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Power theft detection system and method

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Title: Power theft detection system and method.
Abstract: A system and method of providing utility data services is provided. In one embodiment the method includes receiving meter data of the measured power consumed by a plurality of power customers, receiving delivered power data that includes data of the power delivered to the plurality of power customers, determining a difference between the meter data and the delivered power data, determining that the difference between the meter data and the delivered power data is greater than a predetermined amount, and indicating a discrepancy if the difference between the meter data and the delivered power data is greater than a predetermined amount. In addition, the method may include determining that a discrepancy varies over time by a predetermined amount and providing a discrepancy notification such as wirelessly and/or via power line. ...


- Annapolis, MD, US
Inventors: Brian J. Deaver, William O. Radtke
USPTO Applicaton #: #20080109387 - Class: 705412 (USPTO) - 05/08/08 - Class 705 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20080109387, Power theft detection system and method.

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CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001]This application is a continuation-in-part of, and claims priority to, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/555,740 filed Nov. 2, 2006 (CRNT-0302-US), which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002]The present invention generally relates to methods and apparatus for detecting power theft, and more particularly to methods and apparatus for detecting, locating, and communicating power theft in a power distribution system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003]Electrical power for consumption at residences, offices and other structures is delivered by a power distribution system. Electrical power is transmitted at high voltages from a power plant to substations near populated areas. Electrical power then is distributed from a substation along power lines and through distribution transformers toward consumer premises. Utility meters typically are located at the consumer's premises to measure the amount of power being consumed at the premises. Equipment, appliances and other devices plug into power outlets at the premises and draw power.

[0004]Power traversing through the utility meter is metered to determine the utility fees to be billed to the customer of a given premises. Power that is used upstream from a given power meter is not measured by such power meter. Tapping into the power line upstream of the power meter to supply power to a premises or devices is illegal and is power theft. It is estimated that approximately 3% of the power being generated in the United States is stolen (used by, but not paid for, by consumers). In other countries the amount may be significantly higher being estimated to be approximately 10% in Europe and up to 30% elsewhere.

[0005]Other than the loss of revenue to the utility provider, power theft also has adverse effects on consumers and society. One effect to consumers is the increase in the fees paid by consumers who pay for power. For example, a consumer may be billed for power based upon the amount of power consumed. The cost of producing and delivering power is passed on to the consumer and determines, in part, the rates charged for power. As a result, the paying consumer ends up subsidizing the power thief by paying the thief's share of the power costs. A less apparent effect is that a thief receiving some power for free is not billed accurately for all of their power consumption. In effect the thief is getting power at a lesser charge. Therefore, the thief does not have the same motivation to conserve power, which, in the aggregate, may impact the environment.

[0006]One of the challenges in stopping power theft is the difficulty in detecting power theft. In particular it is difficult to obtain data which identifies specific locations where power theft is occurring.

[0007]Power is delivered to premises low voltage power lines that are supplied power by medium voltage power lines. Parameters of power delivery include power line current, power line voltage and network load distribution, among others. Measurement of such parameters has not been available in a satisfactory manner to optimize power network management. For example, consider power line current. Current measurements typically have only been available at transfer substations (i.e., a location where the high voltage power lines couple to medium voltage power lines for regional power distribution) and, in some instances, at the customer's power meter.

[0008]Accordingly, there is a need for measuring power and other parameters in a manner enabling effective identification of power theft. One or more embodiments of the present invention may overcome the disadvantages of the prior art and satisfy the need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009]The present invention provides a device, system and method of providing utility data services. In one embodiment the method includes receiving meter data of the measured power consumed by a plurality of power customers, receiving delivered power data that includes data of the power delivered to the plurality of power customers, determining a difference between the meter data and the delivered power data, determining that the difference between the meter data and the delivered power data is greater than a predetermined amount, and indicating a discrepancy if the difference between the meter data and the delivered power data is greater than a predetermined amount. In addition, the method may include determining that a discrepancy varies over time by a predetermined amount and providing a discrepancy notification such as wirelessly and/or via power line.

[0010]The invention will be better understood by reference to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011]The invention is further described in the detailed description that follows, by reference to the noted drawings by way of non-limiting illustrative embodiments of the invention, in which like reference numerals represent similar parts throughout the drawings. As should be understood, however, the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings:

[0012]FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an example power line communication and power distribution parameter measurement system;

[0013]FIG. 2 is a block diagram and partial schematic of an example embodiment of a power line current sensor device;

[0014]FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a power line parameter sensor device coupled to a power line communication device;

[0015]FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a power line parameter sensor device coupled to a power line communication device by a wireless medium;

[0016]FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a power line parameter sensor device coupled to a power line communication device by a wireless medium;

[0017]FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an example embodiment of a backhaul node;

[0018]FIG. 7 illustrates an implementation of an example embodiment of a backhaul node;

[0019]FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an example embodiment of an access node;

[0020]FIG. 9 illustrates an implementation of an example embodiment of an access node;

[0021]FIG. 10 illustrates a plurality of sensor devices located at various positions for collecting power line distribution parameter data according to an example embodiment of the present invention;

[0022]FIG. 11 is a partial network diagram showing an example topology of a power line communication and power distribution parameter system according to an example embodiment of the present invention;

[0023]FIG. 12 illustrates a power detection configuration for isolating a source location of power theft down to a group of premises located downstream of a given transformer;

[0024]FIG. 13 illustrates a power detection configuration for isolating a source location of power theft down to a specific premise among a group of premises downstream of a given transformer;

[0025]FIG. 14 illustrates a configuration for detecting power theft downstream of a given transformer, in which the theft source may be identified as being from a first group of premises or from a specific premise among a second group of premises;

[0026]FIG. 15 illustrates a configuration for detecting power theft downstream of a given transformer, in which the theft source may be identified as being from a first group of premises or from a second group of premises;

[0027]FIG. 16 illustrates a configuration for detecting power theft downstream of a given transformer, in which the theft source may be identified as being from a specific premise among a first group of premises or from a specific premise among a second group of premises;

[0028]FIG. 17 illustrates a configuration for isolating a source location of power theft within a region as being within an area serviced by a specific distribution transformer;

[0029]FIG. 18 illustrates a configuration for isolating a source location of power theft within a region as being within an area serviced by a specific distribution transformer, wherein sensed power parameters may be communicated by wired or wireless transmission;

[0030]FIG. 19 illustrates an alternative configuration for isolating a source location of power theft within a region as being within an area serviced by a specific distribution transformer;

[0031]FIG. 20 illustrates an alternative configuration for isolating a source location of power theft within a region as being within an area serviced by a specific distribution transformer, wherein sensed power parameters may be communicated by wired or wireless transmission; and

[0032]FIG. 21 illustrates a flow chart of an example implementation for processing the data according to an example embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

[0033]In the following description, for purposes of explanation and not limitation, specific details are set forth, such as particular networks, communication systems, computers, terminals, devices, components, techniques, data and network protocols, power line communication systems (PLCSs), sensor devices, software products and systems, enterprise applications, operating systems, development interfaces, hardware, etc. in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention.

[0034]However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced in other embodiments that depart from these specific details. Detailed descriptions of well-known networks, communication systems, computers, terminals, devices, PLCSs, components, techniques, sensor devices, data and network protocols, software products and systems, operating systems, development interfaces, and hardware are omitted so as not to obscure the description of the present invention.

[0035]Following is a description of example embodiments of a power line communication and measurement system, including a power parameter sensing device, various communication devices and protocols, and implementation software. Also described are exemplary network topologies. Such systems and devices may be implemented in various embodiments to detect power theft. Specific embodiments of system configurations for detecting theft, along with specific embodiments of methods for detecting theft are described below in a separate section, following the discussion of the communication and measurement system.

Communication and Measurement System

[0036]An embodiment of a power line communication and power distribution parameter measurement system may be implemented to gather power distribution parameters from multiple points along a power distribution network and transmit the gathered data to a utility or other processing center. For example, sensor devices may be positioned along overhead and underground medium voltage power lines, and along network (external or internal) low voltage power lines. The measured power line parameter data may be used in many ways. For example, the power line utility may monitor power line current at many locations to improve operations and maintenance, to assist in network planning, and to detect power theft.

[0037]The power line communication and power distribution parameter measurement system also may provide user services (i.e., communicate user data), such as: high speed broadband internet access; mobile telephone communications; broadband communications; streaming video and audio services; and other communication services to homes, buildings and structures, and to each room, office, apartment, or other unit or sub-unit of multi-unit structures. Communication services also may be provided to mobile and stationary devices in outdoor areas such as customer premises yards, parks, stadiums, and also to public and semi-public indoor areas such as subway trains, subway stations, train stations, airports, restaurants, public and private automobiles, bodies of water (e.g., rivers, bays, inlets, etc.), building lobbies, elevators, etc.

[0038]In some embodiments, power line parameter sensor devices, which include a sensor for measuring a parameter (i.e., value or characteristic), are installed at locations along MV power lines and LV power lines. A power line sensor device may be in communication with a communication node which may monitor the device and forward data to a more central location. The power parameter sensor device may measure (meant to include measure or detect) one or more electrical distribution parameters, which may include, for example purposes only, power usage, power line voltage, power line current, detection of a power outage, detection of water in a pad mount, detection of an open pad mount, detection of a street light failure, power delivered to a transformer, power factor (e.g., the phase angle between the voltage and current of a power line), power delivered to a downstream branch, data of the harmonic components of a power signal, load transients, and/or load distribution. One skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of utility and parameter data also may be measured or detected.

[0039]In an example embodiment, the sensor device may comprise a power line current sensor that is formed of a Rogowski coil and such sensor device may be installed throughout a network (on both MV and LV power lines). The Rogowski coil is an electrical device for measuring alternating current (AC) or high speed current pulses. An exemplary embodiment includes a first and second helical coils of wire (loops) electrically connected in series with each other. The first loop is wound with a substantially constant winding density in a first direction around a core that has a substantially constant cross section. The second loop is wound with a substantially constant winding density in a second direction around a core that has a substantially constant cross section. A conductor (e.g., a power line) whose current is to be measured traverses through the loops. A voltage may be induced in the coil based on the rate of change of the current running through the power line. Rogowski coils may have other configurations as well. In other embodiments, other current sensors may be used that, for example, include a hall effect sensor.

[0040]One advantage of a Rogowski coil is that it may be open-ended and flexible, allowing it to be wrapped around an energized conductor. Also, a Rogowski coil may include an air core (or other dielectric core) rather than an iron core, which gives the coil a low inductance and an ability to respond to fast-changing currents. Further, the Rogowski coil typically is highly linear, even when subjected to large currents, such as those of low voltage and medium voltage power lines. By forming the Rogowski coil with equally spaced windings, effects of electromagnetic interference may be substantially avoided. On method of providing equal spaced windings is to use printed circuit boards to manufacture the coil. Some examples of a Rogowski coil are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,313,623 issued on Nov. 6, 2001 for "High Precision Rogowski Coil," which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

[0041]FIG. 1 shows components of a power line communication system 104 that may be provide communications for a power distribution parameter measurement system. The system 104 includes a plurality of communication nodes 128 which form communication links using power lines 110, 114 and other communication media. Various user devices 130 and power line communication devices may transmit and receive data over the links to communicate via an IP network 126 (e.g., the Internet). Thus, the communicated data may include measurement data of power distribution parameters, control data and user data. One type of communication node 128 may be a backhaul node 132. Another type of communication node 128 may be an access node 134. Another type of communication node 128 may be a repeater node 135. A given node 128 may serve as a backhaul node 132, access node 134, and/or repeater node 135.

[0042]A communication link is formed between two communication nodes 128 over a communication medium. Some links may be formed over MV power lines 110. Some links may be formed over LV power lines 114. Other links may be gigabit-Ethernet links 152, 154 formed, for example, using a fiber optic cable. Thus, some links may be formed using a portion 101 of the power system infrastructure, while other links may be formed over another communication media, (e.g., a coaxial cable, a T-1 line, a fiber optic cable, wirelessly (e.g., IEEE 802.11a/b/g, 802.16, 1G, 2G, 3G, or satellite such as WildBlue.RTM.)). The links formed by wired or wireless media may occur at any point along a communication path between a backhaul node 132 and a user device 130.

