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Creating and managing association and balancing of a mesh device in a mesh network

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Publication number
WO2009067253A1
WO2009067253A1 PCT/US2008/013021 US2008013021W WO2009067253A1 WO 2009067253 A1 WO2009067253 A1 WO 2009067253A1 US 2008013021 W US2008013021 W US 2008013021W WO 2009067253 A1 WO2009067253 A1 WO 2009067253A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
mesh
network
meter
gate
association
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2008/013021
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Michel Veillette
Original Assignee
Trilliant Networks, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L45/00Routing or path finding of packets in data switching networks
    • H04L45/28Route fault recovery
    • GPHYSICS
    • G01MEASURING; TESTING
    • G01DMEASURING NOT SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR A SPECIFIC VARIABLE; ARRANGEMENTS FOR MEASURING TWO OR MORE VARIABLES NOT COVERED IN A SINGLE OTHER SUBCLASS; TARIFF METERING APPARATUS; MEASURING OR TESTING NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G01D4/00Tariff metering apparatus
    • G01D4/002Remote reading of utility meters
    • G01D4/004Remote reading of utility meters to a fixed location
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L45/00Routing or path finding of packets in data switching networks
    • H04L45/04Interdomain routing, e.g. hierarchical routing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L45/00Routing or path finding of packets in data switching networks
    • H04L45/34Source routing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L45/00Routing or path finding of packets in data switching networks
    • H04L45/48Routing tree calculation
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04QSELECTING
    • H04Q3/00Selecting arrangements
    • H04Q3/64Distributing or queueing
    • H04Q3/66Traffic distributors
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS
    • H04W40/00Communication routing or communication path finding
    • H04W40/02Communication route or path selection, e.g. power-based or shortest path routing
    • H04W40/22Communication route or path selection, e.g. power-based or shortest path routing using selective relaying for reaching a BTS [Base Transceiver Station] or an access point
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02BINDEXING SCHEME RELATING TO CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO BUILDINGS, e.g. INCLUDING HOUSING AND APPLIANCES OR RELATED END-USER APPLICATIONS
    • Y02B90/00Enabling technologies or technologies with a potential or indirect contribution to GHG emissions mitigation
    • Y02B90/20Systems integrating technologies related to power network operation and communication or information technologies mediating in the improvement of the carbon footprint of the management of residential or tertiary loads, i.e. smart grids as enabling technology in buildings sector
    • Y02B90/24Smart metering mediating in the carbon neutral operation of end-user applications in buildings
    • Y02B90/241Systems characterised by remote reading
    • Y02B90/242Systems characterised by remote reading from a fixed location
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02BINDEXING SCHEME RELATING TO CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO BUILDINGS, e.g. INCLUDING HOUSING AND APPLIANCES OR RELATED END-USER APPLICATIONS
    • Y02B90/00Enabling technologies or technologies with a potential or indirect contribution to GHG emissions mitigation
    • Y02B90/20Systems integrating technologies related to power network operation and communication or information technologies mediating in the improvement of the carbon footprint of the management of residential or tertiary loads, i.e. smart grids as enabling technology in buildings sector
    • Y02B90/24Smart metering mediating in the carbon neutral operation of end-user applications in buildings
    • Y02B90/246Utility meters which are networked together, e.g. within a single building
    • Y02D70/10
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y04INFORMATION OR COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES HAVING AN IMPACT ON OTHER TECHNOLOGY AREAS
    • Y04SSYSTEMS INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO POWER NETWORK OPERATION, COMMUNICATION OR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES FOR IMPROVING THE ELECTRICAL POWER GENERATION, TRANSMISSION, DISTRIBUTION, MANAGEMENT OR USAGE, i.e. SMART GRIDS
    • Y04S20/00Systems supporting the management or operation of end-user stationary applications, including also the last stages of power distribution and the control, monitoring or operating management systems at local level
    • Y04S20/30Smart metering
    • Y04S20/32Systems characterised by remote reading
    • Y04S20/322Systems characterised by remote reading from a fixed location
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y04INFORMATION OR COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES HAVING AN IMPACT ON OTHER TECHNOLOGY AREAS
    • Y04SSYSTEMS INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGIES RELATED TO POWER NETWORK OPERATION, COMMUNICATION OR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES FOR IMPROVING THE ELECTRICAL POWER GENERATION, TRANSMISSION, DISTRIBUTION, MANAGEMENT OR USAGE, i.e. SMART GRIDS
    • Y04S20/00Systems supporting the management or operation of end-user stationary applications, including also the last stages of power distribution and the control, monitoring or operating management systems at local level
    • Y04S20/30Smart metering
    • Y04S20/42Utility meters which are networked together, e.g. within a single building

Abstract

A method and system are provided for associating a meter to a mesh gate through a mesh network. The method may include selecting a prospective mesh network. The method may include automatically transmitting a neighbor request to the prospective mesh network. The method may include receiving a neighbor response from a neighbor node from different mesh networks. The method may include transmitting an association request to mesh gate via the prospective mesh network. The method may include receiving an association response responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.

Description

CREATING AND MANAGING ASSOCIATION AND BALANCING OF A MESH DEVICE IN A MESH NETWORK

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of priority to the following United States provisional patent applications which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety:

• serial number 60/989,957 entitled "Point-to-Point Communication within a Mesh Network", filed November 25, 2007 (TR0004-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,967 entitled "Efficient And Compact Transport Layer And Model For An Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Network," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0003-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,958 entitled "Creating And Managing A Mesh Network Including Network Association," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0005-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,964 entitled "Route Optimization Within A Mesh Network," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0007-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,950 entitled "Application Layer Device Agnostic Collector Utilizing ANSI C 12.22," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0009-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,953 entitled "System And Method For Real Time Event Report Generation Between Nodes And Head End Server In A Meter Reading Network Including From Smart And Dumb Meters," filed November 25, 2007 (TROOlO-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,975 entitled "System and Method for Network (Mesh) Layer And Application Layer Architecture And Processes," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0014- PRO);

• serial number 60/989,959 entitled "Tree Routing Within a Mesh Network," filed November 25, 2007 (TROO 17-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,961 entitled "Source Routing Within a Mesh Network," filed November 25, 2007 (TROO 19-PRO);

