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V2G EVSE Announce Digi LTE-M Module

Further to the announcement earlier this week of the seed funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport for our “Vehicle to grid controller with modular communications” project we have another exciting announcement to make this afternoon.

First of all please feel free to take a close look at the module that provides our controller with its LTE-M functionality. Note that it is in single antenna mode in the picture, but supports a second antenna if necessary:

V2G-EVSE-Digi-LTE-M

Secondly also bear in mind that, as an eagle eyed reader from Cambridge spotted earlier this week, the module shown above is mounted in what we prefer to refer to as the “V2G EVSE V2x controller with modular communications”.

Next we invite you to read yesterday’s press release from Digi International® headlined “Digi XBee3 Cellular LTE-M Smart Modem and Development Kits Now Available“:

MINNETONKA, Minn., Aug. 8, 2018 – Digi International®, (NASDAQ: DGII, www.digi.com), a leading global provider of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity products and services, today announced the immediate availability of the Digi® XBee3™ Cellular LTE-M development kits, featuring Digi’s next-generation smart cellular modem.

This LTE-M certification, to be followed by the certification of Digi XBee3 Cellular NB-IoT in October 2018, allows Digi to bring one of the first LPWAN, software-defined technology-agile modems capable of offering Cat-M or NB-IoT on a single, compact footprint. Designed to be customer-configurable, developers can easily standardize and futureproof their IoT designs by simply changing modems and SIMs to leverage different wireless protocols without having to redesign hardware for different regions or applications.

Ushering in a much more simplified way of testing designs and incorporating cellular connectivity into wireless solutions, the new Digi XBee3 Cellular LTE-M smart modem is integrated into the development kit via a 20-pin Digi XBee socket, ultimately allowing for solution connectivity via millions of sockets already deployed around the globe. The module can also be easily configured and controlled from a centralized platform such as the Digi Remote Manager®.

Digi International is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Technology Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN), and the Digi XBee3 Cellular LTE-M is a smart cellular modem supported by AWS IoT Core. With built-in Digi TrustFence® security, the module’s identity and data privacy features use more than 175 controls to protect against new and evolving cyber threats. It also provides the tools to secure connected devices, including data in motion with TLS 1.2 encryption and bi-directional authentication – required for AWS IoT connectivity.

You may well wish to read the Digi press release in full, and I can reveal that we didn’t make use of Digi’s development kit when constructing our controller. However I’m afraid we’ll have to leave you to speculate for a while about how the V2G EVSE V2x controller delivers its NB-IoT functionality.

If you happen to have noticed that we’re based in the UK you may also be speculating about the SIM card plugged into the Digi LTE-M module shown above? If so we can put you out of your misery on that front at least. We paid the carriage across the pond and received this from Hologram in return:

Hologram-SIM

“A single SIM for all of Earth”!

We haven’t tested that claim of course, but it certainly works for us here in sunny South West England

Department for Transport Invests in V2G EVSE

This morning the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport issued a press release which mentions us! It also mentions what is hopefully some very good news for other Great British small businesses too:

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today (6 August 2018) set out plans to level the playing field for small businesses bidding for government contracts.

In its SME Action Plan, the DfT has committed to directing a third of its procurement spending towards small and medium-sized enterprises by 2022.

As part of this pledge, the department has also awarded £700,000 in Transport Technology Research Innovation Grants (T-TRIG) to support innovative transport projects, including a universal train access ramp that would help disabled people board trains more easily across the network.

Transport minister Jo Johnson said:

Small and medium-sized businesses play a key role in this country’s economy and I am proud of our outstanding record in this area.

With this new action plan, we are leading by example by making it easier for these businesses to bid for contracts, and we will continue to support them over the coming years.

This year, out of 23 innovative transport projects given a share of £700,000, 14 were from small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 members of staff.