[0043]Each communication node 128 may be formed by one or more communication devices. Communication nodes which communicate over a power line medium include a power line communication device. Exemplary power line communication devices include a backhaul device 138 (see FIG. 6), an access device 139 (see FIG. 8), and a repeater 135. These power line communication devices are described below in more detail below. Communication nodes which communicate wirelessly may include a mobile telephone cell site, wireless pager transceiver, or a wireless access point having at least a wireless transceiver, (which may comprise mobile telephone cell site/transceiver (e.g., a micro or pico cell site) or an IEEE 802.11 transceiver (Wifi)). Communication nodes which communicate over a coaxial cable may include a cable modem. Communication nodes which communicate over a twisted pair wire may include a DSL modem or other modem. A given communication node typically will communicate in two directions (either full duplex or half duplex), which may be over the same or different types of communication media.

[0044]According to an embodiment of a power line communication device, a backhaul device 138 or access device 139 or repeater may establish links over MV power lines 110, LV power lines 114, wired media, and wireless media. Accordingly, a given communication node may communicate along two or more directions establishing multiple communication links, which may be formed along the same or different types of communication media.

[0045]A power line parameter sensor device 115 may be located in the vicinity of, and communicatively coupled to, a power line communication device 138, 139, 135. The power line parameter sensor device 115 measures (hereinafter to include measure or detect) a power line parameter of a power line 110, 114, such as: current, voltage, power usage data, detection of a power outage, detection of water in a pad mount transformer enclosure, detection of an open pad mount transformer enclosure, detection of a street light failure, power delivered to a transformer data (i.e., wherein the sensor device is coupled the conductor that connects the distribution transformer to the MV power line), power factor data (e.g., the phase angle between the voltage and current of a power line), power delivered to a downstream branch data, data of the harmonic components of a power signal, load transients data, and/or load distribution data. One skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of utility parameter data also may be measured. The measured parameter may be sampled by the power line communication device and communicated to a power line server 118, or other power line distribution management system and/or power line communication management system.

[0046]A backhaul node 132 may serve as an interface between a power line medium (e.g., an MV power line 110) of the system 104 and an upstream node 127, which may be, for example, connected to an aggregation point 124 that may provide a connection to an IP network 126. The system 104 typically includes one or more backhaul nodes 132. Upstream communications from user premises and control and monitoring communications from power line communication devices may be communicated to an access node 134, to a backhaul node 132, and then transmitted to an aggregation point 124 which is communicatively coupled to the IP network 126. Communications may traverse the IP network to a destination, such as a web server, power line server 118, or an end user device. The backhaul node 132 may be coupled to the aggregation point 124 directly or indirectly (i.e., via one or more intermediate nodes 127). The backhaul node 132 may communicate with its upstream device via any of several alternative communication media, such as a fiber optic cable (digital or analog (e.g., Wave Division Multiplexed)), coaxial cable, WiMAX, IEEE 802.11, twisted pair and/or another wired or wireless media. Downstream communications from the IP network 126 typically are communicated through the aggregation point 124 to the backhaul node 132. The aggregation point 124 typically includes an Internet Protocol (IP) network data packet router and is connected to an IP network backbone, thereby providing access to an IP network 126 (i.e., can be connected to or form part of a point of presence or POP). Any available mechanism may be used to link the aggregation point 124 to the POP or other device (e.g., fiber optic conductors, T-carrier, Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), and wireless techniques).

[0047]An access node 134 may transmit data to and receive data from, one or more user devices 130 or other network destinations. Other data, such as power line parameter data (e.g., current measured by a power line current sensor) may be received by an access node's power line communication device 139. The data enters the network 104 along a communication medium coupled to the access node 134. The data is routed through the network 104 to a backhaul node 132. Downstream data is sent through the network 104 to a user device 130. Exemplary user devices 130 include a computer 130a, LAN, a WLAN, router 130b, Voice-over IP endpoint, game system, personal digital assistant (PDA), mobile telephone, digital cable box, security system, alarm system (e.g., fire, smoke, carbon dioxide, security/burglar, etc.), stereo system, television, fax machine 130c, HomePlug residential network, or other user device having a data interface. The system also may be use to communicate utility usage data from a automated gas, water, and/or electric power meter. A user device 130 may include or be coupled to a modem to communicate with a given access node 134. Exemplary modems include a power line modem 136, a wireless modem 131, a cable modem, a DSL modem or other suitable modem or transceiver for communicating with its access node.

[0048]A repeater node 135 may receive and re-transmit data (i.e., repeat), for example, to extend the communications range of other communication elements. As a communication traverses the communication network 104, backhaul nodes 132 and access nodes 134 also may serve as repeater nodes 135, (e.g., for other access nodes and other backhaul nodes 132). Repeaters may also be stand-alone devices without additional functionality. Repeaters 135 may be coupled to and repeat data on MV power lines or LV power lines (and, for the latter, be coupled to the internal or external LV power lines).

Power Distribution Parameter Sensor Device:

[0049]In various embodiments, the power line distribution parameter sensor device 115 may measure or detect a parameter of a power line 110, 114. Some exemplary parameters include as current, voltage, and power usage data (e.g. data of power traversing through the power line in, for example, watts). Other parameters may include detection of a power outage, detection of water in a pad mount transformer enclosure, detection of an open pad mount transformer enclosure, and detection of a street light failure. Still another parameter may include power delivered to a transformer (e.g., a sensor device may be coupled to the conductor 165 that connects the distribution transformer 112 to the MV power line--see FIG. 10). Another parameter may include power factor data (e.g., the phase angle between the voltage and current of a power line), which may be determined by processing data from multiple sensors (i.e., current and voltage). Still other parameters may include power delivered to a downstream branch data, data of the harmonic components of a power signal, load transients data, load distribution data, and/or other characteristics. One skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of parameter data also may be gathered. In addition, one sensor device 115 may be configured to provide data pertaining to more than one parameter. For example, a sensor device 115 may be configured to provide data of the voltage and current carried by the power line (and therefore have multiple sensors). One or more sensor devices 115 may be installed at a given power line 110 and/or 114 and be coupled to a corresponding power line communication device 138, 139, 135. For example, a power line current sensor device may be installed at power lines 110 and 114 alone or with another power line parameter sensor device (e.g., a power line voltage sensor device on power line 114). Such a configuration may be used to determine the current and power into and out of a transformer. In addition, the data provided by the sensor device 115 may be used to determine additional parameters (either by the sensor device, the power line communication device, or a remote computer). For example, a sensor device 115 may be configured to measure the instantaneous voltage and current (e.g., over brief or extended time period). The measurement data may be provided to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 for processing. With adequate voltage and current sampling, the device 138, 138, or 135 may compute the power factor of the power line (through means well known in the art) and power delivered. Thus, other power line parameters may be measured using an appropriate sensor device coupled to a power line 110, 114 in the vicinity of a power line communication device 138, 139, 135 in place of, or in addition to, the power line current sensor device.

[0050]FIG. 2 shows one example embodiment of a power line parameter sensor device 115, which comprises a power line current sensor device 116 including a Rogowski coil 200 having two loops 201, 202, an integrator 204 and an interface 206. Each loop 201, 202 has a first end 208 and a second end 210. By shaping the loops 201, 202 to bring the two ends 208, 210 toward each other, while leaving space between the ends 208, 210, the Rogowski coil 200 may be readily installed at a power line 110, 114. The coil 200 may have a generally circular shape with an open arc between the ends 208, 210 (to be slipped around the power line) or may be substantially a full closed circle (and formed in two pieces that are hinged together to clamp over the power line). One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that other shapes may be implemented. In this example embodiment, to install the current sensor device 116, the two pieces of the loops 201, 202 are clamped around the power line 110, 114 (which may require pulling back the power line neutral conductor for underground power lines). A power line 110, 114 passes through the circular shape as shown. An advantage of these configurations is that the power line 110, 114 may not need to be disconnected (in many instances) to install the current sensor device 116.

[0051]The coil 200 of the Rogowski coil may include a first winding 201 wound in a first direction, a second winding 202 wound in a second direction, and wherein said first winding 201 and said second winding 202 each include traces on a printed circuit board. In some embodiments the windings 201, 202 are traced on one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs) 216, 218, and then the printed circuit boards (if more than one) are coupled together to form a monolithic PCB assembly (i.e., one structure). In another embodiment, the two windings of the coil are traced together and interwoven with each other on the PCB (a multi-layer printed circuit board) and therefore may be referred to as being "coupled" together. Because the windings are traced within each other (that is, the loops are interwoven), the loops are not identical in form. In another embodiment, the windings may be traced separately on separate PCBs and have identical geometries on separate PCBs, and be positioned along the power line 110, 114 in close proximity.

[0052]As alternating current flows through the power line 110, 114, a magnetic field is generated inducing an electrical field (i.e. voltage) within each winding 201, 202 of the Rogowski coil 200. However, other sources of electromagnetic interference also may induce current flow in the windings 201, 202. By including a left-hand winding 201 and a right-hand winding 202 (i.e., windings in substantially opposite directions) with equally spaced windings, the effects from external sources are largely cancelled out. In particular, external fields from sources outside the Rogowski coil 200, such as other power lines or power line communication and distribution equipment, generate equal but opposite electrical flow in the windings 201, 202. The Rogowski coil 200 provides an instantaneous voltage measurement that is related to the alternating current (AC) flowing through the power line 110, 114.

[0053]Each winding 201, 202 of the Rogowski coil 200 comprises an electrical conductor 212 wound around a dielectric core 214 (e.g., PCB). In an example embodiment each loop 201, 202 has windings that are wound with a substantially constant density and a core 214 that has a magnetic permeability that may be equal to the permeability of free space .mu..sub.o (such as, for example, air) or a printed circuit board. In addition, the cross section of the core 214 may be substantially constant.

[0054]To obtain an expression for the voltage that is proportional to the current flowing through the power line 110, 114, the coil output voltage, v(t), may be integrated. For example, the integrator 204 may convert the measured voltage v(t) into a value equating to measured current. In example embodiments, the integrator 204 may comprise a resistor-capacitor (RC) integrator, an operational amplifier integrator, a digital filter (integrator), another circuit or a processor. Observing that the voltage v(t), is proportional to the derivative of the current being measured, and that if that current is sinusoidal, the voltage v(t) will also be sinusoidal. Thus, determining the current does not always require integration of the voltage v(t)), in which embodiment the integrator 204 may be omitted.

[0055]Referring to FIGS. 2-5, each power line distribution parameter sensor device 115 may include an interface 206 which provides communications with a power line communication device, such as a backhaul device 138, an access device 139, a repeater 135, or other communication device. In various embodiments different interfaces 206 may be implemented. In some embodiments the sensor device 115 may include an analog to digital converter (ADC). In other embodiments, raw analog data is communicated from the sensor device 115 to the power line communication device, which may convert the analog data to digital data (via an ADC) and provide processing. Such processing may include, for example, time stamping, formatting the data, normalizing the data, converting the data (e.g., converting the voltage measured by the ADC to a current value), removing an offset, and other such data processing. The processing also may be performed in the sensor device 115, in the power line communication device. Thus, the sensor device 115 of some embodiments may include a controller, an analog to digital converter (ADC), and a memory coupled to said ADC (perhaps via a controller) and configured to store current data. Alternately, the data may be transmitted to the power line server 118 or another remote computer for processing.

[0056]The overhead medium voltage power lines typically are not insulated. Thus, for sensor devices 115 which contact (e.g., are to be clamped around for a Rogowski coil) an overhead medium voltage power line or other high voltage conductor, it may be necessary to isolate the voltage (which may be 5,000-10,000 volts or more) of the power line (to which the power line parameter sensor device 116 is mounted) from the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 and other non-MV power line devices. The communication path of the measured data may comprise a non-conductive communication link that allows the data to be communicated but that does not conduct the high voltages of the MV or other power lines. For power line parameter sensor devices 115 which are clamped around an underground power line, isolation may not be necessary because underground power lines are insulated and, therefore the sensor devices 115 do not come into contact with the medium voltage.