• serial number 60/989,962 entitled "Creating and Managing a Mesh Network," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0020-PRO); serial number 60/989,951 entitled "Network Node And Collector Architecture For Communicating Data And Method Of Communications," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0021-PRO); serial number 60/989,955 entitled "System And Method For Recovering From Head End Data Loss And Data Collector Failure In An Automated Meter Reading Infrastructure," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0022-PRO); serial number 60/989,952 entitled "System And Method For Assigning Checkpoints To A Plurality Of Network Nodes In Communication With A Device Agnostic Data Collector," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0023-PRO); serial number 60/989,954 entitled "System And Method For Synchronizing Data In An Automated Meter Reading Infrastructure," filed November 25, 2007 (TR0024-PRO); serial number 60/992,312 entitled "Mesh Network Broadcast," filed December 4, 2007 (TR0027-PRO); serial number 60/992,313 entitled "Multi Tree Mesh Networks", filed December 4,

2007 (TR0028-PRO); serial number 60/992,315 entitled "Mesh Routing Within a Mesh Network," filed December 4, 2007 (TR0029-PRO); serial number 61/025,279 entitled "Point-to-Point Communication within a Mesh Network", filed January 31, 2008 (TR0030-PRO), and which are incorporated by reference. serial number 61/025,270 entitled "Application Layer Device Agnostic Collector Utilizing Standardized Utility Metering Protocol Such As ANSI C12.22," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0031-PRO); serial number 61/025,276 entitled "System And Method For Real-Time Event Report Generation Between Nodes And Head End Server In A Meter Reading Network Including Form Smart And Dumb Meters," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0032-PRO); serial number 61/025,282 entitled "Method And System for Creating And Managing Association And Balancing Of A Mesh Device In A Mesh Network," filed January 31,

2008 (TR0035-PRO); • serial number 61/025,271 entitled "Method And System for Creating And Managing Association And Balancing Of A Mesh Device In A Mesh Network," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0037-PRO);

• serial number 61/025,287 entitled "System And Method For Operating Mesh Devices In Multi-Tree Overlapping Mesh Networks", filed January 31, 2008 (TR0038-PRO);

• serial number 61/025,278 entitled "System And Method For Recovering From Head End Data Loss And Data Collector Failure In An Automated Meter Reading Infrastructure," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0039-PRO);

• serial number 61/025,273 entitled "System And Method For Assigning Checkpoints to A Plurality Of Network Nodes In Communication With A Device-Agnostic Data Collector," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0040-PRO);

• serial number 61/025,277 entitled "System And Method For Synchronizing Data In An Automated Meter Reading Infrastructure," filed January 31, 2008 (TR0041-PRO);

• serial number 61/094,1 16 entitled "Message Formats and Processes for Communication Across a Mesh Network," filed September 4, 2008 (TR0049-PRO).

[0002] This application hereby references and incorporates by reference each of the following United States patent applications filed contemporaneously herewith:

• serial number entitled "Point-to-Point Communication within a Mesh

Network", filed November 21, 2008 (TR0004-US);

• serial number entitled "Efficient And Compact Transport Layer And

Model For An Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Network," filed November 21, 2008 (TR0003-US);

• serial number entitled "Communication and Message Route

Optimization and Messaging in a Mesh Network," filed November 21, 2008 (TR0007- US);

• serial number entitled "Collector Device and System Utilizing

Standardized Utility Metering Protocol," filed November 21, 2008 (TR0009-US); and

• serial number entitled "Method and System for Creating and Managing

Association and Balancing of a Mesh Device in a Mesh Network," filed November 21, 2008 (TR0038-US). FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0003] This invention pertains generally to methods and systems for creating and managing association and balancing of a mesh device in a mesh network and more particularly to methods and systems for automatically creating associations and for managing such associations to maintain balance of one or more mesh devices in a mesh network.

BACKGROUND

[0004] A mesh network is a wireless network configured to route data between nodes within a network. It allows for continuous connections and reconfigurations around broken or blocked paths by retransmitting messages from node to node until a destination is reached. Mesh networks differ from other networks in that the component parts can all connect to each other via multiple hops. Thus, mesh networks are self-healing: the network remains operational when a node or a connection fails.

[0005] Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or Advanced Metering Management (AMM) are systems that measure, collect and analyze utility usage, from advanced devices such as electricity meters, gas meters, and water meters, through a network on request or a pre-defined schedule. This infrastructure includes hardware, software, communications, customer associated systems and meter data management software. The infrastructure collects and distributes information to customers, suppliers, utility companies and service providers. This enables these businesses to either participate in, or provide, demand response solutions, products and services. Customers may alter energy usage patterns from normal consumption patterns in response to demand pricing. This improves system load and reliability.

[0006] A meter may be installed on a power line, gas line, or water line and wired into a power grid for power. Newly installed meters may associate with a specified network identifier entered by a user during installation. Alternatively, the user may initiate an association window during which a meter may associate with a nearby mesh network. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] A method and system provide for automatic association and balancing of a mesh device in a mesh network. The user is not required to input a network identifier or initiate an association widow. When a meter is installed and powers up, it automatically detects nearby mesh networks. Each mesh network may be associated with a mesh gate that communicates with a server over a wide area network.

[0008] The meter attempts to associate with a prospective mesh network by transmitting a request and an authentication key to a mesh gate. Once associated with a mesh network, the meter may begin transmitting sensor readings to a server via the mesh network and executing received instructions. The meter may periodically check for alternative mesh networks to associate with, for example, with a lower mesh gate load or signal quality. [0009] In one aspect there is provided a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network; automatically transmitting a neighbor request to the prospective mesh network; receiving a neighbor response from a mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request to mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; and receiving an association response responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate. [0010] In another aspect there is provided a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: receiving an automatically transmitted neighbor request from the meter through the mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response to the meter through the mesh network; receiving an association request, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; and responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table.

[0011] In another aspect there is provided a system for transmitting a network power status, comprising: a prospective mesh network; a wide area network separate from the prospective mesh network; at least one meter, the meter configured to: (i) detect the prospective mesh network, (ii) automatically transmit an association request to the prospective mesh network, and (iii) associate with the prospective mesh network; a mesh gate in communication with the prospective mesh network and in communication with the wide area network, the mesh gate configured to: (i) receive the automatically transmitted association request from the meter, and (ii) responsive to successfully authenticating the meter, transmit an association response to the meter and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and a server in communication with the mesh gate over the wide area network, the server configured to receive the meter identifier from the mesh gate.

