Monday, November 25, 2013

TQ System offers new IEC 61850 Demo Kit

TQ System offers new IEC 61850 Demo Kit for an ARM9 module with i.MX28 from Freescale.

Click HERE to see the details of the platform.

The Manual of the Development Kit gives you some hints on the usability for getting started:

IEC 61850 Server/Client Application Demo for TQ Systems

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reduced the Complexity of IEC 61850 to a Beautiful Simplicity

One of the crucial challenges using IEC 61850 is the complexity of IEC 61850 – maybe you have made this experience. There is a beautiful way to simplify. Interested to learn about this way? Read this post.

  • IEC 61850 and IEC 60870-5-104 (DNP3) are well known and used standards for many application domains all over.
  • IEC 60870-5-104 and DNP3 are the preferred solutions for Tele-Control and Tele-Monitoring. They provide simple exchange of status, measurements, counters, and control commands.
  • These protocols are implemented in most control centers and SCADA systems.
  • IEC 61850 is the preferred solution for information management for substation protection, monitoring, and automation.
  • The need for collecting more condition monitoring information from process equipment like transformers, switch gears, cable, … is preferably implemented by IEC 61850.
  • One crucial challenge is: How can the huge amount of IEC 61850 based information easily be carried by IEC 60870-5-104 (DNP3)?
  • A set of slides shows the beauty of a very simple and powerful gateway.

Want to see a live demo? Visit us at the SPS/IPC/Drives Fair in Nuremberg (Germany) on November 28-29, 2013, hall 9 / booth 341.


Click HERE for a free ticket. I look forward to meeting you there.
Click HERE for the complete slide set on the Beautiful Simplicity [68 pages, pdf, 3.9 MB].


The solution is based on the Beck IPC@CHIP solution:


The core component is a WEB-PLC that is used to graphically program your Gateway based on Input and Output signals:


(almost) all you need to do is to connect graphically Inputs and Outputs with each other or other logic (AND, OR, …):


Use the WEB-PLC for binary inputs and outputs or for reporting of measured values:


com.tom Energy Flyer [English]
com.tom Energy Flyer [Deutsch]

Any question? Contact us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Do we need Blackouts to Expose Flaws in the Grid?

From the viewpoint of a engineers: No! There are many engineers or other technicians that are aware of the condition of the whole system – including the aging work force. From the viewpoint of many people in charge to make decisions to invest or not to invest: Yes!

The New York Times published yesterday an article about the biggest power outage in the history of Northern America: the 2003 blackout. Since then a lot has improved – enough to keep the power flowing at mid November 2013. Is it enough for the years to come? We will see if the improvements payoff or not.

The article states: “The improvements were ideas that engineers had always liked, but had trouble persuading utility executives and public service commissions to pay for.”

Click HERE to read the article.

I hope that the voice of the engineers will convince more decision-makers to allocate sufficient resources for keeping the aging power infrastructure running, the power flowing, the grass green, and the sky blue.

Some 10 years after the first substation automation systems have been equipped with IEC 61850 based devices, a lot of smart engineers see the need to invest into defining a second layer on top of the standards and the many options they provide. This second layer could be named: Interoperability Profile Specifications. The standards comprise several hundred of options (in models, services, and extensions) that lead to a proliferation of implementations. A growing number of engineers is struggling to let two or more devices from multiple vendors understand each other.

I look forward to seeing more decision-makers from all stake-holders to provide the needed resources for the development of Interoperability Profile Specifications.

I always say in my courses that IEC 61850 is very scalable – BUT YOU have to SCALE each and every device! Scaling needs to be done in a way that for a given application ALL devices apply THE VERY SAME SCALE!! The scales have to be negotiated and applied by all participants of a system.

When does the users community want to get there? If the answer is: as soon as possible – you should invite experienced people to help you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is Security really a big Issue in the Power Industry?

It all depends on to whom you listen. I have discussed the security issue quite often. Hope that some people have listened to me. ;-)

These days you can see a lot of intensified discussions related to the use of DNP3 and especially the application at the control center (or master) side of the communication channel. One IED talks usually to one master station – but: One master station may talk to many many IEDs. DNP3 master stations are centralized components in SCADA systems used in many industries: power, gas, oil, water, waste water, … in general automation.

One of the crucial issues is that it seems quite easy to send a specific message from a control center (master) to the substation to put the slave (RTU) into a infinite loop condition (blocking further information sharing) or a spontaneous message from a substation to the control center to put the master into infinite a loop condition (blocking further information sharing). In both cases the devices must be shut down and restarted.

Click HERE to read one of the latest discussions.

I experienced recently the following: an IEC 61850 Server sent a report message with a value derived from a DataSet member of type FCDA to a client (in a gateway for a big control system, DCS). The client (client application) stopped working properly … just did not react anymore. As a result the client did not only “refuse” to work with this server – it also stopped communicating with other servers it was connected to.

Hm, by reporting just a value from a FCDA member (LN XX FC=ST DO=Pos DA=stVal) instead from a FCD member (LN XX FC=ST DO=Pos  with three DA components: stVal, q and t) the client (client application) gives up to work … what a surprise. I was really surprised!

One solution to overcome this situation could be to require more conformance tests of clients (and servers!). That would help a lot.

BUT at the end of the day you may run into similar issues even if the client has been successfully conformance tested and certified: The clients and servers implementing IEC 61850 will support a subset of the features the standard defines. Independent of a certificate it would be more important to get a document that lists all the restrictions and specialties of a client or a server. If you know that a client crashes when you report a value from a FCDA member of a DataSet, then you could (at least) work around that problem by just configuring FCD members!

Figuring out that the use of a FCDA member causes a gateway to crash may take days of analysis and discussions … and is produces a lot of frustration before, during and after such a process.

Lesson learned: Clients, Server, Publisher and Subscriber have to come not only with a certificate but also with comprehensive documentation.

Dear Utility user: ask for sufficient documentation! We could help you to analyze the documentation to figure out …

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IEC Smart Grid Tool now online

The IEC Central Office has published a comprehensive tool to facilitate identification and access to relevant standards for use cases and implementation of Smart Grid. This tool includes links to IEC standards as well as relevant standards from other organizations. The smart grid tool available at will be useful for all other IEC groups engaged in systems level work.

You will find IEC 61850 all over on that “map” – no surprise.