[0057]FIGS. 3, 4 and 5 show different manners of coupling the power line parameter sensor device 115 to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135, via a non-conductive communication link to provide electrical isolation (when necessary) from the medium voltage power line 110. In FIG. 3, a wired medium 220 carries measurement data from the power line parameter sensor device 115 to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. For underground insulated MV power lines and for low voltage power lines (which are also usually insulated), the wired medium 220 may comprise a conductive wire (i.e., a pair or wires). For overhead un-insulated MV power lines, however, the wired medium 220 may include a fiber optic cable or other wired medium that does not conduct high voltages. In such embodiment the power line parameter sensor device 115 and power line communication device 138, 139, 135 each may include a fiber optic transceiver (or fiber optic transmitter in the sensor device 115 and an optic receiver in the communication device). The fiber optic cable may carry analog or digitized sensor data to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. In some embodiments such as this one, the sensor device 115 may require a power source (i.e., an energy harvesting system) for powering the fiber optic transceiver and other components (such as an ADC) of the sensor device 115. In one example embodiment, power may be sent over a fiber optic cable as an optical signal from the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 (or another device) to the sensor device 115, where the photonic energy is converted to electrical energy to power the fiber optic transmitter (that may form part of a transceiver) and other components of the power line parameter sensor device 115 via a power supply 221. In other words, a photonic power delivery system may be used whereby light from a laser source illuminates a highly efficient photovoltaic power converter at the sensor device 115 to produce electrical power. An example embodiment of a photonic power supply system and method is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/292,745 filed on Nov. 12, 2002, entitled, "Floating Power Supply and Method of Using the Same," which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. In an alternative embodiment the power line parameter sensor device 115 may include a different power system, such as a solar cell or battery, or kinetic energy converter (e.g., to convert vibrations to electrical energy), to provide power to the sensor device 115 circuits. As still another alternative, a power supply 221 may derive power from the power line 110 via inductance. Specifically, a transformer may be formed by a magnetically permeable core placed substantially around the entire circumference of power line 110 (perhaps with a gap) and a winding around the core. The power line 110, core, and winding form a transformer with the winding connected to the power supply 221. Current through the power line 110 induces a current in the winding, which supplies power to the sensor device 115 (for use by its transmitter and/or other components). Collectively, such power sources such as these (photonic, solar, battery, kinetic (e.g., from vibrations), and inductive power systems), which derive power via a method that isolates the MV power line voltage from the LV power line and the power line communication device, shall be referred to herein as an isolated power source. Isolated power sources other the examples described herein may be employed as well.

[0058]FIG. 4 shows an embodiment in which a wireless link 222 carries measurement data from the power line parameter sensor device 115 to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. In such embodiment the interface 206 may include a wireless transceiver 224 (e.g., IEEE 802.11a,b,g, or n or Bluetooth.RTM., ISM band transceiver) or wireless transmitter which communicates with a wireless transceiver 226 (or receiver) of the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. In some such embodiments the power line parameter sensor device 116 also may include a power supply 223 with an isolated power source such as a solar cell, battery, a photonic power source, or an MV inductive power source, to provide power to the sensor device 115 circuits. When multiple sensor devices 115 are connected to a power line communication device 138, 139, or 135, the wireless methods may include means for coordinating the transmissions from individual sensor devices 115 so that they do not interfere with each other and so that the power line communication device can determine the source of the data. For example, a transceiver may use the ISM bands (915 MHz) and use an "ID Code" embedded in the data to identify the sensor device 115. Alternately, the links may communicate via different frequency bands.

[0059]FIG. 5 shows another embodiment in which a wireless link 230 carries measurement data from a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder 232 of a power line parameter sensor device 115 to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. In various embodiments the sensor transponder 232 may be passive (having no power source of its own) or active (having its own power source). For example, in one embodiment the interface includes a passive radio transponder 232. The power line communication device 138, 139, 135 also includes a transponder 234 which transmits a signal to the power line parameter sensor device 115. The strength of the transmitted signal may provide enough power to drive the power line parameter sensor transponder 232 and, if necessary, the sensor's 115 other components as well. The sensor device 115 powers up, gathers one or more samples of the power line current, voltage, and/or other data, and transmits the sampled data back to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 via transponder 232. In another embodiment the sensor device includes an active radio transponder having its own power supply, which may have an isolated power source as described herein.

[0060]In various embodiments, data from the sensor devices 115 of the system or within a region or neighborhood covered by a sub-portion of the system may be sampled substantially simultaneously (e.g., all sensor devices 115 sample within a thirty second, sixty second, three minute, or five minute time period). Such samples may be gathered at a set scheduled time, at regular times, at regular intervals, or in response to a command received from a remote computer. Uses of the measured (and processed) power line parameter data are described below in more detail.

[0061]In the embodiments described herein and others, the invention may employ a communication method that reduces the power needed to communicate the measured data over the non-conductive communication link. Specifically, reducing the power needed to communicate the data allows the sensor device to communicate data when very little power is available (e.g., from the isolated power source). In one example embodiment, the sensor device 115 includes a timing circuit that periodically wakes up the sensing and memory circuits (e.g., analog to digital converter and memory) from a reduced power state (e.g., hibernation or standby state) to allow the measurement(s) to be taken (samples converted to digital data), processed, and stored in memory. In addition, after a predetermined number of measurements have been taken and the associated data stored, the communication circuitry of the interface 206 may be woken up to transmit the stored data to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 via the non-conductive communication link (e.g., the fiber optic conductor, through the air via a wireless transmitter or transceiver, etc.).

[0062]In one example embodiment, the communication circuitry is configured to transmit a plurality of samples of the parameter data in a bursting transmission, which may comprise a relatively high transmission rate and relatively short transmission time. Specifically, over a given time period (e.g., a day) a plurality of bursts of the parameter data may be transmitted, with each burst transmitting data a plurality of the stored samples. The bursting at high data rates may allow the transmitter of the interface 206 of the sensor device 206 to remain powered down (or in a low power use state) a high percentage of the time. The bursting transmission over a time period (e.g., an hour or day) may have an extremely low duty cycle such as less than 0.01 (1%), more preferably less than 0.001 (0.1%), even more preferably less than 0.0001 (0.01%), and still more preferably less than 0.00001 (0.001%).

Backhaul Node 132:

[0063]Communication nodes, such as access nodes, repeaters, and backhaul nodes, may communicate to and from the IP network (which may include the Internet) via a backhaul node 132. In one example embodiment, a backhaul node 132 comprises a backhaul device 138. The backhaul device 138, for example, may transmit communications directly to an aggregation point 124, or to a distribution point 127 which in turn transmits the data to an aggregation point 124.

[0064]FIGS. 6 and 7 show an example embodiment of a backhaul device 138 which may form all or part of a backhaul node 132. The backhaul device 138 may include a medium voltage power line interface (MV Interface) 140, a controller 142, an expansion port 146, and a gigabit Ethernet (gig-E) switch 148. In some embodiments the backhaul device 138 also may include a low voltage power line interface (LV interface) 144. The MV interface 140 is used to communicate over the MV power lines and may include an MV power line coupler coupled to an MV signal conditioner, which may be coupled to an MV modem 141. The MV power line coupler prevents the medium voltage power from passing from the MV power line 110 to the rest of the device's circuitry, while allowing the communications signal to pass between the backhaul device 138 and the MV power line 110. The MV signal conditioner may provide amplification, filtering, frequency translation, and transient voltage protection of data signals communicated over the MV power lines 110. Thus, the MV signal conditioner may be formed by a filter, amplifier, a mixer and local oscillator, and other circuits which provide transient voltage protection. The MV modem 141 may demodulate, decrypt, and decode data signals received from the MV signal conditioner and may encode, encrypt, and modulate data signals to be provided to the MV signal conditioner.

[0065]The backhaul device 138 also may include a low voltage power line interface (LV Interface) 144 for receiving and transmitting data over an LV power line 114. The LV interface 144 may include an LV power line coupler coupled to an LV signal conditioner, which may be coupled to an LV modem 143. In one embodiment the LV power line coupler may be an inductive coupler. In another embodiment the LV power line coupler may be a conductive coupler. The LV signal conditioner may provide amplification, filtering, frequency translation, and transient voltage protection of data signals communicated over the LV power lines 114. Data signals received by the LV signal conditioner may be provided to the LV modem 143. Thus, data signals from the LV modem 143 are transmitted over the LV power lines 110 through the signal conditioner and coupler. The LV signal conditioner may be formed by a filter, amplifier, a mixer and local oscillator, and other circuits which provide transient voltage protection. The LV modem 143 may demodulate, decrypt, and decode data signals received from the LV signal conditioner and may encode, encrypt, and modulate data signals to be provided to the LV signal conditioner.

[0066]The backhaul device 138 also may include an expansion port 146, which may be used to connect to a variety of devices. For example a wireless access point, which may include a wireless transceiver or modem 147, may be integral to or coupled to the backhaul device 138 via the expansion port 146. The wireless modem 147 may establish and maintain a communication link 150. In other embodiments a communication link is established and maintained over an alternative communications medium (e.g., fiber optic, cable, twisted pair) using an alternative transceiver device. In such other embodiments the expansion port 146 may provide an Ethernet connection allowing communications with various devices over optical fiber, coaxial cable or other wired medium. In such embodiment the modem 147 may be an Ethernet transceiver (fiber or copper) or other suitable modem may be employed (e.g., cable modem, DSL modem). In other embodiments, the expansion port may be coupled to a Wifi access point (IEEE 802.11 transceiver), WiMAX (IEEE 802.16), wireless pager transceiver, mobile telephone transceiver, or mobile telephone cell site. The expansion port may be employed to establish a communication link 150 between the backhaul device 138 and devices at a residence, building, other structure, another fixed location, or between the backhaul device 138 and a mobile device.

[0067]Various sensor devices 115 also may be connected to the backhaul device 138 through the expansion port 146 or via other means (e.g., a dedicated sensor interface not shown). Exemplary sensors that may be coupled to the backhaul device 138 may include a power distribution parameter sensor 116 (which may comprise current sensor device 115 or a voltage sensor device), a level sensor (to determine pole tilt), a camera (e.g., for monitoring security, detecting motion, monitoring children's areas, monitoring a pet area), an audio input device (e.g., microphone for monitoring children, detecting noises), a vibration sensor, a motion sensor (e.g., an infrared motion sensor for security), a home security system, a smoke detector, a heat detector, a carbon monoxide detector, a natural gas detector, a thermometer, a barometer, a biohazard detector, a water or moisture sensor, a temperature sensor, and a light sensor. The expansion port may provide direct access to the core processor (which may form part of the controller 142) through a MII (Media Independent Interface), parallel, serial, or other connection. This direct processor interface may then be used to provide processing services and control to devices connected via the expansion port thereby allowing for a more less expensive device (e.g., sensor). The power parameter sensor device 115 may measure and/or detect one or more parameters, which, for example, may include power usage data, power line voltage data, power line current data, detection of a power outage, detection of water in a pad mount, detection of an open pad mount, detection of a street light failure, power delivered to a transformer data, power factor data (e.g., the phase angle between the voltage and current of a power line), power delivered to a downstream branch data, data of the harmonic components of a power signal, load transients data, and/or load distribution data. In addition, the backhaul device 138 may include multiple sensor devices 115 so that parameters of multiple power lines may be measured such as a separate parameter sensor device 116 on each of three MV power line conductors and a separate parameter sensor on each of two energized LV power line conductors and one on each neutral conductor. One skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of utility data also may be gathered. As will be evident to those skilled in the art, the expansion port may be coupled to an interface for communicating with the interface 206 of the sensor device 116 via a non-conductive communication link.

[0068]The backhaul device 138 also may include a gigabit Ethernet (Gig-E) switch 148. Gigabit Ethernet is a term describing various technologies for implementing Ethernet networking at a nominal speed of one gigabit per second, as defined by the IEEE 802.3z and 802.3ab standards. There are a number of different physical layer standards for implementing gigabit Ethernet using optical fiber, twisted pair cable, or balanced copper cable. In 2002, the IEEE ratified a 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard which provides data rates at 10 gigabits per second. The 10 gigabit Ethernet standard encompasses seven different media types for LAN, MAN and WAN. Accordingly the gig-E switch may be rated at 1 gigabit per second (or greater as for a 10 gigabit Ethernet switch).