[0012] In another aspect there is provided a computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter, the method comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network; automatically transmitting a neighbor request to the prospective mesh network; receiving a neighbor response from a mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request to mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; and receiving an association response responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.

[0013] In another aspect there is provided a computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, the method comprising: receiving an automatically transmitted neighbor request from the meter through the mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response to the meter through the mesh network; receiving an association request, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; and responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table. [0014] In another aspect there is provided a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate. [0015] In another aspect there is provided a computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, the method comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.

[0016] In another aspect there is provided a system for of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: means for selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; means for automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; means for receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; means for transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; means for receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; means for transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; means for receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; means for responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and means for receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate. [0017] This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] FIG. 1 illustrates an example system for providing AMI communications over a mesh network.

[0019] FIG. 2A illustrates an example meter for use within a mesh network. [0020] FIG. 2B illustrates an example mesh gate for use within a mesh network. [0021] FIG. 3 illustrates an example network stack for use within a mesh radio. [0022] FIG. 4A illustrates a first example procedure for associating a meter with a mesh network.

[0023] FIG. 4B illustrates a second example procedure for associating a meter with a mesh network. [0024] FIG. 5 illustrates an example association schematic.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0025] FIG. 1 illustrates an example system for providing AMI communications over a mesh network. A mesh network A 100 may include a mesh gate A 102 and a plurality of meters: meters A 104, B 106, C 108, D 110, E 112, and F 114. A mesh gate may also be referred to as a NAN- WAN gate or an access point. The mesh gate A 102 may communicate with a server 118 over a wide area network 116. Optionally, a mesh gate B 120 and a mesh network B 122 may also communicate with the server 118 over the wide area network (WAN) 116.

[0026] In one example embodiment, the server 118 is known as a "head end." The mesh gate may also be known as a collector, a concentrator, or an access point. [0027] It will be appreciated that a mesh device association can include a registration for application service at the mesh gate A 102 or the server 118. The mesh gate A 102 and the server 118 can maintain a table of available applications and services and requesting mesh devices.

[0028] Optionally, a mesh gate C 124 and a mesh network C 126 may also communicate with the server 118 over the wide area network 116. [0029] The mesh network A 100 may include a plurality of mesh gates and meters which cover a geographical area. The meters may include utility sensors and be part of an AMI system and communicate with the mesh gates over the mesh network. For example, the AMI system may monitor utilities usage, such as gas, water, or electricity usage and usage patterns. Alternative mesh devices include thermostats, user displays, and other components for monitoring utilities.

[0030] The mesh gate A 102 may provide a gateway between the mesh network A 100 and a server, discussed below. The mesh gate A 102 may include a mesh radio to communicate with the mesh network A 100 and a WAN communication interface to communicate with a WAN.

[0031] The mesh gate A 102 may aggregate information from meters within the mesh network A 100 and transmit the information to the server. The mesh gate A 102 may be as depicted below. It will be appreciated that while only one mesh gate is depicted in the mesh network A 100, any number of mesh gates may be deployed within the mesh network A 100, for example, to improve transmission bandwidth to the server and provide redundancy in the mesh network. A typical system will include a plurality of mesh gates within the mesh network. In a non-limiting embodiment for an urban or metropolitan geographical area, there may be between 1 and 100 mesh gates, but this is not a limitation of the invention. In one embodiment, each mesh gate supports approximately 400 meters, depending on system requirements, wireless reception conditions, available bandwidth, and other considerations. It will be appreciated that it is preferable to limit meter usage of bandwidth to allow for future upgrades.

[0032] The meters A 104, B 106, C 108, D 1 10, E 112, and F 114 may each be a mesh device, such as a meter depicted below. The meters may be associated with the mesh network A 100 through direct or indirect communications with the mesh gate A 102. Each meter may forward transmissions from other meters within the mesh network A 100 towards the mesh gate A. It will be appreciated that while only six meters are depicted in the mesh network A 100, any number of meters may be deployed to cover any number of utility lines or locations.

[0033] As depicted, only meters A 104 and D 110 are in direct communications with mesh gate A 102. However, meters B 106, E 1 12 and F 114 can all reach mesh gate A 102 through meter D 1 10. Similarly, meter C 108 can reach mesh gate A 102 through meter E 112 and meter D 110. [0034] The WAN 1 16 may be a communication medium capable of transmitting digital information. For example, the WAN 116 may be the Internet, a cellular network, a private network, a phone line configured to carry a dial-up connection, or any other network.

[0035] The server 1 18 may be a computing device configured to receive information, such as meter readings, from a plurality of mesh networks and meters. The server 1 18 may also be configured to transmit instructions to the mesh networks, mesh gates, and meters.

[0036] It will be appreciated that while only one server is depicted, any number of servers may be used in the AMI system. For example, servers may be distributed by geographical location. Redundant servers may provide backup and failover capabilities in the AMI system.

[0037] The optional mesh gates B 120 and C 124 may be similar to mesh gate A 102, discussed above. Each mesh gate may be associated with a mesh network. For example, mesh gate B 120 may be associated with mesh network B 122 and mesh gate C 124 may be associated with mesh network C 126.

[0038] The mesh network B 122 and the mesh network C 126 may be similar to the mesh network A 102. Each mesh network may include a plurality of meters (not depicted).

[0039] Each mesh network may include meters covering a geographical area, such as a premise, a house, a residential building, an apartment building, or a residential block.

Alternatively, the mesh network may include a utilities network and be configured to measure utilities flow at each sensor. Each mesh gate communicates with the server over the WAN, and thus the server may receive information from and control a large number of meters or mesh devices. Mesh devices may be located wherever they are needed, without the necessity of providing wired communications with the server.

[0040] FIG. 2A illustrates an example meter for use within a mesh network. A meter 200 may include a radio 202, a communication card 204, a metering sensor 206, and a battery or other power or energy storage device or source 208. The radio 202 may include a memory

210, a processor 212, a transceiver 214, and a microcontroller unit (MCU) 216 or other processor or processing logic.