According to the Department for Transport’s aforementioned SME Action Plan:

This action plan outlines how the Department for Transport (DfT) will meet the Government’s aspiration of ensuring that 33% of all procurement spend will be with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by the end of this Parliament, either directly or indirectly through the supply chain.

and here’s how the implementation of that plan is progressing:

2018-08-06_DfT_SME_Targets

Here at V2G EVSE we currently have far fewer than “250 members of staff”, and this is what the DfT had to say about our “Vehicle to grid controller with modular communications” project, seed funded by the Department for Transport in response to our “Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant Open Call” bid:

Developing a prototype for a vehicle to grid electric vehicle charging station controller, which will enable optimal charging across multiple vehicles, managing energy demand. This will include modular communications which will provide information to a central system.

We were notified about our successful bid back in March, and a lot of progress has been made since then down here in North Cornwall! Here’s how the hardware side of our proof of concept EV charging station controller looks at the moment:

V2G-EVSE-Controller

With its assorted comms modules and their associated aerials it can currently communicate using Bluetooth “Low Energy”, WiFi, ZigBee, 2.5G, 3G, 4G, NB-IoT, LTE-M , “long range” WiFi, LoRa and Sigfox. Note first of all that not all of those technologies are suitable for the V2G use case. Note also that the V2x acronym covers a wide variety of ways of “improving the charging of electric vehicles” apart from just full blown vehicle-to-grid, including V1G (AKA “smart charging“), V2B (vehicle-to-building), V2H (vehicle-to-home) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure).

From our perspective down here in sunny South West England the word “infrastructure” in the context of “electric vehicles” covers a range of Government departments. Electric vehicle charging stations definitely have one foot in the “transport” arena. In this day and age another one stands in the “energy systems” stadium as well. What’s more EV charging stations are not bipedal. Another foot is in the “digital” domain, and the fourth falls firmly in the “Future Cities” field.

The Things Network and Digital Catapult join LoRaWAN forces!

Some extremely interesting news just arrived in my inbox. Perhaps Kasia will have much more to say on this in due course, but for the moment here are the bare bones from this morning’s press release from The Things Network:

Digital Catapult & The Things Network join forces to create the largest LoRaWAN network in the UK

Digital Catapult’s Things Connected initiative has partnered with The Things Network (TTN). This collaboration brings together two well-established initiatives in the UK, creating Britain’s largest free-to-use LoRaWAN network and innovation community.

UK innovators will now be able to develop and build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions on a network with over 400 base stations across the country. It brings together the existing Things Connected regions (London, North-East, and Northern Ireland) and the 63 local The Things Network communities with over 700 members and 300 base stations. Things Connected innovation programmes are now more accessible and inclusive to UK entrepreneurs no matter where they’re based.

Apart from anything else that means that down here in North Cornwall we can now stop umming and ahhing and forge ahead with setting up a LoRaWAN gateway somewhere high in the hills above SilicInny Valley!

Standards Based V2x Charging Station Technology

We have been asked to elucidate on the nature of the work we will undertake following our successful bid for Department for Transport funding. Whilst we await ministerial sign off on the associated press release please note the following items of information. The title of the project is:

Vehicle to Grid Controller with Modular Communications

Our tagline above mentions:

Standards based V2x charging station technology

Here is an infographic based on a slide from the “International V2G Standards” presentation I gave at the International Energy Agency’s (IEA for short) Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (HEV for short) Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP for short) Wireless Charging and V2X Experts’ Workshop held at the Newcastle University Business School on March 20th 2018:

V2G Controller Infographic
Infographic: Kasia Turajczyk

Our current funding does not cover the development of any power electronics.

Hopefully that is of some help?

EV Charging Station Administration using OCPP 1.6 with SteVe

As part of our mission to experiment with “alternative” electric vehicle charging station communications technologies we’ve been searching for open source software for the “server” end of things that supports OCPP 1.6. We’d been looking at the ChargeTime Java server from Thomas Volden when news reached us that the SteVe project from the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen had just been updated to (mostly) support OCPP 1.6. As the ReadMe puts it:

SteVe was developed at the RWTH Aachen University and means Steckdosenverwaltung, namely socket administration in German. The aim of SteVe is to support the deployment and popularity of electric mobility, so it is easy to install and to use. SteVe provides basic functions for the administration of charge points, user data, and RFID cards for user authentication and was tested successfully in operation.