[0069]The switch 148 may be included in the same housing or co-located with the other components of the node (e.g., mounted at or near the same utility pole or transformer). The gig-E switch 148 maintains a table of which communication devices are connected to which switch 148 port (e.g., based on MAC address). When a communication device transmits a data packet, the switch receiving the packet determines the data packet's destination address and forwards the packet towards the destination device rather than to every device in a given network. This greatly increases the potential speed of the network because collisions are substantially reduced or eliminated, and multiple communications may occur simultaneously.

[0070]The gig-E switch 148 may include an upstream port for maintaining a communication link 152 with an upstream device (e.g., a backhaul node 132, an aggregation point 124, a distribution point 127), a downstream port for maintaining a communication link 152 with a downstream device (e.g., another backhaul node 134; an access node 134), and a local port for maintaining a communication link 154 to a Gig-E compatible device such as a mobile telephone cell cite 155 (i.e., base station), a wireless device (e.g., WiMAX (IEEE 802.16) transceiver), an access node 134, another backhaul node 132, or another device. In some embodiments the gig-E switch 148 may include additional ports.

[0071]In one embodiment, the link 154 may be connected to mobile telephone cell site configured to provide mobile telephone communications (digital or analog) and use the signal set and frequency bands suitable to communicate with mobile phones, PDAs, and other devices configured to communicate over a mobile telephone network. Mobile telephone cell sites, networks and mobile telephone communications of such mobile telephone cell sites, as used herein, are meant to include analog and digital cellular telephone cell sites, networks and communications, respectively, including, but not limited to AMPS, 1G, 2G, 3G, GSM (Global System for Mobile communications), PCS (Personal Communication Services) (sometimes referred to as digital cellular networks), 1.times. Evolution-Data Optimized (EVDO), and other cellular telephone cell sites and networks. One or more of these networks and cell sites may use various access technologies such as frequency division multiple access (FDMA), time division multiple access (TDMA), or code division multiple access (CDMA) (e.g., some of which may be used by 2G devices) and others may use CDMA2000 (based on 2G Code Division Multiple Access), WCDMA (UMTS)--Wideband Code Division Multiple Access, or TD-SCDMA (e.g., some of which may be used by 3G devices).

[0072]The gig-E switch 148 adds significant versatility to the backhaul device 138. For example, several backhaul devices may be coupled in a daisy chain topology (see FIG. 11), rather than by running a different fiber optic conductor to each backhaul node 134. Additionally, the local gig-E port allows a communication link 154 for connecting to high bandwidth devices (e.g., WiMAX (IEEE 802.16) or other wireless devices). The local gig-E port may maintain an Ethernet connection for communicating with various devices over optical fiber, coaxial cable or other wired medium. Exemplary devices may include user devices 130, a mobile telephone cell cite 155, and sensors (as described above with regard to the expansion port 146.

[0073]Communications may be input to the gig-E switch 148 from the MV interface 140, LV interface 144 or expansion port 146 through the controller 142. Communications also may be input from each of the upstream port, local port and downstream port. The gig-E switch 148 may be configured (by the controller 142 dynamically) to direct the input data from a given input port through the switch 148 to the upstream port, local port, or downstream port. An advantage of the gig-E switch 148 is that communications received at the upstream port or downstream port need not be provided (if so desired) to the controller 142. Specifically, communications received at the upstream port or downstream port may not be buffered or otherwise stored in the controller memory or processed by the controller. (Note, however, that communications received at the local port may be directed to the controller 142 for processing or for output over the MV interface 140, LV interface 144 or expansion port 146). The controller 142 controls the gig-E switch 148, allowing the switch 148 to pass data upstream and downstream (e.g. according to parameters (e.g., prioritization, rate limiting, etc.) provided by the controller). In particular, data may pass directly from the upstream port to the downstream port without the controller 142 receiving the data. Likewise, data may pass directly from the downstream port to the upstream port without the controller 142 receiving the data. Also, data may pass directly from the upstream port to the local port in a similar manner; or from the downstream port to the local port; or from the local port to the upstream port or downstream port. Moving such data through the controller 142 would significantly slow communications or require an ultra fast processor in the controller 142. Data from the controller 142 (originating from the controller 142 or received via the MV interface 140, the LV interface 144, or expansion port 146) may be supplied to the Gig-E switch 148 for communication upstream (or downstream) via the upstream port (or downstream port) according to the address of the data packet. Thus, data from the controller 142 may be multiplexed in (and routed/switched) along with other data communicated by the switch 148. As used herein, to route and routing is meant to include the functions performed by of any a router, switch, and bridge.

[0074]The backhaul device 138 also may include a controller 142 which controls the operation of the device 138 by executing program codes stored in memory. In addition, the program code may be executable to process the measured parameter data to, for example, convert the measured data to current, voltage, or power factor data. The backhaul 138 may also include a router, which routes data along an appropriate path. In this example embodiment, the controller 142 includes program code for performing routing (hereinafter to include switching and/or bridging). Thus, the controller 142 may maintain a table of which communication devices are connected to port in memory. The controller 142, of this embodiment, matches data packets with specific messages (e.g., control messages) and destinations, performs traffic control functions, performs usage tracking functions, authorizing functions, throughput control functions and similar related services. Communications entering the backhaul device 138 from the MV power lines 110 at the MV interface 140 are received, and then may be routed to the LV interface 144, expansion port 146 or gig-E switch 148. Communications entering the backhaul device 138 from the LV power lines 114 at the LV interface 144 are received, and may then be routed to the MV interface 140, the expansion port 146, or the gig-E switch 148. Communications entering the backhaul device 138 from the expansion port 146 are received, and may then be routed to the MV interface 140, the LV interface 144, or the gig-E switch 148. Accordingly, the controller 142 may receive data from the MV interface 140, LV interface 144 or the expansion port 146, and may route the received data to the MV interface 140, LV interface 144, the expansion port 146, or gig-E switch 148. In this example embodiment, user data may be routed based on the destination address of the packet (e.g., the IP destination address). Not all data packets, of course, are routed. Some packets received may not have a destination address for which the particular backhaul device 138 routes data packets. Additionally, some data packets may be addressed to the backhaul device 138 itself, in which case the backhaul device may process the data as a control message.

Access Node 134:

[0075]The backhaul nodes 132 may communicate with user devices via one or more access nodes 134, which may include an access device 139. FIGS. 8-9 show an example embodiment of such an access device 139 for providing communication services to mobile devices and to user devices at a residence, building, and other locations. Although FIG. 9 shows the access node 134 coupled to an overhead power line, in other embodiments an access node 134 (and its associated sensor devices 115) may be coupled to an underground power line.

[0076]In one example embodiment, access nodes 124 provide communication services for user devices 130 such as security management; IP network protocol (IP) packet routing; data filtering; access control; service level monitoring; service level management; signal processing; and modulation/demodulation of signals transmitted over the communication medium.

[0077]The access device 139 of this example node 134 may include a bypass device that moves data between an MV power line 110 and an LV power line 114. The access device 139 may include a medium voltage power line interface (MV Interface) 140 having a MV modem 141, a controller 142, a low voltage power line interface (LV interface) 144 having a LV modem 143, and an expansion port 146, which may have the functionality, functional components (and for connecting to devices, such as power line parameter sensor device 115) as previously described above with regard of the backhaul device 138. The access device 139 also may include a gigabit Ethernet (gig-E) port 156. The gig-E port 156 maintains a connection using a gigabit Ethernet protocol as described above for the gig-E switch 146 of FIG. 6. The power parameter sensor device 116 may be connected to the access device 139 to measure and/or detect one or more parameters of the MV power or the LV power line, which, for example, may include power usage data, power line voltage data, power line current data, detection of a power outage, detection of water in a pad mount, detection of an open pad mount, detection of a street light failure, power delivered to a transformer data, power factor data (e.g., the phase angle between the voltage and current of a power line), power delivered to a downstream branch data, data of the harmonic components of a power signal, load transients data, and/or load distribution data. In addition, the access device 134 may include multiple sensor devices 116 so that parameters of multiple power lines may be measured such as a separate parameter sensor device 116 on each of three MV power line conductors and a separate parameter sensor on each of two energized LV power line conductors and one on each neutral conductor. One skilled in the art will appreciate that other types of utility data also may be gathered. The sensor devices 115 described herein may be co-located with the power line communication device with which the sensor device 115 communicates or may displaced therefrom (e.g., at the next utility pole or transformer).

[0078]The Gig-E port 156 may maintain an Ethernet connection for communicating with various devices over optical fiber, coaxial cable or other wired medium. For example, a communication link 157 may be maintained between the access device 139 and another device through the gig-E port 156. For example, the gig-E port 156 may provide a connection to user devices 130, sensors (as described above with regard to the expansion port 146, such as to power line parameter sensor device 115), or a cell station 155.

[0079]Communications may be received at the access device 139 through the MV interface 140, LV interface 144, expansion port 146 or gig-E port 156. Communications may enter the access device 139 from the MV power lines 110 through the MV interface 140, and then may be routed to the LV interface 142, expansion port 146 or gig-E port 156. Communications may enter the access device 139 from the LV power lines 114 through the LV interface 144, and then may be routed to the MV interface 140, the expansion port 146, or the gig-E port 156. Communications may enter the access device 139 from the expansion port 146, and then may routed to the MV interface 140, the LV interface 144, or the gig-E port 156. Communications may enter the access device 139 via the gig-E port 156, and then may be routed to the MV interface 140, the LV interface 144, or the expansion port 146. The controller 142 controls communications through the access device 139. Accordingly, the access device 139 receives data from the MV interface 140, LV interface 144, the expansion port 146, or the gig-E port 156 and may route the data to the MV interface 140, LV interface 144, expansion port 146, or gig-E port 156 under the direction of the controller 142. In one example embodiment, the access node 134 may be coupled to a backhaul node 132 via a wired medium coupled to Gig-E port 156 while in another embodiment, the access node is coupled to the backhaul node 132 via an MV power line (via MV interface 140). In yet another embodiment, the access node 134 may be coupled to a backhaul node 132 via a wireless link (via expansion port 146 or Gig-E port 156). In addition, the controller may include program code that is executable to control the operation of the device 139 and to process the measured parameter data to, for example, convert the measured data to current, voltage, or power factor data.

Other Devices:

[0080]Another communication device is a repeater (e.g., indoor, outdoor, low voltage (LVR) and/or medium voltage) which may form part of a repeater node 135 (see FIG. 1). A repeater serves to extend the communication range of other communication elements (e.g., access devices, backhaul devices, and other nodes). The repeater may be coupled to power lines (e.g., MV power line; LV power line) and other communication media (e.g., fiber optical cable, coaxial cable, T-1 line or wireless medium). Note that in some embodiments, a repeater node 135 may also include a device for providing communications to a user device 130 (and thus also serve as an access node 134).

[0081]In various embodiments a user device 130 is coupled to an access node 134 using a modem. For a power line medium, a power line modem 136 is used. For a wireless medium, a wireless modem is used. For a coaxial cable, a cable modem is may be used. For a twisted pair, a DSL modem may be used. The specific type of modem depends on the type of medium linking the access node 134 and user device 130.

[0082]In addition, the PLCS may include intelligent power meters, which, in addition to measuring power, may include a parameter sensor device 115 and also have communication capabilities (a controller coupled to a modem coupled to the LV power line) for communicating the measured parameter data to the access node 134. Detailed descriptions of some examples of such power meter modules are provided in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/341,646, filed on Jan. 30, 2006 entitled, "Power Line Communications Module and Method," which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in it entirety.

[0083]A power line modem 136 couples a communication onto or off of an LV power line 114. A power line modem 136 is coupled on one side to the LV power line. On the other side, the power line modem 136 includes a connector to connect to a wired or wireless medium leading to the user device 130. One protocol for communicating with access nodes 132 over an LV power line is the HomePlug 1.0 standard of the HomePlug.RTM. Alliance for routing communications over low voltage power lines. In this manner, a customer can connect a variety of user devices 130 to the communication network 104.