[0041] A mesh device can be any device configured to participate as a node within a mesh network. An example mesh device is a mesh repeater, which can be a wired device configured to retransmitted received mesh transmissions. This extends a range of a mesh network and provides mesh network functionality to mesh devices that enter sleep cycles.

[0042] The meter 200 may be a mesh device communicating with a mesh gate and other mesh devices over a mesh network. For example, the meter 200 may be a gas, water or electricity meter installed in a residential building or other location to monitor utilities usage.

The meter 200 may also control access to utilities on server instructions, for example, by reducing or stopping the flow of gas, water or electricity.

[0043] The radio 202 may be a mesh radio configured to communicate with a mesh network. The radio 202 may transmit, receive, and forward messages to the mesh network.

Any meter within the mesh network may thus communicate with any other meter or mesh gate by communicating with its neighbor and requesting a message be forwarded.

[0044] The communication card 204 may interface between the radio 202 and the sensor

206. Sensor readings or other data may be converted to radio signals for transmission over the radio 202. The communication card 204 may include encryption/decryption functionality or other security measures to protect the transmitted data. In addition, the communication card 204 may decode instructions received from the server.

[0045] The metering sensor 206 may be a gas, water, or electricity meter sensor, or another sensor. For example, digital flow sensors may be used to measure a quantity of water or gas flowing into a residence or building. Alternatively, the sensor 206 may be an electricity meter configured to measure a quantity of electricity flowing over a power line.

[0046] The battery or other energy storage device 208 may be configured to independently power the meter 200 during a power outage. For example, the battery 208 may be a large capacitor storing electricity to power the meter 200 for at least five minutes (or other predetermined period of time) after a power outage. Small compact but high capacity capacitors known as super capacitors are known in the art and may advantageously be used.

One exemplary super capacitor is the SESSCAP 5Of 2.7v 18x30mm capacitor. Alternative battery technologies may be used, for example, galvanic cells, electrolytic cells, fuel cells, flow cells, and voltaic cells.

[0047] It will be appreciated that the radio 202, communication card 204, metering sensor

206 and battery 208 may be modular and configured for easy removal and replacement. This facilitates component upgrading over a lifetime of the meter 200.

[0048] The memory 210 of the radio 202 may store instructions and run-time variables for execution. For example, the memory 210 may include both volatile and non-volatile memory. The memory 210 may also store a history of sensor readings from the metering sensor 206 and an incoming queue of server instructions.

[0049] The processor 212 of the radio 202 may execute instructions, for example, stored in memory 210. Instructions stored in memory 210 may be ordinary instructions, for example, provided at time of meter installation, or special instructions received from the server during run time.

[0050] The transceiver 214 of the radio 202 may transmit and receive wireless signals to a mesh network. The transceiver 214 may be configured to transmit sensor readings and status updates under control of the processor 212. The transceiver 214 may receive server instructions from a server, which are communicated to the memory 210 and the processor 212.

[0051] In the example of FIG. 2A, the MCU 216 can execute firmware or software required by the meter 200. The firmware or software can be installed at manufacture or via a mesh network over the radio 202.

[0052] In one embodiment, any number of MCUs can exist in the meter 200. For example, two MCUs can be installed, a first MCU for executing firmware handling communication protocols, and a second MCU for handling applications.

[0053] Meters may be located in geographically dispersed locations within an AMI system or infrastructure. For example, a meter may be located near a gas line, an electric line, or a water line entering a building or premise to monitor a quantity of gas, electricity, or water flowing through the line. The meter may communicate with other meters and mesh gates through a mesh network. The meter may transmit meter readings and receive instructions via the mesh network.

[0054] It will be appreciated that a mesh device and a mesh gate can share the architecture of meter 200. The radio 202 and the MCU 216 provide the necessary hardware, and the

MCU 216 executes any necessary firmware or software.

[0055] FIG. 2B illustrates a non-limiting example of a mesh gate for use within a mesh network. The mesh gate 230 may include a mesh radio 232, a wide area network interface

234, a battery 236, and a processor 238. The mesh radio 232 may include a memory 242, a processor 244, and a transceiver 246.

[0056] The mesh gate 230 may interface between mesh devices (for example, meters) in a mesh network and a server. For example, meters may be as discussed above. The mesh gate

230 may be installed in a central location relative to the meters and also communicate with a server over a WAN.

[0057] The mesh radio 232 may be a mesh radio configured to communicate with meters over a mesh network. The radio 232 may transmit, receive, and forward messages to the mesh network. [0058] The WAN interface 234 may communicate with a server over a WAN. For example, the WAN may be a cellular network, a private network, a dial-up connection, or any other network. The WAN interface 234 may include encryption/decryption functionality or other security measures to protect data being transmitted to and from the server.

[0059] The battery or other energy storage device 236 may be configured to independently power the mesh gate 230 during a power outage. For example, the battery 236 may be a large capacitor storing electricity to power the mesh gate 230 for at least five minutes (or other predetermined period of time) after a power outage.

[0060] The processor 238 may control the mesh radio 232 and the WAN interface 234.

Meter information received from the meters over the mesh radio 232 may be compiled into composite messages for transmission to the server. Server instructions may be received from the WAN interface 234 and transmitted to meters in the mesh network for execution. Server instructions may also be received from the WAN interface 234 for execution by the processor 238.

[0061] It will be appreciated that the mesh radio 232, WAN interface 234, battery 236, and processor 238 may be modular and configured for easy removal and replacement. This facilitates component upgrading over a lifetime of the mesh gate 230.

[0062] The memory 242 of the mesh radio 232 may store instructions and run-time variables of the mesh radio 232. For example, the memory 242 may include both volatile and non-volatile memory. The memory 242 may also store a history of meter communications and a queue of incoming server instructions. For example, meter communications may include past sensor readings and status updates.

[0063] The processor 244 of the mesh radio 232 may execute instructions, for example, stored in memory 242. Instructions stored in memory 242 may be ordinary instructions, for example, provided at time of mesh gate installation, or special instructions received from the server during run-time.

[0064] The transceiver 246 of the mesh radio 232 may transmit and receive wireless signals to a mesh network. The transceiver 246 may be configured to receive sensor readings and status updates from a plurality of meters in the mesh network. The transceiver 246 may also receive server instructions, which are communicated to the memory 242 and the processor 244.