SteVe is considered as an open platform to implement, test and evaluate novel ideas for electric mobility, like authentication protocols, reservation mechanisms for charge points, and business models for electric mobility. SteVe is distributed under GPL and is free to use. If you are going to deploy SteVe we are happy to see the logo on a charge point.

We eagerly cloned SteVe from GitHub and carefully followed the instructions. Working from the Scientific Linux command line it took a while for Maven to do its thing and then SteVe burst into life at the very first time of asking!

SteVeStartup

Next we tried SteVe on our trusty Raspberry Pi 3B. Whilst we have previously successfully used MySQL on a RasPi on this occasion it seemed prudent to configure SteVe to use the existing database on our Linux server. Having allowed him through our firewall once again SteVe immediately burst into life without further ado.

It took slightly more work to get him working inside Eclipse. We had to set up a suitable “Maven Build” configuration:

SteVeMaven

which produced this by way of console output:

SteVeConsole

The only slight fly in the ointment at the moment is that SteVe doesn’t yet support OCPP 1.6 charging profiles:

SteVeProfile

However we confidently anticipate that issue being solved in the not too distant future! As a side effect of this exercise we have also produced a forked version of the ChargeTime OCPP client, together with a modest demonstration “charging station”. Please feel free to check them out at:

https://github.com/V2G-Ltd/Java-OCA-OCPP

and

https://github.com/V2G-Ltd/OCPP-1.6-EVSE-Demo

That all works fine for us on our Azul Zulu equipped Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3.

V2G EVSE OCPP 1.6 on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module

Regular readers of the blog of our parent company will be aware that we’ve been experimenting with the assorted generations of the Raspberry Pi single board computer since it was first launched here in the United Kingdom. Now we’re going into the hardware business it seemed like the perfect time to try out the “industrial version” of the venerable Pi. Here’s how our Compute Module 3 setup looks on the test bench:

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 on the V2G EVSE test bench

We had a few problems getting everything up and running in the first place. That explains the serial console cable you can see at the top. More on all that in due course, but first of all please take a look at what that console is displaying:

2018-03-30_2000-RasPiCM3-OCPP_1_6

A working copy of version 0.1 of the V2G EVSE OCPP 1.6 alpha firmware! As a close inspection of the output reveals, there’s a few bugs still to be ironed out, and a lot more intelligence to be baked into the CM3’s electronic brain.

However our first technical milestone has now been passed successfully, so now you may wish to head on over to the V2G EVSE CM3 project page to discover more about the niggling little problems we encountered persuading the CM3 to run Java, and how we got around them…..

In which V2G EVSE have an Adventure in the City of London

On Wednesday Kasia and I travelled up to London to visit the Department for Transport. Things did not begin well!

We eventually arrived at the Department for Transport with our suitcase in tow and my suit still in its case. However after a literally sticky start the discussion about our Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant (T-TRIG for short) seemed to go very well. The meeting was scheduled to last an hour but continued for another half an hour beyond that. The title of our newly funded project is “Vehicle to Grid Controller with Modular Communications”. However we were reliably informed that it may well take a month for “The Minister” to sign off on the associated press release and the “public summary” to be published.

The connection may not be immediately apparent, but the next day I attended the FIX Trading Community 2018 EMEA Trading Conference. Suffice it to say that the phrase “energy markets” was mentioned almost as often as “financial markets”. Here’s the panel that discussed “How is a Growing Demand for Digitalisation Shaping the Next Wave of Transformation in Capital Markets?” who at one point debated the pros and cons of blockchain technology in energy markets:

2018-03-15_16-22-52_0

I’m afraid that I took exception to Bill Murray‘s assertion that blockchain technology would enable small scale renewable generators to partake in local energy markets. My question was succinct:

“How?”

In his answer Bill mentioned “Eastern Europe” and “Asia”, but not the United Kingdom.

2018-03-15_15-55-58_486

I also discovered a most interesting piece of news, about which I will have more to say in due course. According to an Itiviti AB press release:

The Board of Directors of Itiviti AB announces that the transaction to merge the company with ULLINK was completed on March 14, 2018.