[0084]The parameter sensor devices 115 and applications for using the related data also be incorporated in power line communication systems that communicate over underground power lines. Detailed descriptions of the components, features, and power line communication devices of some example underground PLCSs are provided in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/399,529 filed on Apr. 7, 2006 entitled, "Power Line Communications Device and Method," which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. The parameter sensor devices 115 described herein (or portions thereof) may be formed in or integrated with couplers for coupling communication signals to and from the power lines. For example, the Rogowski coils described above may be attached to the transformer side of the coupler (or integrated into the coupler) that couples to the underground (or overhead) MV power lines to allow installation of the coupler to also accomplish installation of the sensor device 115.

Power Line Parameter Sensing:

[0085]FIG. 10 shows an example embodiment of a portion of a network having multiple power line distribution parameter sensor devices 116, 162. The devices 116 are located along the LV power lines. The devices 162 are located along the MV power lines. In one embodiment a device 162 may be a dual sensor assembly 160, including a pair of current sensor devices 115 that may be coupled together (e.g., mechanically) and may share a common communication interface for communication with a power line communication device (e.g., a backhaul device 138, an access device 139, or a repeater 135). In this example embodiment, the dual sensor device assembly 160 is coupled to the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 by a fiber optic conductor 174. In other embodiments of sensor devices 115, 116, 160, communications with the power line communication device may occur over a wireless communication path.

[0086]As shown in FIG. 10, the distribution transformer 112 is connected to the MV power line 110 via conductor 165 at a connection point 164. In this example, a first current sensor device 115a is disposed on a first side of the connection point 164 and a second current sensor device 115b is disposed on the second side of the connection point 164. As shown in the figure, the flow of current is from left to right over the MV power line 110. Thus, current sensor device 115a measures the current on the MV power line 110 before the connection point 164 associated with transformer 112. Current sensor device 115b measures the current on the MV power line 110 after the connection point 164 associated with transformer 112. By computing the difference measured between the two measured current sensor devices 115 (the current of device 115a minus the current of 115b), the PLC device 138, 139, 135 (assembly device 160) or other device (e.g., a remote computer) can determine the current carried through conductor 165 and drawn by the transformer 112. Various sub-networks 170a-d may be coupled to the medium voltage power line 110 and also include the same sensor device assemblies 160 and power line communication devices.

[0087]FIG. 10 also shows a power line distribution parameter sensor device 116 that measures current and voltage of the LV power line. The sensor 116 may be located between the transformer 112 and customer premises on a LV power line connected to the transformer 112. For example a power line distribution parameter sensor device 116 may be located at the power meter for the premises, at the transformer 112 or somewhere along the low voltage power line 114. In the illustrated embodiment, the power line parameter sensor device 116 is coupled to, and located near, the power line communication device 138, 139, 135 and includes a voltage and current sensor device 117 measuring the voltage and current on both LV energized conductors (and current on the neutral).

[0088]By measuring current on the upstream and downstream side of the connection point 164, the current and/or power drawn by the transformer 112 can be determined by the power line communication device 138, 139, 135) and transmitted to a remote computer (e.g., over the MV power line, wirelessly, or via fiber optic) for use by the utility. Information of the current and/or power being drawn by the transformer 112 can be used initiate replacement of the transformer 112 (e.g., if the transformer load is approaching capacity) and/or for planning purposes. In addition, if the voltage of the MV power line 110 is known with sufficient accuracy or measured by a sensor device 116, the power input to, and output from, the transformer 112 can be calculated to thereby determine the efficiency of the transformer 112.

[0089]In some embodiments the dual sensor device assembly 160 may be packaged with (and installed together with) the conductor 165 at the connection point 164. For example, a conventional conductor 165 already in place may have its connector jumpered out to be replaced with a connector coupling to the dual sensor device assembly 160.

[0090]In some embodiments the dual sensor device assembly 160 may be self-powered, as discussed herein, by inductively drawing power from the medium voltage power line 110. Near the end of a medium voltage power line 110, the current may drop below a level needed to power the sensor assembly device 160d. In such case, however, the parameters measured by the immediately upstream dual sensor assembly 160c may be used to derive the load of the more downstream load 170d.

Network Communication Protocols:

[0091]The communication network 104 may provide high speed internet access and other high data-rate data services to user devices, homes, buildings and other structure, and to each room, office, apartment, or other unit or sub-unit of multi-unit structure. In doing so, a communication link is formed between two communication nodes 128 over a communication medium. Some links are formed by using a portion 101 of the power system infrastructure. Specifically, some links are formed over MV power lines 110, and other links are formed over LV power lines 114. Still other links may be formed over another communication media, (e.g., a coaxial cable, a T-1 line, a fiber optic cable, wirelessly (e.g., IEEE 802.11a/b/g, 802.16, 1G, 2G, 3G, wireless pager system, or satellite such as WildBlue.RTM.)). Some links may comprise wired Ethernet, multipoint microwave distribution system (MMDS) standards, DOCSIS (Data Over Cable System Interface Specification) signal standards or another suitable communication method. The wireless links may also use any suitable frequency band. In one example, frequency bands are used that are selected from among ranges of licensed frequency bands (e.g., 6 GHz, 11 GHz, 18 GHz, 23 GHz, 24 GHz, 28 GHz, or 38 GHz band) and unlicensed frequency bands (e.g., 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz, 24 GHz, 38 GHz, or 60 GHz (i.e., 57-64 GHz)).

[0092]Accordingly, the communication network 104 includes links that may be formed by power lines, non-power line wired media, and wireless media. The links may occur at any point along a communication path between a backhaul node 132 and a user device 130, or between a backhaul node 132 and a distribution point 127 or aggregation point 124.

[0093]Communication among nodes 128 may occur using a variety of protocols and media. In one example, the nodes 128 may use time division multiplexing and implement one or more layers of the 7 layer open systems interconnection (OSI) model. For example, at the layer 3 `network` level, the devices and software may implement switching and routing technologies, and create logical paths, known as virtual circuits, for transmitting data from node to node. Similarly, error handling, congestion control and packet sequencing can be performed at Layer 3. In one example embodiment, Layer 2 `data link` activities include encoding and decoding data packets and handling errors of the `physical` layer 1, along with flow control and frame synchronization. The configuration of the various communication nodes may vary. For example, the nodes coupled to power lines may include a modem that is substantially compatible with the HomePlug 1.0 or A/V standard. In various embodiments, the communications among nodes may be time division multiple access or frequency division multiple access.

[0094]While the sensor devices described above are described in the context of power line communication system (that may include wireless links), the sensor devices may be connected (communicatively coupled) to wireless communication devices that communicate, for example, via through one or more of a mobile telephone network, two way wireless pager system, WAN, or WiMAX network (and include a transceiver suitable for the wireless network)--and that does not communicate over power lines.

Network Topology:

[0095]FIG. 11 shows an example embodiment of a network topology which illustrates many of the communication features of the backhaul node 132 and access node 134. For example, several backhaul nodes 132a-c may be coupled together in a daisy chain configuration by communication links 152. Such links 152 may be formed by the upstream and downstream ports of the gig-E switch 148 of the respective backhaul nodes 132. The gig-E switch 148 also may be implemented to connect a backhaul node 132c to a distribution point 127. Accordingly, the gig-E switch 148 may form part of a communication link along a path for communicating with an internet protocol network 126. Further, a local port of a gig-E switch 148 may be implemented to couple a backhaul node 132a to a mobile phone site 155 via link 154. The backhaul nodes 132a-d also may be coupled to MV power lines 110 to maintain MV links for communication with multiple access nodes 134 (shown as small rectangles). The backhaul node 132a may also be coupled to an access node 134a (which may repeat data for other access nodes 134) over a wireless communication link 150, for example, through the expansion port 146. The backhaul node 132a is further illustrated to couple to a chain of access devices 134 and a backhaul node 132e. The link from the backhaul node 132a to the access node 134b may be formed by coupling a downstream port of the gig-e switch 148 of backhaul node 132a to the gig-E port 156 of the access node 134b. A similar link is shown between the backhaul node 132d and the access node 134c. Still another communication link is shown over an LV power line 114 to couple an access node 134d to a computer and to couple a backhaul node 132f to computer via a LV power line 114.

Software

[0096]The communication network 104 may be monitored and controlled via a power line server that may be remote from the structure and physical location of the network elements. The controller of the nodes 128 describe herein may include executable program code for controlling the operation of the nodes and responding to commands. The PLS may transmit any number of commands to a backhaul nodes 132 and access nodes 134 to manage the system. As will be evident to those skilled in the art, most of these commands are equally applicable for backhaul nodes 132 and access nodes 134. For ease of discussion, the description of the commands will be in the context of a node 128 (meant to include both). These commands may include altering configuration information, synchronizing the time of the node 128 with that of the PLS, controlling measurement intervals (e.g., voltage measurements), requesting measurement or data statistics, requesting the status of user device activations, rate shaping, and requesting reset or other system-level commands. Any or all of these commands may require a unique response from the node 128, which may be transmitted by the node 128 and received and stored by the PLS. The PLS may include software to transmit a command to any or all of the nodes (134 and 132) to schedule a voltage and/or current measurement at any particular time so that all of the network elements of the PLCS take the measurement(s) at the same time.

[0097]Alerts

[0098]In addition to commands and responses, the node 128 has the ability to send Alerts and Alarms to the PLS. Alerts typically are either warnings or informational messages transmitted to the PLS in light of events detected or measured by the node 128. Alarms typically are error conditions detected.

[0099]One example of an Alarm is an Out-of-Limit Alarm that indicates that an out-of-limit condition has been detected at the node 128, which may indicate a power outage on the LV power line, an MV or LV voltage too high, an MV or LV voltage too low, a temperature measurement inside the node 128 is too high, and/or other out-of-limit conditions. Information of the Out-of-Limit condition, such as the type of condition (e.g., a LV voltage measurement, a node 128 temperature), the Out-of-Limit threshold exceeded, the time of detection, the amount (e.g., over, under, etc.) the out of limit threshold has been exceeded, is stored in the memory of the node 128 and transmitted with the alert or transmitted in response to a request from the PLS.

[0100]Software Upgrade Handler

[0101]The Software Upgrade Handler software may be started by the node 128 Command Processing software in response to a PLS command. Information needed to download the upgrade file, including for example the remote file name and PLS IP address, may be included in the parameters passed to the Software Command Handler within the PLS command.

[0102]Upon startup, the Software Command Handler task may open a file transfer program such as Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) to provide a connection to the PLS and request the file. The requested file may then be downloaded to the node 128. For example, the PLS may transmit the upgrade through the Internet to the node 128 (and perhaps through the backhaul node, and over the MV power line) where the upgrade may be stored in a local RAM buffer and validated (e.g., error checked) while the node 128 continues to operate (i.e., continues to communicate packets). Finally, the task copies the downloaded software into a backup boot page in non-volatile memory, and transmits an Alert indicating successful installation to the PLS. The node 128 then makes the downloaded software the primary boot page and reboots. When the device restarts the downloaded software will be copied to RAM and executed. The device will then notify the PLS that it has rebooted via an alert indicating such. In addition, and through substantially the same procedure, new software code may be received by the controller for storage in (e.g., to replace existing code) and execution at the media access control (MAC) layer of the LV modem and/or the MV modem of the access device or the backhaul device.

[0103]ADC Scheduler

[0104]Any of the nodes described herein may include an analog to digital converter (ADC) for measuring the voltage, current, and/or other parameters of any power line 110, 114. The ADC may be located within the power line parameter sensor device 115 or within the power line communication device 138, 139, 135. The ADC Scheduler software, in conjunction with the real-time operating system, creates ADC scheduler tasks to perform ADC sampling according to configurable periods for each sample type. Each sample type corresponds with an ADC channel. The ADC Scheduler software creates a scheduling table in memory with entries for each sampling channel according to default configurations or commands received from the PLS. The table contains timer intervals for the next sample for each ADC channel, which are monitored by the ADC scheduler.