[0065] A mesh gate may interface between a mesh network and a server. The mesh gate may communicate with meters in the mesh network and communicate with the server over a WAN network. By acting as a gateway, the mesh gate forwards information and instructions between the meters in its mesh network and the server.

[0066] FIG. 3 illustrates an example network stack for use within a mesh radio. A radio

300 may interface with an application process 302. The application process 302 may communicate with a network stack including an application layer 304, which communicates with a transport layer 306, a network layer 308, a data link layer 310, and a physical layer

312.

[0067] The radio 300 may be a mesh radio as discussed above. For example, the radio 300 may be a component in a meter, a mesh gate, or any other mesh device configured to participate in a mesh network. The radio 300 may be configured to transmit wireless signals over a predetermined or dynamically determined frequency to other radios.

[0068] The application process 302 may be an executing application that requires information to be communicated over the network stack. For example, the application process 302 may be software supporting an AMI system.

[0069] The application layer 304 interfaces directly with and performs common application services for application processes. Functionality may include semantic conversion between associated application processes. For example, the application layer may be implemented as

ANSI C12.12/22.

[0070] The transport layer 306 responds to service requests from the application layer and issues service requests to the Network layer. It delivers data to the appropriate application on the host computers. For example, the layer may be implemented as TCP (Transmission

Control Protocol), and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). A more detailed description of an exemplary transport layer is found in Unites States Patent Application Serial No. (Attorney Docket No. TR0003-US) filed November , 2008 and entitled

"Efficient And Compact Transport Layer And Model For An Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Network," which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. [0071] The network layer 308 is responsible for end to end (source to destination) packet delivery. The layer's functionality includes transferring variable length data sequences from a source to a destination via one or more networks while maintaining the quality of service, and error control functions. Data will be transmitted from its source to its destination, even if the transmission path involves multiple hops.

[0072] The data link layer 310 transfers data between adjacent network nodes in a network, wherein the data is in the form of packets. The layer provides functionality including transferring data between network entities and error correction/detection. For example, the layer may be implemented as IEEE 802.15.4.

[0073] The physical layer 312 may be the most basic network layer, transmitting bits over a data link connecting network nodes. No packet headers or trailers are included. The bit stream may be grouped into code words or symbols and converted to a physical signal, which is transmitted over a transmission medium, such as radio waves. The physical layer provides an electrical, mechanical, and procedural interface to the transmission medium. For example, the layer may be implemented as IEEE 802.15.4.

[0074] The network stack provides different levels of abstraction for programmers within an AMI system. Abstraction reduces a concept to only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. Thus, each level of the network stack may assume the functionality below it on the stack is implemented. This facilitates programming features and functionality for the AMI system.

[0075] FIG. 4A illustrates a first example procedure for associating a meter with a mesh network. A mesh device, such as a meter, may be installed at a location and, upon installation, may automatically search for nearby mesh networks after power-on. The meter finds an appropriate mesh network and associates with it after authentication. The meter may then utilize the mesh network to communicate sensor readings and receive instructions or commands.

[0076] More particularly, in 400, the meter may attempt to detect active mesh networks via its radio transceiver. If more than one mesh network is available, the meter may compile a list of mesh networks in service within radio range and collect information on each mesh network. For example, the meter may determine a signal strength, a network name, a supported version number of each mesh network and other information described in further detail below that is relevant to finding and selecting an appropriate network with which to associate.

[0077] The mesh network information received by the unassociated meter is periodically broadcast from one or more mesh gates as a banner containing a network name and a network identifier. The meter may attempt to receive and parse or interpret the banner in order to determine nearby mesh networks. In one example, only the mesh gate may broadcast the banner, but each meter within the mesh network may forward, i.e., re-broadcast, the banner. In this way, meters outside direct radio range of the mesh gate may still participate in the mesh network through nearby neighbors. [0078] In one example, the unassociated meter may actively scan all available radio channels to determine whether there are nearby mesh networks with which to associate.

Alternatively, the meter may actively transmit a neighbor information request, as opposed to passively receiving transmissions, on all available radio channels and awaits responses from nearby mesh networks.

[0079] In process or step 402, the meter may select a prospective mesh network with which to associate through the mesh network's gate. From the list of mesh networks collected above, the meter may parse the network name for a network prefix. The network prefix may determine, in part, services offered by the mesh network. Alternatively, the network prefix may determine a provider of the mesh network. Based on the services offered or a registered provider of a mesh network, the meter may select the prospective mesh network.

[0080] The meter may further select the prospective mesh gate based on the number of hops to the prospective mesh gate, the actual load of the prospective mesh gate, the number of potential neighbors on the network associated with the prospective mesh gate, the qualities of the different links between the associating node and the mesh gate. A smaller number of hops, a lower load, a higher number of neighbors and a better link quality for all the links between the associating node and the mesh gate are preferable

[0081] It will be appreciated that the meter may be outside direct radio range of the mesh gate. However, communications from the gate and/or other meters or mesh devices within the network may be forwarded through neighboring meters in accordance with mesh network protocols.

[0082] In one embodiment, the meter can retrieve association parameters from an accessible memory. Example association parameters include a minimum delay before association after power up, a random wait period before association after power up, a retry period, and a periodic re-association attempt to find a better mesh network.

[0083] In process or step 404, the meter may transmit a neighbor request to the selected prospective mesh gate selected above. The neighbor request may include a meter identifier and relevant meter status. The meter status may include, for example, a list of sensors provided by the meter and services requested by the meter. A schedule of supported sensor reading transmission may be transmitted, for example, indicating whether the meter will transmit sensor readings every minute, hour, day, or according to other rules or policies or the like and any blackout periods.

[0084] As described above, if the meter is not in direct radio range of the mesh gate, the communications may be relayed or forwarded through the mesh network. The meter may first transmit to a neighboring mesh device, which then forwards the communication on to one or more mesh gates associated with the mesh network. It will be appreciated that the above sub-process may be executed automatically on power-up of the meter. No further input from a user may be required. Alternatively, the association process could be initiated by an installer either at the point of installation with a manual trigger or wirelessly. [0085] In process or step 406, the meter may receive a neighbor response to its neighbor request. Responsive to receiving the neighbor request from the meter, the mesh gate may compile and transmit the neighbor response via the mesh network. The neighbor response may provide information to the meter regarding associating with the prospective mesh network.