With annual sales exceeding $200 million, 1,000 employees and local presence in major financial markets across Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, the combination of Itiviti and ULLINK creates a full-service technology and infrastructure provider for global and regional financial institutions.

The intention to combine Itiviti and ULLINK was jointly communicated by the companies and owner Nordic Capital on November 28, 2017.

The Board has appointed Torben Munch as Chief Executive Officer of the combined entity.

Then on Friday we took a brief break from work in order to visit the Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Not to be missed by children of all ages!

2018-03-16_11-53-20_572

V2G EVSE’s startup adventure has only just begun. Apart from delivering what we have promised the DfT we also have to find funding for the next stage of the project at some point in the not too distant future!

eHealth, Infrastructure, Security, Regulation and Research

The first article on the V2G EVSE blog is also the first in an occasional series of articles that are not directly related to electric vehicle charging infrastructure! The topic under discussion at the Penryn Campus of the Universities of Exeter and Falmouth yesterday was eHealth. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on the subject:

eHealth (also written e-health) is a relatively recent healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and communication, dating back to at least 1999. Usage of the term varies. A study in 2005 found 51 unique definitions. Some argue that it is interchangeable with health informatics with a broad definition covering electronic/digital processes in health while others use it in the narrower sense of healthcare practice using the Internet. It can also include health applications and links on mobile phones, referred to as mHealth or m-Health. Since about 2011, the increasing recognition of the need for better cyber-security and regulation may result in the need for these specialized resources to develop safer eHealth solutions that can withstand these growing threats.

As I mentioned at one point during the proceedings, I had been “parachuted into the event from the smart grid” because I had the good fortune to bump into Mael and Darren from the Smartline Project at a Software Cornwall event on a snowy day in St. Austell at the beginning of February:

Yesterday I learned much more about the Smartline Project’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN for short). Darren said that by the end of March 350 “LoRa but not WAN” gateways and lots of associated sensors will have been installed in social housing across the Camborne/Redruth area of Cornwall. I clarified his remark in the question and answer session:

Somewhat earlier in the proceedings Anna Mankee-Williams had (somewhat tongue in cheek?) set the scene by playing the first part of a video entitled “How IoT Will Destroy Us All”!

Anna summed up her point up by saying:

The Internet of Things is being “pushed” by big business. It’s more like “the Internet of Everything” these days. Who actually NEEDS an Amazon Echo?

I cannot help but agree, since I don’t possess even a single incarnation of Alexa! Does that make me a modern day Luddite?

I expect I’ll have more to say on the Smartline Project’s use of IoT devices when Anna has sent me the slides from the event, but for now I’ll focus on a couple of the exercises Anna asked us to do. The first was to discuss how an omniscient CIO could start to fix the many things that are broken. Having parachuted in from the vehicle-to-grid space I suggested breaking down lots of silos. In my example Transport v Energy v Infrastructure v Buildings v a few more. I was dismayed to learn from the IT expert sat next to me that matters are far worse in the NHS! Apparently it’s nigh on impossible to acquire and compare data from different primary care trusts. Likewise from different hospitals within a single trust. Likewise between different departments within a single hospital.

Suitably chastened I subsequently ate my traditional tin miner’s lunch:

After that we divided into breakout groups. As alluded to above, both the “research” group and my “infrastructure” group decided the top eHealth priorities were:

1) All concerned should have access to a basic minimum level of communications technology. Half of the 350 recipients of a sensor studded social house didn’t previously have internet access and were therefore provided with tablets as part of the Smartline Project, and

2) In order to achieve #1 “regulations” needed to change. In my smart grid (AKA the “Internet of big things“) analogy the UK Government is already “committed” to ensuring that every new build will be fitted with big enough wires to allow the charging of an electric vehicle at some in the indeterminate future. Why not do the same with Cat 6 cabling and/or a sprinkling of adequately wirelessly connected IoT style sensors?

There had been lots of discussion about these and other issues over lunch:

2018-03-09_13-12-43_165

However I’m pretty sure that all the questions haven’t been answered and all the problems solved just yet!