[0105]ADC Measurement Software

[0106]The ADC Measurement Software, in conjunction with the real-time operating system, creates ADC measurement tasks that are responsible for monitoring and measuring data accessible through the ADC 330 such as the power distribution parameter sensor devices 115 (including the current sensor devices 115 and voltage sensor devices) described herein. Each separate measurable parameter may have an ADC measurement task. Each ADC measurement task may have configurable rates for processing, recording, and reporting for example.

[0107]An ADC measurement task may wait on a timer (set by the ADC scheduler). When the timer expires the task may retrieve all new ADC samples for that measurement type from the sample buffer, which may be one or more samples. The raw samples are converted into a measurement value. The measurement is given the timestamp of the last ADC sample used to make the measurement. The measurement may require further processing. If the measurement (or processed measurement) exceeds limit values, an alert condition may be generated. Out of limit Alerts may be transmitted to the PLS and repeated at the report rate until the measurement is back within limits. An out of limit recovery Alert may be generated (and transmitted to the PLS) when the out of limit condition is cleared (i.e., the measured value falls back within limit conditions).

[0108]The measurements performed by the ADC, each of which has a corresponding ADC measurement task, may include node 128 inside temperature, LV power line voltage, LV power line current, MV power line voltage, and/or MV power line current for example. MV and LV power line measurements may be accomplished via the power line parameter sensor devices 115.

[0109]As discussed, the nodes may include value limits for most of these measurements stored in memory with which the measured value may be compared. If a measurement is below a lower limit, or above an upper limit (or otherwise out of an acceptable range), the node 128 may transmit an Out-of-Limit Alert. Such alert may be received and stored by the PLS. In some instances, one or more measured values are processed to convert the measured value(s) to a standard or more conventional data value.

[0110]The LV power line voltage measurement may be used to provide various information. For example, the measurement may be used to determine a power outage (and subsequently a restoration), or measure the power used by a consumer (when current data is also available) or by all of the consumers connected to that distribution transformer. In addition, it may be used to determine the power quality of the LV power line by measuring and processing the measured values over time to provide frequency, harmonic content, and other power line quality characteristics.

Methods and Configurations for Detecting Power Line Theft

[0111]According to embodiments of the present invention, power line distribution parameter data may be used to detect power theft, and to isolate a source area, neighborhood or premises where such power theft is occurring. The parameter data also may be used for other purposes, as described below in a separate section.

[0112]Power line distribution parameter data may be gathered at regular times, periodically, aperiodically, at one or more scheduled times, or in response to specific commands or triggering events. Also, the power line distribution parameter may be simultaneously measured from one sensor device 115, multiple sensor devices or all sensor devices 115 of a single power line communication device 138, 139, 135 or all power line communication devices 138, 139, 135. For example, parameter data of a building, neighborhood, a city, a country, or other region may be measured. Alternately, data for the entire power line distribution system 104 may be collected. The parameter sensor device 115 may be any of the sensor devices previously described, such as sensor 115, current sensor 116, and dual-sensor assembly 160.

[0113]One example sensor device 115 comprises a power sensor device 198 measures a power line parameter to determine the power delivered to over a low voltage power line. In particular, by collecting measurements over time, power consumption over a corresponding time period may be derived. By comparing such finding with the sum of power measurements received from the power meters connected to that low voltage power line, a utility provider may determine how much power is being provided via that power line that is not being measured by the utility meters. Minor discrepancies may be expected due to power line losses and power utility devices. Such a discrepancy is expected to be generally constant, and thus identifiable. Discrepancies due to power theft typically will be larger and vary over time according to the amount of power being stolen (i.e., consumed by the devices or premises that is illegally connected to the power line).

[0114]FIGS. 12-16 show various configurations in which one or more sensor devices 198 are positioned along LV power lines 114 to detect and isolate power theft downstream of a given distribution transformer 112. In this example embodiment, sensor device 198 is configured to measure parameters sufficient to determine the power delivered via the power line and, therefore, may include a voltage and current sensor. In some embodiments, the voltage sensor may not be necessary and the voltage may be derived via a measurement from a separate device or estimated based on other known voltages. Depending on the embodiment, the sensors that form part of the sensor device 198 may be integrated together or may be separate. According to various configurations, the location of the power theft may be generally located to a group of premises or location. FIGS. 17-20 show configurations in which a sensor device 198 may be located along an MV power line in the vicinity of a distribution transformer 112 to detect power theft that may be occurring in an area near (e.g., served by) a specific transformer 112.

[0115]FIG. 12 shows a configuration 200 for isolating power theft from a LV subnet (i.e., the low voltage power lines that are electrically connected to a distribution transformer) that is connected to a group 202 of premises 204, which may include one or more residences, office buildings, and/or other structures. Power traverses along the MV power line 110, is stepped down at a distribution transformer 112, and then delivered over a LV subnet (LV power lines 114 and 206) as LV power to the one or more respective premises 204. An LV power line 114 extends from the distribution transformer 112 and splits into (or is coupled to) multiple LV power supply lines 206. In this example, each LV power supply line 206 extends to a power utility meter 208 at a corresponding premises 204 to supply to that premises. The utility meter 208 measures the power entering the premises 204 via the meter 208. More specifically, each meter 208 measures the power traversing the power supply line 206 at the meter's location, which, when no theft is occurring, includes all the power entering the premises and being consumed by the electrical devices at the premises.

[0116]Obtaining power by connecting an electrical device (or the entire premises 208) to a low voltage subnet (e.g., a power supply line 206 or LV power line 114) on the upstream (transformer) side of the meter 208 (thereby delivering power to the electrical device or premises by bypassing the power around the meter 208) is power theft. An example of power theft is shown in FIG. 12. Specifically, a jumper 500 connects a LV power supply line 206a to the customer premises 204a bypassing the meter 208a. Thus, power entering the premises 204a via the jumper 500 is not measured by the meter 208a (and therefore is not paid for by the residences of customer premises 204a), which constitutes one example of power theft. As another example, the jumper 500 from power supply line 206a may be connected to (and supply power to) customer premises 204b (a customer premises that receives power from a different supply line 206). In yet another example, the jumper 500 from one LV power line may be connected to (and supply power to) a customer premises 204 that receives power via a different LV subnet (from a different distribution transformer 112). There are many other examples. Thus, in many of the examples described herein, the invention may locate the LV subnet, LV power line, and/or LV power supply line, from which power is being stolen. The stolen power may be provided to a customer premises on the same or a different LV subnet or to an electrical device not associated with a customer premises.

[0117]In the example of FIG. 12, a power line communication device 210 (e.g., backhaul device 138; bypass device 139; or repeater 135) may be located in the vicinity of the distribution transformer 112. As described above, communications propagating along the MV power line 110 may bypass the distribution transformer 112, and be transmitted downstream along an LV power line 114 to a destination. Similarly, communications propagating along an LV power line 114 may bypass the transformer 112, and be transmitted upstream along the MV power line 110.

[0118]In the configuration of FIG. 12, a power sensor device 198 may be coupled to a power line 114 between the distribution transformer 112 and junction 207 of two or more power supply lines 206. Data from the sensor device 198 is provided to the power line communication device 210 (or other communication device), such as over a wired medium 212. In some embodiments, power usage data from the utility meters 208 also may be transmitted to the power line communication device 210, such as by a LV power line or wireless communication. The power line communication device 210 may store power usage data from the sensor device 198 and meters 208 and process the data to determine whether power theft is likely to be occurring. In some embodiments, the power line communication device 210 (or other communication device) may transmit the power usage data and the data from the sensor device(s) 198 to a power line server 118 or other remote device accessible by the utility provider for processing to determine whether power theft is likely to be occurring. In an alternative method, the utility meters 208 may send wired or wireless communications to the utility provider or power line server 118 by another route (a route that does not include the communication device 210). In such example, the utility provider or power line server 118 also may receive the sensor device 198 data from the communication device 210, and process the data and the meter data to determine if power theft is occurring.

[0119]The power data (which may comprise current data or current and voltage data) from sensor device 198 may be used to determine power the delivered to the low voltage subnet by the distribution transformer 112 over a given time period (e.g., five minutes, fifteen minutes, one hour, six hours, twelve hours, one day, one week, or one month). Data from each utility meter 208 receiving power from that transformer 112 may be used to determine power delivered to the premises 204 that the consumers are being billed for over the same time period. The power delivered as measured by sensor device 198 is expected to be substantially equal to the aggregate (the sum) of the power consumed by the premises 204 as determined by the data from the meters 208. For example, the meter data (i.e., the power paid for by the customers) from all of the meters 204 of that LV subnet should sum to be substantially the same as the power data as measured by the power sensor device 198 (i.e., the power delivered) over a given time period. When the values (i.e., (1) the sum of the meter data from all the meters and (2) the power data from the sensor device 198) differ significantly, the discrepancy may be due to power theft. Analyzing the differences over time can further confirm the discrepancies as being attributable to power theft. For example, if the discrepancy in the values varies it may be more likely that the discrepancy is caused by power theft. The discrepancy may vary due to power theft because the consumer varies the load by turning on and off the electrical devices that are consuming the stolen power, while if the discrepancy remains substantially constant it may be due to a lossy power lines. Thus, a first step may include determining the amount of a discrepancy (e.g., is it greater than a predetermined amount (percentage or absolute value)) and second, does the discrepancy vary over time.

[0120]In one embodiment in which the communication device 210 identifies power theft, the power line communication device 210 (or other communication device), may transmit an alert to a remote device. Alternately, if the power line server or other remote computer identifies the discrepancy (or receives the alert), the computer or server may log the discrepancy, determine the location (e.g., by pole number, street address, etc.) and provide notice to the utility provider.

[0121]The utility provider may respond to the discrepancies in various manners. When the difference is insignificant, and may be explained by other causes, such as power line losses, the discrepancy may be ignored. The pattern of discrepancy should be generally constant in such case. When the difference is significant, but amounts to a relatively small amount (in dollars), an email, warning letter, or other notification may be sent to all the premises connected to the transformer 112. The utility provider typically will have a means to identify the customers and customer premises 204 connected to the transformer 112. For example, the utility pole number on which the power line communication device 210 (or other communication device) and the distribution transformer 112 is installed may be stored in a database in memory, which also stores information of the customer premises (e.g., addresses) and names of customers that are connected to the transformer 112. Thus, the notification received may include a serial number of the device 210 (that is cross referenced to a pole number to retrieve the customer name and address data), pole number, or other data sufficient to retrieve data of the customer(s) connected to the LV subnet from which power is being stolen.

[0122]Thus, depending on the embodiment, the utility provider may send a notification to the customers electronically or via mail. Such a notification may be generated and sent automatically based upon an automated process at the power line server 118 or utility's computer system. Alternatively, a warning message may be automatically included with or on the next bill of each customer in the vicinity of the transformer 112 supplying the stolen power (e.g., the customers receiving power from the distribution transformer and those premises adjacent thereto). Rather than send a warning automatically, in an alternative approach a person may review the findings on behalf of the utility and determine that an appropriate course of action is to send a warning letter in the mail, electronically, or include a message in the next bill. When the difference exceeds a threshold amount corresponding to a significant amount of consumption in dollars, utility personnel may be dispatched to the area to inspect the LV subnet (e.g., power supply lines 206 and power line 114) and meters 208 to identify possible power theft. Still in another alternative, the response may be to install additional sensor devices 198 (as described below) to isolate the source of the discrepancy more precisely to a specific supply line 206 and/or premises 204.

[0123]The device's 198 local communication device may include an interface for communicating with parameter sensor device 198, a user device interface, a controller, and a network interface that includes a network modem for communicating with to an upstream device. Examples of such devices are described herein although the present invention is not limited to those communication devices described herein. For example, data from sensor devices 198 may be communicated via the network modem of the device 210 over twisted pair conductors, coaxial cable, a wireless mobile telephone network, or other wired or wireless network by its local communication device 210 to an upstream device. The network modem may be a DSL modem, cable modem, WiMAX modem, mobile telephone transceiver, WLAN modem, wireless paging transceiver, HomePlug compatible modem, or DS2 modem, and may employ any suitable protocol and/or modulation scheme including, but not limited to, OFDM, DOCSIS, WiMAX (IEEE 802.16), DSL, Ultra Wide Band (UWB), or other suitable modulation scheme or protocol. In one embodiment, some or all of the local communication devices 210 may employ a wireless modem (forming part of its network interface) for wireless communications upstream such as an IEEE 802.11a,b,g, or n modem, a WiMAX (IEEE 802.16) modem, a mobile telephone network transceiver, a wireless pager system transceiver, or another suitable wireless modem. In this example embodiment, the local communication device 210 may include a LV power line interface (that includes a modem for communicating with one or more user devices) and communicate the user data over the LV power line or alternately via twisted pair conductors, coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, or wireless link.