[0086] For example, the neighbor response may include a next hop to the mesh gate, a number of hops to the mesh gate, a path quality and a mesh gate load. Number of hops is the number of hops from a meter to the gate. A path quality may be an indicator of the signal quality of the path to the mesh gate. The quality indicators include: LQIrx which is the link quality when receiving from this node; LQItx which is the link quality when transmitting to this node; Min LQI class which is minimum Link Quality Index classification and is selected from excellent (3), good (2), poor (1) and no connectivity (0); and Avg LQI which is average link quality for both receiving and transmitting on each hop between two nodes. A mesh gate load may indicate remaining capacity at the mesh gate. This information is stored in neighbor tables on the memory of the meters for each neighboring meter and is aggregated for all meters and stored in a neighborhood table at the gates or gates of the network. [0087] In process or step 408, the meter may optionally test whether a time out has occurred. For example, the meter may wait for a predetermined or dynamically determined timeout period to receive a neighbor response above. If the timeout expires without receiving a neighbor response, the meter may proceed to process or step 400. If the timeout has not yet expired, the meter may continue to wait for the neighbor response in process or step 406. [0088] In one embodiment, processes or steps 404, 406, and 408 can be executed in parallel to determine information on the mesh network.

[0089] In process or step 410, the meter may transmit an association request to the mesh gate via the mesh network. The association request may indicate a meter's desire to associate with the prospective mesh network selected above. For example, the association request may further include a meter identifier. [0090] In an alternative example, the meter may parse the neighbor response received above and decide the prospective network is not appropriate. The meter may then proceed to 402 and select another prospective mesh network.

[0091] In process or step 412, the meter may test whether an association response was received. Responsive to receiving the association request from the meter, the mesh gate may associate the meter with the mesh network and transmit an association response. Similar to above, the association response may be forwarded through the mesh network. [0092] For example, the mesh gate may check a mesh gate load factor before allowing the meter to associate. The mesh gate may also authenticate the meter before allowing the meter to associate. For example, the meter may transmit an authentication key verifying its identity. For example, the mesh gate may look up the meter table at a server or in a look up table to verify the meter is authorized to associate.

[0093] In process or step 414, the meter may optionally test whether a time out has occurred. For example, the meter may wait for a predetermined or dynamically determined timeout period to receive an association response above. If the timeout expires without receiving an association response, the meter may proceed to process or step 400 where another network is selected. If the timeout has not yet expired, the meter may continue to wait for the association response in process or step 412.

[0094] In process or step 416, the meter may associate with the mesh network. The meter may update an internal neighbor table with a mesh network identifier, a mesh network name, and neighbor information such as a next hop and a number of hops to the mesh gate. [0095] Future communications may be transmitted to the next hop, a nearby neighboring mesh device in the mesh network. After the meter is associated with the mesh network, it may act as a neighboring mesh device for other new meters searching for a mesh network to associate with.

[0096] In process or step 418, the meter may test whether a predefined trigger for re- association has occurred. For example, the meter may attempt to re-associate every 48 hours or according to some other predetermined or dynamically determined schedule, rules, or policies. For example, the meter may attempt to re-associate if a new mesh gate is installed and activated. The newly installed mesh gate may transmit a banner, which indicates a new mesh gate is available for association.

[0097] In one embodiment, the meter will check for a better mesh network every 48 hours if already associated with a mesh network. In one embodiment, the meter will attempt to associate with a mesh network every hour, or some other predetermined interval, if it is not yet associated with a mesh network.

[0098] The meter may associate with a new prospective mesh network if it is better according to a predetermined or dynamically determined formula. A mesh network and mesh gate may be better if it provides a lower mesh gate load, a better network signal, a lower number of hops, or the like. Other factors considered in determining whether a prospective mesh network is better are number of neighbors and a minimum signal quality. [0099] FIG. 5 illustrates a specific embodiment, wherein meter X is within range of both network A 100 and network B 120. More particularly, meter X's immediate neighbors are meter Al 104 and meter B2 132. As discussed above, meter X collects neighbor data from meters Al 104 and B2 132 via Paths 1 and 2, which allows meter X to make a determination regarding where to send the association request, i.e., mesh gate, A 102 or A2 122. Table 1 below illustrates exemplary data for neighbor meters Al 104 and B2 132 that is used to compute an association ratio.

Table 1

The association ratio can be a weighted sum of a number of hops to the mesh gate, a mesh gate load, a number of local neighbors, and a minimum signal quality class of the path to the mesh gate.

[00100] Referring to the exemplary Table 2 below, the formula may weight a number of hops at 40% (HOP_NUM_WEIGHT), a mesh gate (coordinator) load at 40% (COORDJLO AD_WEIGHT), a number of neighbors at 10% (NUM_NEIGHBORS_WEIGHT), and a signal quality at 10% (LQI_CLASS_WEIGHT). Other or different factors or weighting may be applied.

Table 2

Each individual meter may calculate a score for each mesh network within range according to the above formula and re-associate with a mesh network with the best score. More particularly, the ratio could be calculated as follows:

IF Coordinator Load the is 100% Ignore this network

IF Coordinator Load < 20%

Association Ratio = COORD LOAD WEIGHT ELSE

Association Ratio = COORD LOAD WEIGHT - ((Coordinator Load - 20) / 80)

IF the Dedicated Router Flag of the selected Association Router is true

Association Ratio += HOP_NUM_WEIGHT ELSE

Association Ratio += HOP_NUM_ WEIGHT (1 -(Number of Hops-1)/(MAX_HOPS-1))

IF Number of Neighbors >= ASSOCIATION_NEIGHBORS

Association Ratio += NUM_NEIGHBORS_WEIGHT ELSE

Association Ratio += NUM_NEIGHBORS_ WEIGHT *

(Number of Neighbors / ASSOCI ATION_NEIGHBORS)

Association Ratio += LQI_CLASS_WEIGHT * (Min LQI Class / 4)

Where:

MAX_HOPS = 9 ASSOCIATION_NEIGHBORS = 5

For meters Al 104 and B2 132, Table 2 below illustrates an example in accordance with what is shown in Figure 5 and the ratio formula set forth above. Given this data, meter X would send an association request through Path 2 and meter Al 104 to mesh gate A 102. And assuming that mesh gate A 102 has capacity and can authenticate meter X, meter X will associate with mesh gate A 102.

