as PGP, firewalls, proxy servers or other network security mechanisms as are known.

Within the Virtual Meter Web Site 119, the customer has the ability to select products and desired configurations, as well as change and upload custom configurations/frameworks 120. The site 119 is coupled with a master server 101 which further includes the order management database 100. The server 101 and database 100 maintain all of the data related to current and previous orders as well as store configurations libraries as discussed above. The Master Server 101 is further coupled with the Production Department (not shown) and is capable of scheduling requested orders into production. When an order is generated and scheduled, the server 101 generates a Tracking ID or Serial Number (S/N) 121 which can be used to track the order as it progresses through the manufacturing process. The Master Server 101 also has the ability to communicate with the customer via email or other form of communications informing them of expected delivery date and actual delivery date once the requested product has been built & is ready to ship. Furthermore, the Master Server 101 has the ability to contact the customer via email or other automated system (such as a fax) requesting more information, if they have not completed the product order form correctly, or informing them of the ability to continue to customize their order before the product's production commences 122, 123.

Once the requested device is ready to be built in the Production Department or retrieved from inventory, the Master Database 100 is checked to confirm if a custom configuration has been requested. Production of the device is then initiated 124, the device being tracked with the S/N. If no custom configuration request is found, a standard configuration of the device 125 is performed and the product is shipped 126. If a custom configuration has been requested custom configuration is done, as outlined in the FIG. 9 and described below.

FIG. 8 illustrates a more detailed overview of the preferred embodiment of customer and ordering interaction with the preferred order processing interface for orders of IED's with custom configurations. As outlined in FIG. 8 the customer first enters the Ordering Page or entrance to the Virtual Meter Site 111 through their browser 110, which is connected over a network (or the Internet). In one embodiment, the Virtual Meter Site 119 allows the customer to login to a custom screen which gives more detailed information such as the customer's historical order information, custom and generic/core stored frameworks 115, as described above. This secure login provides only this customer access to any stored private information. As above, the customer selects the device configuration 116, which can be either a new device, cloned from an existing device 118 or copied from the customer's historical orders which is accessible through the Master Server 101. As was described above, the order is validated to ensure that the requested configuration is manufacturable/producible. In particular, for cloned configurations, the cloned device may no longer be manufactured or the hardware options or custom frameworks may be incompatible or outdated due to technology changes. As was discussed, the order processing interface 119 may include an order validator designed to flag invalid configurations whether manually specified by the customer or derived through cloning of an existing device. Once an invalid configuration is detected, the interface 119 may present the invalid order back to the customer for modifications, coupled with suggested suitable alternatives to the invalid aspect or may automatically provide a suitable substitution to meet the customer's overall requirements.

Once the requested device is ready to be build the Master Database 100 is checked to confirm configuration and product production is initiated 124. As the product is tracked through production with a tracking ID or S/N a request to the Master Server 101 allows the Custom Configuration of the product 127 before final shipping 126.

FIG. 9 illustrates a preferred embodiment of customer login to the Virtual Meter Site (VMS) 119. The Login Screen 300 allows the customer to login and retrieve their Company information. It also allows for collection of new customer data 301 and storage of this new user information in the Master Database 100. Once the customer has logged in they are given the ability to Select Product Order Type 302 which allows the customer to check the status of a pending order 310, modify a pending order 304 or create a new order 500. The customer can check the status of a new pending order through the Order Status Screen 310 which is coupled with the Master Database 100 and retrieves the order information relating to the current status of pending orders. Customers can also customize an existing order 302 which checks to see if the order has been built, but not yet shipped. If the order has not shipped, the customer may enter the Customize Order Screen 400 to modify the order, as described above. If the order has been built the customer is notified they must issue a Rework Order 303 before proceeding to the Customize Order Screen 400 and that this may delay shipment. If the order has not yet been built, the customer may modify the order.

The order type 302 may also be a new order which leads the customer to the New Order Screen 500. Once the new order data is collected a Tracking Number or S/N is issued 305 and associated with the order in the master database 100 and the customer continues on to the Customize Order Screen 400.

FIG. 10 illustrates a preferred embodiment of the Customize Order Screen 400. This Screen consists of an Advanced Setup Screen 410 and a Basic Setup Screen 420. The Virtual Meter screen 401 lists the current configuration of the IED to be ordered.