[0124]FIG. 13 shows another configuration 220 for locating power theft from a group 222 of premises 224a-c, which may include one or more residences, office buildings, and/or other structures. Power is delivered as described above with regard to the configuration 200 of FIG. 12, along power lines 110, 114, and 206. Utility meters 208 measure power entering corresponding premises 224a-c. More specifically, each meter 208 measures the power traversing the power supply line 206 at the meter's location, which, when no theft is occurring, includes all the power entering the premises 208 and being consumed by the electrical devices at the premises 224. A communication device 210 (e.g., backhaul device 138; bypass device 139; or repeater 135) may be located in the vicinity of the distribution transformer 112 to provide power line communications.

[0125]In the configuration 220 of FIG. 13, a power sensor device 198 may be installed on each power supply line 206 between a corresponding utility meter 208 and a junction 207 of the LV power line 114. Data from the sensor devices 198 may be provided to the power line communication device 210, such as via respective wired media 212 or via a wireless link. In some embodiments, power usage data from the utility meters 208 may be provided to the power line communication device 210 as well, such as by a wireless communication, or by transmitting data over the LV power line. The power line communication device 210 may store and process data from the sensor devices 198 and meters 208 to detect power theft. In some embodiments, the power line communication device may transmit the power data and/or the results of processing upstream to a power line server 118 or other device accessible by the utility provider. In some embodiments, the power line server or another utility provider computing device may process the data to determine whether power theft may be occurring.

[0126]The data from each sensor device 198a-c may be used to determine the power delivered over each power supply line 206 over a given time period by the distribution transformer 112. Specifically, the power as measured by each utility meter 208 may be compared to the power delivered as measured by the sensor device 198 connected to the corresponding power supply line 206. The power measured over a given time period by a given sensor device 198a installed on a power supply line 206a is expected to be substantially the same as the power measured over the time period by the meter 208a at the corresponding premises 224a receiving power via that supply line 206a. When the values differ by a significant amount (e.g., a predetermined percentage or other amount), the discrepancy may be due to power theft. Accordingly, the specific residence, building or other structure (e.g., premise 224a) to which the meter 208a is attached (and in some instances those premises nearby such as the adjacent residences or other residences on the LV subnet) may be identified as a possible location where power theft may be occurring. As with the other embodiments described herein, the device 210, power line server, or remote computer system processing the data may monitor and measure the discrepancy over time to determine if the discrepancy varies to further determine an increased likelihood of theft. The utility may respond to discrepancies and possible power theft in a manner similar to that described above.

[0127]FIG. 14 shows a configuration 230 which combines configurations 200 and 220 of FIGS. 12 and 13. Specifically, configuration 230 includes a first group 232 of premises 234 and a second group 236 of premises 238. The first group 232 is monitored as a group by sensor device 198d. Each premises 238a-c of the second group 236 is monitored individually by sensor devices 198a-c. Both groups 232, 236 are provided power through a common distribution transformer 112 and LV power subnet and power line 114. The LV power line 114 splits into one LV power line branch 240 that serves the first group 232, and a second LV power line branch 242 that serves the second group 236. Branch 240 may run from the vicinity of one utility pole 244 to another utility pole 246, and then split (i.e., be connected to multiple supply lines 206) to serve the respective premises 234a-234b. Branch 242 may extend from the vicinity near the utility pole 244 and split (i.e., be connected to multiple supply lines 206) to serve the respective premises 238a-238c.

[0128]The first group 232 has a configuration similar to configuration 200 in that one sensor device 198d may be installed on the first branch 240 to measure the cumulative power delivered to premises 234a-b. The second group 236 has a configuration similar to configuration 220 in that a sensor device 198a-c is installed on the power supply line 206 supply power to each respective customer premises 238a-c. As discussed, a utility meter 208 located at each of the premises 234a-b, 238a-c measures the power entering the premises at the meter's location. One common communication device 210 may received data from the sensor devices 198a-d for both the first group 232 and second group 236.

[0129]As described above with regard to the other configurations, the data from any given sensor device 198a-d may be used to measure power delivered for a given time period. Also, data from the corresponding utility meters 208 may be used to measure the power entering the premises over the same time period at the corresponding premises 234a-b, 238a-c. The power delivered as measured from sensor device 198d is expected to be generally equal to the sum of the power entering premises 234a-b, as determined from the meters 208 at such premises 234a-b. The power delivered over each supply line 206 of group 236 as measured from each sensor device 198a-c is expected to be generally equal to the power entering the premises 238a-c, as measured from the meter 208 at such premises 238a-c.

[0130]As with the other embodiments described herein, the device 210, power line server, or remote computer system processing the data may monitor and measure the discrepancy over time to determine if the discrepancy varies to further determine an increased likelihood of theft. Also, the utility may respond to discrepancies, and possible power theft, in a manner similar to that described above.

[0131]FIG. 15 shows yet another configuration 250 for detecting power theft. Configuration 250 includes a first group 252 of premises 254 and a second group 256 of premises 258. The first group 252 is monitored as a group by sensor device 198e. The second group 256 is monitored as a group by sensor device 198f. Both groups 252, 256 are served with power through a common distribution transformer 112 and LV power line 114. The LV power line 114 splits into one power line branch 260 that serves the first group 252, and a second power line branch 262 that serves the second group 256. Branch 260 runs from the vicinity of one utility pole 244 to another utility pole 246, and then provides power via power supply lines 206 to premises 254a-254b. Branch 262 extends from the vicinity near the utility pole 244 and supplies power via power supply lines 206 to premises 258a-258c.

[0132]The first group 252 has a configuration similar to configuration 200 in that one sensor device 198e may be located along the first branch 260 to measure the total power delivered to premises 254a-b. The second group 256 also has a configuration similar to configuration 200 in that one sensor device 198f may be located along the second branch 262 to measure the power delivered to premises 258a-c. As discussed, a utility meter 208 is located at each of the premises 254a-b, 258a-c. One common communication device 210 may receive data from the sensor devices 198e-f for both the first group 252 and second group 256.

[0133]As described above with regard to the other configurations, the measurements of any given sensor device 198e-f may be used to determine the power delivered for a given time period (e.g., between data) via the power line (e.g., branches 260 and 262 respectively). Also, the measurements at the corresponding utility meters 208 may be used to determine the power traversing the power lines (over the same time period) at the meter, which may be at the ingress of the power lines into the premises 254a-b, 258a-c. The power delivered as measured from sensor device 198e is expected to be generally equal to the sum of the power entering the premises 254a-b, as measured by the meters 208 at such premises 254a-b. Similarly, the power delivered as measured by sensor device 198f is expected to be generally equal to the sum of the power entering the premises 258a-c as measured by the meters 208 at such premises 258a-c. When a comparison of the power delivered derived from the sensor device measurements and power consumed derived from the meter data shows discrepancies, power theft may be occurring.

[0134]As with the other embodiments described herein, the device 210, power line server, or remote computer system processing the data may monitor and measure the discrepancy over time to determine if the discrepancy varies to further determine an increased likelihood of theft. Also, the utility may respond to discrepancies, and possible power theft, in a manner similar to that described above for the other configurations.

[0135]FIG. 16 shows yet another configuration 270 for detecting power theft. Configuration 270 includes a first group 272 of premises 274 and a second group 276 of premises 278. The first group 272 of premises 274a-b is monitored individually by corresponding sensors 198g-h. The second group 276 of premises 278a-c is monitored individually by corresponding sensor devices 198a-c. Both groups 272 and 276 are served with power through a common distribution transformer 112 and LV power line 114. The LV power line 114 is coupled to a power line branch 280 that serves the first group 272 and a second power line branch 282 that serves the second group 276. Branch 280 runs from the vicinity of one utility pole 244 to another utility pole 246, and is connected to power supply lines 206 that provide power to the respective premises 274a-274b. Branch 282 extends from the vicinity near the utility pole 244 and is connected to power supply lines 206 that provide power to the respective premises 278a-278c.

[0136]The first group 272 has a configuration similar to configuration 220 (see FIG. 13). For each one premises 274a-b there may be a corresponding sensor device 198g-h. The second group 276 also has a configuration similar to configuration 220 in that for each one premises 278a-c there may be a corresponding sensor device 198a-c. A utility meter 208 is also located at each of the premises 274a-b, 278a-c. One common communication device 210 may receive data from the sensor devices 198a-c, 198g-h for both the first group 272 and second group 276. Because the sensor devices 198g-h are located in the vicinity of a different utility pole than the communication device 210, sensor devices 198g-h may include a wireless link for communicating with communication device 210, (see FIGS. 4 and 5).

[0137]As described above with regard to the other configurations, the measurements at any given sensor device 198 may be used to measure the power delivered over the power supply line 206 for a given time period. Also, the measurements of the corresponding utility meters 208 may be used to determine the power entering the premises via the meter over the same time period at premises 274a-b, 278a-c. The power delivered as measured by each sensor device 198g-h is expected to be generally equal to the power measured at its corresponding premises 274a-b, as determined from the meter 208 at such premises 274a-b. Similarly, the power delivered as measured by each sensor device 198a-c is expected to be generally equal to the power entering the premises at its corresponding premises 278a-c, as determined from the meter 208 at such premises 278a-c.

[0138]As with the other embodiments described herein, the device 210, power line server, or remote computer system processing the data may monitor and measure the discrepancy over time to determine if the discrepancy varies to further determine an increased likelihood of theft. Also, the utility may respond to discrepancies, and possible power theft, in a manner similar to that described above.

[0139]In other embodiments, the sensor devices 198 may be installed on a power line (e.g., a branch, supply line 206, or LV power line 114) that is connected to a different power line than the power line to which the communication device 210 is connected. For example, the sensor devices 198g-h of FIG. 17 may be installed on a different LV subnet and measure the power delivered from a different transformer 112. In such an embodiment, it may practical for the remote computer system (e.g., PLS) to compare the meter data from the meters 208 with the data from the sensor devices 198 to detect theft since the communication device 210 may not have ready access to the meter data. However, in some embodiments wherein the device 210 receives the meter data from the meters 208 (e.g., via a wireless link or from the PLS) the communication device 210 may perform the processing to identify theft.

[0140]FIGS. 17-18 show configurations 290, 300, respectively, in which a sensor device 198 may be installed on the medium voltage power line supplying power to a distribution transformer 112 for each of multiple distribution transformers 112 in a region. In particular, each sensor device 198 may be located on a conductor 292 extending from the transformer 112 to the MV power line 110. An LV power line 114 extends from each transformer 112 to provide power to premises connected to the LV subnet of the transformer 112. For example, the LV power line may split downstream and extend to respective premises being served. A power line communication device 210 receives measurement data from the sensor device 198. Each sensor device 198 communicates with a corresponding communication device 210 via wire 294, fiber optic or a wireless 302 link (FIG. 18). In configuration 290 (see FIG. 17) there is a power line communication device 210 located in the vicinity of each transformer 112. For each power line communication device 210 there is a corresponding sensor device 198. In configuration 300 (see FIG. 18) for each transformer there may or may not be a nearby power line communication device 210. For example, at transformer 112a there is a sensor device 198a, but no communication device 210. At transformer 112b there is a sensor device 198b and a communication device 210b. At transformer 112c there is a sensor device 198c but no communication device 210. For configuration 300, the sensor devices 198a, c which do not have an immediately nearby communication device 210b may include a wireless communication link 302 (e.g., via a wireless transceiver or transponder, see FIGS. 4 and 5) to a remote communication device 210b. While sensor devices 198a and 198c are depicted as measuring the power supplied to a distribution transformer 112a,c from the same MV power 110 that supplies power to distribution transformer 112b, devices 198a-c may be installed to measure the power delivered by different MV power lines (e.g., different phases of three phase conductors).