[00101] It will be appreciated that alternative formulas may be used. It will be appreciated that this dynamically balances loads in environments with multiple mesh networks and mesh gates. Associated meters will automatically test whether alternative mesh networks and mesh gates are better and automatically associated with selected networks.

[00102] The mesh gate may transmit the meter identifier to a server, as well as periodic sensor readings. The server may maintain a table of active meters within the system. [00103] The above procedure associates a meter with a nearby mesh network and periodically re-associates with a better or more preferred nearby mesh network. Once associated with the mesh network, the meter may begin transmitting sensor readings and receiving instructions. It will be appreciated that in the absence of an associated mesh network, the meter may continue to store sensor readings for future transmission. [00104] It will be appreciated that a mesh network comprises nodes, and nodes can be access points/mesh gates, water, gas, electricity, hydrogen, wind or other utility meters with or without sleep functionality, e.g., reduced functionality network devices (RFND) or power conserving network devices (PCND), and any other mesh device configured to communicate over a mesh network.

[00105] FIG. 4B illustrates a second example procedure for associating a meter with a mesh network. A mesh gate may establish a mesh network and interface between the mesh network and a server over a WAN. The mesh network may include one or more mesh devices, such as a meter. The procedure discussed below may allow a new meter to associate with the mesh network.

[00106] In process or step 450, the mesh gate may transmit a mesh network identifier. For example, the mesh network identifier may be transmitted in a banner on a predetermined or dynamically determined channel. The banner may be transmitted at predetermined or dynamically determined intervals and alert nearby mesh devices to the mesh gate. [00107] The banner may further include a network name, a network channel, services offered by the mesh gate, a mesh gate provider, a mesh gate load, and any other information to help a meter decide whether to associate with the mesh gate. In one example, the banner may cease transmission of the banner when a mesh gate load exceeds a predetermined or dynamically determined threshold, or when the mesh gate is otherwise unable to associate new mesh devices.

[00108] The banner may be forwarded by mesh devices within the mesh network, thus expanding a geographic coverage area of the mesh network. Thus, mesh devices outside direct radio range with the mesh gate may still associate with the mesh network.

[00109] In process or step 452, the mesh gate may test whether a neighbor request has been received from a new meter. The new meter may, responsive to receiving the above mesh network identifier, transmit a neighbor request.

[00110] It will be appreciated that the new meter may not be in direct radio range with the mesh gate, as discussed above. The mesh network may forward communications within the mesh network, including communications between the new meter and the mesh gate.

[00111] If a neighbor request has been received, the mesh gate may proceed to process or step 454. If the neighbor request has not been received, the mesh gate may wait a predetermined or dynamically determined period of time before retransmitting the mesh network identifier in process or step 450.

[00112] In process or step 454, the mesh gate may transmit a neighbor response to the new meter. Responsive to receiving a neighbor request from a new meter, the mesh gate may compile and transmit a neighbor response indicating a status of the mesh network.

[00113] For example, the neighbor response may include a next hop to the mesh gate, a number of hops to the mesh gate, a path quality, a mesh gate load, and a router load. A next hop to the mesh gate may describe the next mesh device on a path from the new meter to the mesh gate. A path quality may be an indicator indicating a signal quality of the path. A mesh gate load may indicate remaining capacity at the mesh gate. A router load may indicate remaining capacity at the mesh device next on the path, if the new meter is not in direct radio range with the mesh gate and forwarding is required.

[00114] In process or step 456, the mesh gate may test whether an association request has been received from the new meter. Responsive to receiving and parsing the neighbor response, the new meter may decide to associate with the mesh network. For example, the new meter may decide based on factors discussed above. The association request may be sent to the mesh gate via the mesh network. [00115] The mesh gate request may include a new meter identifier, an authentication key, services required by the new meter, and any other information needed to associate the new meter to the mesh network.

[00116] In process or step 458, the mesh gate may optionally test whether a time out has occurred. For example, the mesh gate may wait for a predetermined or dynamically determined timeout period to receive the association request discussed above. If the timeout expires without receiving an association request, the mesh gate may proceed to process or step 452 where the mesh gate waits for another neighbor request. If the timeout has not yet expired, the mesh gate may continue to wait for the association request process or step 456.

[00117] In process or step 460, the mesh gate may authenticate the new meter. For example, the mesh gate may test whether a received authentication key is correct, whether the new meter identifier is in a list of authorized meters. It will be appreciated that alternative security and authentication measures may be used.

[00118] In another example, the authentication can occur before association. The new meter can authenticate itself via a commissioning server. In another example, the new meter can be preinstalled with a certificate, a symmetric key, or an asymmetric key used to authenticate itself to the mesh gate.

[00119] If the meter is authenticated, the mesh gate may proceed to process or step 464. If the meter is not authenticated, the mesh gate may proceed to 464 and transmit an association rejection.

[00120] In process or step 462, the mesh gate may optionally test whether a mesh gate load is below a predetermined or dynamically determined threshold. A mesh gate load may be a percentage of the mesh gate's capacity that is currently in use. For example, a mesh gate may be configured to support a predetermined or dynamically determined number of mesh devices. As meters are associated into the mesh network, the mesh gate load may increase until it exceeds the threshold. At this point, no more meters may associate with the mesh network.

[00121] If yes, the mesh gate may allow the new meter to associate in process or step 466. If no, the mesh gate may reject the association request in 464.

[00122] In process or step 464, the mesh gate may reject the association request and transmit an association rejection to the new meter. For example, if authentication of the new meter failed or the mesh gate load exceeds a threshold as discussed above, the new meter's association request may be rejected and a rejection message transmitted to the new meter. [00123] In process or step 466, the mesh gate may transmit an association response to the new meter. For example, the association response may be an acknowledgement of the association request and include information necessary to associate the new meter to the mesh network.

[00124] Transmitted information in the association response may include, for example, a requested service type, security information, a short address assigned by the mesh gate, a mesh key for mesh network communications, an association status, and any other relevant information.