The Advanced Setup Screen 410 allows the customer to choose several options for customizing the configuration. The customer may choose to configure using a previous order 412 which recalls and lists previous order configurations stored in the Master Database 100. Alternatively or in addition, the customer may choose to select one or more public frameworks 413 from a library of publicly available custom frameworks. Examples include: General Set, Power Quality (includes Power Frequency, Voltage Magnitude, Flicker, Voltage Dips, Interruptions, Overvoltages, Voltage Unbalance, Harmonic and Interharmonic Voltages) Lonworks™, Datalogging, Modbus Slave and DNP Slave. Both core and custom frameworks can be also uploaded to this library to share with other users, as described above. Custom framework examples include Current/Voltage monitoring, Capacitor Bank Controllers and Transformer Loss Calculations. Alternatively or in addition, the customer may choose to select one or more private frameworks 411 which may be either stored in the Master Database 100 or uploaded by the customer. Private frameworks are visible only to the customer upon secure login and can contain both core and custom frameworks.

Further, the customer may choose to clone a previous order 414 stored on the Master Database 100 or clone an existing installed device using an address/identifier provided by the customer. Types of communication, such as direct dial-up, wireless (cellular, Bluetooth, or other wireless technologies), Ethernet, IP or email connections may be used to poll data from a device using protocols such as telephony, SMTP, HTTP, TCP/IP, FTP, XML, etc.

The Advanced accuracy 415 option allows customers to specify ordering options complete with current transformer (“CT”) and voltage transformer (“PT”) calibrated systems. For more information, refer to the related references captioned above.

The Basic Setup Screen 420 allows customers to choose from hardware options such as: Password Security, Polarity of PT and CT, Unit ID, Baud Rate, Protocol, Com 1,2,3,&4, CT Primary/Secondary, PT Primary/Secondary or Volts Mode.

A customer may also Check Order Status 430, allowing the retrieval of delivery date and other order data in real time, and Search Different Orders 432, allowing them to retrieve old data for previous order which have been shipped. Furthermore a customer may also use the Update Order 431 function if they are re-configuring an ordered device before it has been shipped, as was described above.

Finally the customer Submits Order 433 which permanently updates the Master Database 100 with the information tagged to a Tracking ID or S/N.

FIG. 11 illustrates a preferred embodiment of New Order Screen 500. A Customer may duplicate a Previous Order 510 or select from the Product List 511 when adding or editing their Current Orders 512. Pricing may also be dynamically updated with the use of the Update Order Pricing 520 feature as new Ordering Options are chosen from the Product List 511. Once the Submit Order 521 has been requested the collected data is passed to the Master Database 100 and a Tracking ID or S/N is generated (not shown).

Once delivered to the end-user, similar functionality as described above may be used to re-configure or upgrade IED's once installed. For more detailed information refer to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/792,701, entitled “SYSTEMS FOR IN THE FIELD CONFIGURATION OF INTELLIGENT ELECTRONIC DEVICES,” captioned above.

Once the order has been submitted, it is passed to manufacturing where the specified IED is produced and delivered to the customer. In this way, the disclosed embodiments permit the custom ordering of IED's which are built to the specifications of the customer. The embodiments further permit the custom configuration of the IED's prior to delivery such that they may be used without further effort of the end-user. While build to order systems are generally known, these systems typically produce a custom assembly of standard parts and/or software but have no facility for integrating custom parts and/or software with the standard offerings. Essentially then only providing discrete, although numerous, products comprising combinations of standard parts. The product still requires configuration by the user once received. For example, a computer manufacturer may offer build to order computers where the customer may specify the amount of memory, the hard drive size and the inclusion of a modem. The customer may further specify that they wish to have certain software installed such as a particular operating system or applications suite. However, upon receipt of the ordered computer system, the customer will still have to configure the system to their liking such as by setting screen saver, password or other preference information. While the computer system is built to the customer's specification, it is not fully configured and ready to use in the customer's specific applications upon receipt. The disclosed embodiments describe a build and configure to order system which alleviates the need of the customer to spend time configuring the hardware once they receive it.

It is therefore intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, that are intended to define the spirit and scope of this invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification702/61
International ClassificationG06Q10/00
Cooperative ClassificationY10S707/99933, G06Q10/087, G06Q30/0635, G06Q30/0631, G06Q30/0621, Y04S10/56, Y04S50/10
European ClassificationG06Q10/087, G06Q30/0621, G06Q30/0631, G06Q30/0635