[0141]Referring to FIGS. 17 and 18, the data from any given sensor device 198 may be used to determine the power supplied to the distribution transformer 112 for a given time period. In some embodiments, the voltage into the transformer may be estimated based on an upstream measurement such as at the medium voltage substation. In other embodiments, a voltage sensor may be connected to a low voltage power line 114 in order to determine the voltage for calculating power. Once the power into the distribution transformer is known, the output power may be estimated. More specifically, the rated efficiency of a distribution transformer 112 is typically known by the utility provider. By subtracting the losses of the distribution transformer 112 from the power supplied to the distribution transformer 112, the power supplied to the LV subnet (the LV power line 114, supply lines 206, and all customer premises) may be estimated. For example, if a transformer is rated at ninety-five percent efficiency and the input to the transformer 112 is measured or determined to be 100 KWatts, the power supplied to the LV subnet may be estimated to be 95 KWatts. The transformer efficiency ratings may be stored at the device processing the data to detect theft such as, for example, at the communication device 210, power line server, remote computer system, or other device.

[0142]For configuration 290, each communication device 210 may receive data from its associated sensor device 198. For configuration 300, a given communication device 210b may receive data from multiple sensor devices 198 via wired or wireless links. As described above for the other configurations, the communication device 210 may process the data and transmit the reading and/or processing results to the utility provider or power line server 118. In some embodiments the communication device 210 also may receive data from various utility meters (not shown), and process and/or forward that data and processing results to the utility provider or power line server 118. For example, in configuration 290 a communication device 210 may receive utility meter data from utility meters installed on its low voltage subnet.

[0143]The power usage data from the utility meters 208 of the LV subnet receiving power from the distribution transformer 112 may be summed together and compared to the power supplied to the LV subnet. If there is a significant discrepancy between the aggregate measured power usage data (from the meters) and the estimated power delivered to the LV subnet, a power theft may be detected. The utility may respond to discrepancies, and possible power theft, in a manner similar to that described above with regard to the other configurations.

[0144]FIGS. 19-20 show configurations 310, 320, which are similar to configurations 290, 300 of FIGS. 17-18, respectively. In configurations 310, 320, however, the sensor devices 198 are located along the MV power line 110, rather than on a conductor 292 coupling a transformer 112 to the MV power line 110, as in configurations 290, 300. For each of configuration 310, 320 there is a sensor device 198 located along the MV power line 110 in the vicinity of a corresponding distribution transformer 112 for each of multiple distribution transformers 112 in a region. A power line communication device 210 receives measurement data from the sensor devices 198.

[0145]FIG. 21 illustrates a flow chart of an example implementation for processing the data according to one or more examples of the present invention. At process 322, the meter data is received, which includes the data from one or more meters 208 for a given time period (e.g., five minutes, fifteen minutes, one hour, twelve hours, one day, one week, or one month). Depending on the embodiment, at process 324 the meter data from a plurality of meters 208 is summed together. The meters that are summed may be those meters 208 to which the power delivered is measured and received at process 326. In some embodiments it may not be necessary to sum the meter data such as for the embodiment shown in FIG. 13 or other embodiments wherein the power delivered to a single customer premises is known or measured (and which can be compared to the data from a single meter). At process 328 it is determined whether there is a discrepancy exists between the power delivered and the power entering the premises (the power paid for) satisfying predetermined criteria such as, for example, having a predetermined magnitude (e.g., cost, percentage in watts, absolute in watts, etc.) and/or that varies over time. If a discrepancy is identified, process 330 may determine location information associated with the discrepancy such as, for example, retrieving from a database a pole number, a street address, a plurality of street addresses, a block, a building address (with a plurality of premises), a LV subnet, a transformer number, a transformer location, and/or other data. At process 332 notification of the discrepancy and the location information may be provided to the utility provider and at process 334 one or more customers may be notified (e.g., automatically electronically, via mail, via personnel, etc.). If a discrepancy is not identified at process 328, the process may be repeated for other LV subnets and repeated for the same LV subnet when new data is available. In some embodiments, all of these processes illustrated (and others) may be performed by a remote computer that receives the data. In other embodiments, some processes may be performed locally by a local communication device (e.g., processes 322, 324, and 326 in a first embodiment and processes 322, 324, 326, 328 in a second embodiment) and others may be performed by a remote computer that receives the data (e.g., processes 328, 330, 332, and 334 in the first embodiment and processes 330, 332, and 334 in the second embodiment).

[0146]Each sensor device 198 communicates with a corresponding communication device 210 via a wired 312, fiber optic or a wireless 302 link. In configuration 310 (see FIG. 19) there is a power line communication device 210 located in the vicinity of each transformer 112. Accordingly, for each power line communication device 210 there is a corresponding sensor device 198. In configuration 320 (see FIG. 20) for each transformer 112 there may or may not be a nearby power line communication device 210. For example, at transformer 112a there is a sensor device 198a but no communication device 210. At transformer 112b there is a sensor device 198b and a communication device 210b. At transformer 112c there is a sensor device 198c but no communication device 210. For configuration 320, the sensor devices 198a and 198c which do not have a nearby communication device 210b may include a wireless link 302 (e.g., via a wireless transceiver or transponder, see FIGS. 4 and 5) to a remote communication device 210b. The communication device 210b may receive and process the sensor device 198a, b, c measurement data.

[0147]The data obtained from any given sensor device 198 may be used to estimate the power delivered for a given time period. However, because the sensor devices 198 are located along the MV power line, downstream is not limited a specific area served by a specific transformer 112. Consider the flow of power signal which traverses the MV power line 110 in a direction 314. Power is drawn at each transformer 112a-c to serve a group of customers. Thus, a power measurement derived from sensor device 198b should be less than such a measurement derived from sensor device 198a by the amount of power supplied by distribution transformer 112b. Similarly, a power measurement derived from sensor device 198c should be less than a power measurement from sensor device 198b by the amount of power drawn by distribution transformer 112c. Thus, by placing sensors on a MV power line on each side of a distribution transformer, the amount of power supplied to that transformer may be determined.

[0148]Thus, while the configurations 310 and 320 of FIGS. 19-20 determine the amount of power supplied to the distribution transformer 112 differently than the configurations 290 and 300 of FIGS. 17 and 18, the remainder of the configurations (the method of determining the power delivered by the LV subnet and detecting power theft) are substantially the same and therefore not repeated here.

[0149]It will be appreciated that various configurations as presented herein may be combined and implemented at various areas of a power distribution system to detect power theft and identify a source of power theft to various levels of detail. For example, while the embodiments described along with FIGS. 12-20 are in the context of an overhead power distribution system, the invention is equally suitable for use in an underground power distribution system. Similarly, while the described embodiments communicate data via a power line communication system, the sensor devices 198 may be combined with wireless communication devices (e.g., mobile telephone transceivers, two way wireless pager system transceivers, WiFi transceivers, or other transceivers) to communicate via a wireless data network. In addition, the sensor devices 198 used for theft detection and other inventions described herein may take various forms and be comprised of any implementations of sensors and other software and circuitry suitable for the application and is not limited to the sensor devices described herein. In addition, collection of data from the communication devices may be via a wireless transceiver that is in a moving vehicle that drives by the communication devices and collects the data from the communications devices and/or meters (which may be wireless).

Other Applications of Power Line Parameter Data

[0150]Power line distribution parameter data also may be useful for maintaining, planning, and managing distribution of power within a region. Various examples are described below.

[0151]Maintenance of the power line distribution system may be performed efficiently by monitoring power line distribution parameters at sensors 115/116/198 located at many power line communication devices 138, 139, 135 positioned throughout the communication and distribution system 104. Examples of maintenance that may be improved include recloser duty monitoring; reading voltages associated with specific capacitors, specific capacitor banks, and regulators; voltage imbalance detection may be performed; secondary neutral failures may be identified; and switching steps may be more effectively implemented during planned power outages.

[0152]Planning may be performed more efficiently by monitoring power line distribution parameters at sensors 115/116/198 located at many power line communication devices 138, 139, 135 positioned throughout the communication and distribution system 104. Examples of planning processes that may be improved include; feeder flow planning (by power flow validation); quantification of cold load pickup; quantification of secondary losses; quantification of primary losses; application of manual switching devices; application of distribution automation devices; subsidiary relay settings; selection/validation of fuse sizes; recloser settings; capacitor switching sequencing; adaptive preferred/alternate switch schemes (semi-firm design); transformer unit/bank size requirements; and detection of current imbalances. The current sensor devices 116, voltage sensor devices and other parameter sensor devices 115 may be used to measure the parameters, and store the data in a database (e.g., of the power line server) for use in predicting conditions such as power distribution equipment failures. Thus, upon detecting a certain power distribution condition (e.g., a failure of a transformer, a fault, etc.), the values of the stored parameters just prior to the condition may be analyzed to identify a correlation (e.g., a pattern) between the parameter values and the condition so that when substantially the same parameter value measurements are detected again, the condition may be predicted (and notification transmitted).

[0153]Managing power distribution may be improved. By gathering power line distribution parameter data, such as power line current, power line voltage, power factor data, load or other parameter, the efficiency of the power line distribution system may be improved. For example, real time monitoring of power line current at many locations (such as many MV power line locations) within the power line distribution system may enable switches in the system (MV feeder switches) to be reconfigured to redistribute the load (i.e., the flow of current) in response to measured data. The redistribution may be done manually (e.g., by sending personnel), semi-automatically (e.g., by personnel remotely actuating the switch(es)), and/or automatically (e.g., actuation of the switch(es) via a remote computer executing program code that transmits control information to actuate the switch). For example, when one area habitually uses less power, that excess capacity can be utilized to supply more heavily loaded areas, to optimize utilization of the installed infrastructure.

[0154]In addition, by monitoring fault current and thereby locating faults, the duration of the power outage may be reduced to consumers. By detecting a high impedance (low current) fault on a MV power line, a break in the overhead power line may be traced to a location, such as where current still flows, but at a reduced amount because the overhead power line is `dancing` on the asphalt, averting a significant safety hazard. By analyzing trends in power line current and short duration changes, transient faults may be located. Current overloads may be identified to a specific device, signifying that such device should be replaced. Overloads also may be detected at a specific conductor, signifying that such conductor should be replaced. Overloads may be detected at a specific transformer, signifying that such transformer should be replaced. After a power outage, the measured current data may be used in selecting the MV power line switching sequences to restore power to specific areas. A switch may be evaluated by monitoring current across the switch (i.e., when in the normally closed position) to ensure that the switch is off and not faulty. A tie switch inadvertently left closed may be identified and located via current data. The measured current data may be used to derive the power factor, which in turn may be used to determine if load in an area is too reactive (e.g. to inductive). When too the load is too reactive, a switch may be actuated to insert or take out a capacitor bank for such area. By looking for a specific voltage and/or current signature pattern, such as a step function, an incipient failure of a transformer may be detected, and notice provided to the utility to replace the transformer. High voltage exceptions may be identified and located and low voltage exceptions may be identified and located. Voltage drops on secondary service loops can be characterized and the system reinforced if indicated.

[0155]It is to be understood that the foregoing illustrative embodiments have been provided merely for the purpose of explanation and are in no way to be construed as limiting of the invention. Words used herein are words of description and illustration, rather than words of limitation. In addition, the advantages and objectives described herein may not be realized by each and every embodiment practicing the present invention. Further, although the invention has been described herein with reference to particular structure, materials and/or embodiments, the invention is not intended to be limited to the particulars disclosed herein. Rather, the invention extends to all functionally equivalent structures, methods and uses, such as are within the scope of the appended claims. Those skilled in the art, having the benefit of the teachings of this specification, may affect numerous modifications thereto and changes may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20080109387 A1
Publish Date
05/08/2008
Document #
11775209
File Date
07/09/2007
USPTO Class
705412
Other USPTO Classes
702 62
International Class
/
Drawings
13



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