[00125] In process or step 468, the mesh gate may add the meter identifier received above to a neighborhood table. The neighborhood table may be stored in memory accessible to the mesh gate and represent all mesh devices associated with the mesh network. The mesh gate may execute any other required steps to associate the new meter with the mesh network. [00126] It will be appreciated that if the meter identifier is already included in the neighborhood table, for example, from a previous association, the mesh gate may simply update the relevant neighborhood table.

[00127] In process or step 470, the mesh gate may transmit the meter identifier to a server. The mesh gate may be in communication with the server over a wide area network or WAN. The server may track mesh devices through notifications from mesh gates in the system. [00128] After the above procedure, the mesh network may now include the new meter. Sensor readings from the new meter may be transmitted to the server, while instructions from the server may be transmitted to the new meter for execution.

[00129] Although the above embodiments have been discussed with reference to specific example embodiments, it will be evident that the various modification, combinations and changes can be made to these embodiments. Accordingly, the specification and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than in a restrictive sense. The foregoing specification provides a description with reference to specific exemplary embodiments. It will be evident that various modifications may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope as set forth in the following claims. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than a restrictive sense.

Claims

CLAIMSWhat is claimed is:
1. A method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network; automatically transmitting a neighbor request to the prospective mesh network; receiving a neighbor response from a mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; and receiving an association response responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: responsive to an occurrence of a predefined trigger, automatically associating with a second mesh network.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein the trigger is at least one of: an expiration of a predefined time period, and an installation of a new mesh gate within radio range of the meter.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the neighbor request is transmitted to a neighboring meter associated with the prospective mesh network.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the neighbor response includes any combination of one or more of the following: a next hop to the mesh gate; a number of hops to the mesh gate; a path quality; a mesh gate load; and a router load.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the neighbor response includes all of the following: a next hop to the mesh gate; a number of hops to the mesh gate; a path quality; a mesh gate load; and a router load.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the prospective mesh network is associated with: a network name, the network name including a network name prefix identifying a service provided by the mesh network; and a network identifier.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the mesh gate further checks a mesh gate load factor before sending the association response.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the mesh gate further transmits the meter identifier to a server.
10. A method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: receiving an automatically transmitted neighbor request from the meter through the mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response to the meter through the mesh network; receiving an association request, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; and responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table.
1 1. The method of claim 10, wherein the neighbor response includes at least one of and any combination of two or more of: a next hop to the mesh gate; a number of hops to the mesh gate; a path quality; a mesh gate load; and a router load.
12. The method of claim 10, wherein the neighbor response includes all of the following: a next hop to the mesh gate; a number of hops to the mesh gate; a path quality; a mesh gate load; and a router load.
13. The method of claim 10, wherein the mesh network is associated with: a network name, the network name including a network name prefix identifying a service provided by the mesh network; a network identifier; and a network channel.
14. The method of claim 10, further comprising: before transmitting the association response, verifying a mesh gate load is below a predetermined threshold.
15. The method of claim 10, further comprising: transmitting the network identifier and the meter identifier to a server over a wide area network.
16. The method of claim 15, further comprising: forwarding communications between the server and the meter.
17. A system for transmitting a network power status, comprising: a prospective mesh network; a wide area network separate from the prospective mesh network; at least one meter, the meter configured to:
(i) detect the prospective mesh network,
(ii) automatically transmit an association request to the prospective mesh network, and
(iii) associate with the prospective mesh network; a mesh gate in communication with the prospective mesh network and in communication with the wide area network, the mesh gate configured to: (i) receive the automatically transmitted association request from the meter, and
(ii) responsive to successfully authenticating the meter, transmit an association response to the meter and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and a server in communication with the mesh gate over the wide area network, the server configured to receive the meter identifier from the mesh gate.
18. The system of claim 17, wherein the mesh gate is further configured to transmit a next hop to the mesh gate, a number of hops to the mesh gate, a path quality, a mesh gate load, and a router load to the meter.
19. The system of claim 17, wherein the prospective mesh network is associated with a network name, the network name including a network name prefix identifying a service provided by the mesh network; a network identifier; and a network channel.
20. The system of claim 17, the mesh gate further configured to, before transmitting the association response, verifying a mesh gate load is below a predetermined threshold.
21. The system of claim 20, the mesh gate configured to forward communications between the server and the meter.
22. The system of claim 17, the system further comprising: a second prospective mesh network; and a second mesh gate in communication with the second prospective mesh network and the wide area network; wherein the meter is further configured to, responsive to an occurrence of a predefined trigger, automatically associate with the second mesh network.
23. A computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter, the method comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network; automatically transmitting a neighbor request to the prospective mesh network; receiving a neighbor response from a mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request to mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; and receiving an association response responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.
24. A computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, the method comprising: receiving an automatically transmitted neighbor request from the meter through the mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response to the meter through the mesh network; receiving an association request, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; and responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table.
25. A method of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.
26. A computer program stored in a computer readable form for execution in a processor and a processor coupled memory for to perform a method of associating a meter to a mesh network, the method comprising: selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.
27. A system for of associating a meter to a mesh network, comprising: means for selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter, the prospective mesh network associated with a mesh gate; means for automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network; means for receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel; means for transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network; means for receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network; means for transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier; means for receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key; means for responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table; and means for receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for selecting a prospective mesh network by the meter comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
29. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for automatically transmitting a neighbor request from the meter to the prospective mesh network comprises computer- readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
30. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for receiving the automatically transmitted neighbor request at the mesh gate from the meter through the prospective mesh network, the neighbor request received responsive to a transmitted mesh network identifier on a predefined channel, comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
31. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for transmitting a neighbor response from the mesh gate to the meter through the prospective mesh network comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
32. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for receiving the neighbor response at the meter from the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
33. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for transmitting an association request from the meter to the mesh gate via the prospective mesh network, the association request including a meter identifier comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
34. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for receiving the association request at the mesh gate, the association request including a meter identifier and an authentication key comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
35. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for responsive to successfully authenticating the authentication key at the mesh gate, transmitting an association response and adding the meter identifier to a neighborhood table, comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
36. The system of claim 27, wherein the means for receiving an association response at the meter responsive to a successful authentication by the mesh gate comprises computer-readable instructions and a microcontroller unit.
PCT/US2008/013021 2007-11-25 2008-11-21 Creating and managing association and balancing of a mesh device in a mesh network WO2009067253A1 (en)

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