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Embedded database at the heart of new smart grid technology

15th August 2013


LocalGrid’s data management platform will be installed at Exhibition Place, Toronto, Canada

LocalGrid Technologies has partnered with National Instruments to develop a smart grid-ready platform that can be customised to meet the needs of different grid applications. At the heart of the platform is embedded database technology from Raima.

As countries across the world look to secure their energy supplies and reduce reliance on traditional fossil fuels, one of the challenges is to integrate alternative generation resources - wind, solar, tidal, and others - onto the grid effectively. Operators face the challenge of monitoring their performance in real time and optimising the microgrid or cell. Because disparate power generation sites tend to be located at some distance from the operations centre, all of this needs to be achievable remotely.

LocalGrid Technologies is addressing this requirement by creating a complete microgrid control solution based on NI CompactRIO hardware. The LocalGrid software runs on distributed embedded controllers deployed in the field, pushing intelligence and decentralized decision making out to the remote devices and distributed energy resources.

LocalGrid’s solution is a platform for securely managing power flow, peak load, distributed generation, and other energy assets using real-time data collection, analytics, and control on a distributed intelligence network, pushing the decision making out into the network, increasing the system fault-tolerance, and developing scalable architectures that will grow with the needs of the operator.

Key features of each device deployed to the network include high-speed data capture, high-speed logging, event detection, protocol translation (including Modbus, DNP3, IEC61850, and other custom protocols), custom control processing, custom control algorithm deployment processing, built-in security, and remote device management. In addition, an open architecture was considered essential for extending the capabilities of the system and ensuring interoperability.

Key to the design is embedded database technology, as Graham Beauregard of LocalGrid Technologies explains, “The core of our product is a secure distributed data management system, where each remote device stores its own local data in an internal encrypted database. The data from each device can be configured to flow up to a higher storage capacity device installed in a substation or operations centre for example.”

In looking for an appropriate database solution, LocalGrid had some demanding requirements. Beauregard comments, “Since we are using National Instruments CompactRIO embedded controllers, we are also using LabVIEW for most of our embedded development to be deployed on VxWorks and Linux®-based operating systems. Further, many of our client side applications run in Windows developed using C#, so we needed a cross-platform, highly flexible database solution that supports encryption.”

That solution seemed elusive until National Instruments informed LocalGrid that an embedded database with a native LabVIEW API was now available – Raima Database API for LabVIEW, implemented with RDM Embedded 11. This provides a database management solution specifically designed for applications deployed on CompactRIO and NI Single-Board RIO devices. Standalone operation is possible because the database resides in the LabVIEW data directory. It offers extended functionality to share data between multiple targets – whether sharing information between CompactRIO devices or outside computers.

The Raima Database API for LabVIEW provides programmers with a way to quickly and easily design data management functionality into their software applications using an intuitive and easy-to-use programming interface that is familiar to them.

Rugged and reliable, with fast, deterministic performance, Raima Database API for LabVIEW is available on the LabVIEW Tools Network <http://www.ni.com/labview-tools-network/>  and is the first database to deliver relational data management locally on real-time CompactRIO devices. One or more CompactRIO or NI Single-Board RIO devices may store and share data without requiring connectivity to external database servers. Events may be logged and queried, streams may be captured and configurations may be shared through Raima functions.

The database technology supports VxWorks and support for the NI Linux real-time targeted platforms is under development, which was important for LocalGrid. Furthermore, its small footprint means it can run on a variety of embedded systems in field devices that may have very limited resources.

“RDM Embedded is fast, flexible, and designed for embedded targets allowing us to base our entire system around a single database product with native support for LabVIEW,” comments Beauregard. “This will simplify our design and reduce errors or unknowns during development.”

Development of LocalGrid’s innovative platform is moving forward quickly, and the company is currently working with an industry-leading distribution utility that is pioneering new technology for the power industry. In addition, LocalGrid has already deployed multiple units in the field and is working to deploy many more over the next year. “The Raima embedded database has been one of the keys to our technology, and we have worked very closely with Raima throughout the development of our solution,” says Beauregard.

“We have found Raima to be a highly responsive and knowledgeable partner,” he continues. “We have been working with them for most of the development of their LabVIEW API, and wherever there was a problem Raima has always responded quickly and turned around a solution within days.”

For more information, visit www.ni.com/labviewtools









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