Security for Optical Ports on Energy Meters

Optical ports provide local access for service engineers during installation or maintenance of energy meters.

Households have physical access to their energy meter and might try to get access to the meter software.

The optical interface for smart meters from almost every manufacturer is specified in the IEC 62056-21. (The US-American ANSI C12.18 is not covered by this article.)

Main functions that can be accessed using optical communication

  • Billing data readout
  • TOU (Time of Use) readout and modification
  • Billing period reset
  • Register and profile resets
  • Parameter readout and modification
  • Communication input settings
  • Analysis and diagnostic functions

Note: During the production process electronic meters need to be adjusted. This is done by writing correction values in a dedicated memory inside the meter. This correction values are protected against external access and can not be overwritten once the meter has left the manufacturing site. There are different protection solutions. Some manufacturers are using the optical port for adjustment and lock later this memory section. CLOU meters are using a special port on the PCB for adjustment, which has no physical connection with the infrared port in compliance with the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID).

Protection of the Optical Port

The IEC specification defines the following communication modes:

  • Mode A
  • supports bidirectional data exchange at 300 baud without baud rate switching. This protocol mode permits data readout and programming with optional password protection.

  • Mode B
  • offers the same functionality as protocol mode A, but with additional support for baud rate switching.

  • Mode C
  • offers the same functionality as protocol mode B with enhanced security and manufacturer-specific modes.

  • Mode D
  • supports unidirectional data exchange at a fixed baud rate of 2400 baud and permits data readout only.

  • Mode E
  • allows the use of other protocols.

For the password command, the following command type identifiers are defined:

– 0 data is operand for secure algorithm

– 1 data is operand for comparison with internally held password

– 2 data is result of secure algorithm (manufacturer-specific)

These defined command type identifiers allow static passwords (1) or a manufacturer-specific challenge-response algorithm (0 and 2). Furthermore operation mode C supports manufacturer-specific enhanced security, which is out of the scope of the IEC standard.

Besides this password protection, the IEC standard defines a set of security levels for use in combination with mode C.

  • Access level 1
  • only requires knowledge of the protocol to gain access.

  • Access level 2
  • requires a password to be correctly entered.

  • Access level 3
  • requires operation of a sealable button or manipulation of certain data with a secret algorithm to gain access.

  • Access level 4
  • requires physical entry into the case of the meter and effecting a physical change, such as making/breaking a link or operation of a switch, before further communications access is allowed.

Practical security implementation

The safest method for optical port protection is a authentication by a challenge-response algorithm. This requires that each meter has a unique key. The complex key administration is a back-draw for optical port communication because each handheld- or PC need to keep the meter specific key, while each meter needs to keep the PC specific key. For remote access (AMI systems) this procedure is recommended.

The CLOU risk analysis shows that the most suitable approach is to use a password for read-only operations, together with a manufacturer specific data encryption. For writing operations the terminal cover must be open.

Once the terminal cover is opened unauthorized the meter is recording a tamper event. Depending on the meter type the relay trips and in case of a AMI system the tamper event is forwarded to the centre.

A sealing of the optical port itself does not provide additional security.

When do I need Isolation Current Transformers?

This question comes always up together with stationary meter testing in laboratories. Isolation Current Transformers (ICT) are needed to test more than one direct connected energy meter on a test bench with multiple positions, assuming that the I-P links can not be opened.
terminal blockIf you can’t find the links (red arrows) on the meter terminal block you need to use ICTs for testing.
And why?
All electronic meters have a power supply, linked between phases and neutral. This power supplies have a consumption (see e.g. IEC62053-21, #7.7.1). According to the Kirchhoff’s Circuit Laws a fraction of the test current will be used by the power supply. This leads to a current-drop on the next test position and to an increasing error from position to position.
The smaller the test current, the higher is the impact on error measurement.
And how does an ICT overcome this problem?
An ICT is principally a transformer with a 1:1 ratio. You have a primary side (where the source is injecting the current) and a secondary side with the connections to the meter. The test voltage is individually provided to each meter on the secondary side of the ICT. So all meters get the same test current. See for example our ICT CL2030 with advanced additional features like protection and remote access by PC-software.
What about single phase meters?
Closed link single phase meters can be tested with ICTs. For single-phase test benches a Multi Secondary Voltage Transformer (MSVT) can be used. With a MSVT the test voltage is made galvanic free, while an ICT makes the currents galvanic free.
To test single-phase meters with closed links you need to have a testbench with MSVTs.
To test three-phase meters with closed links you need to have a testbench with ICTs.
For testing of transformer operated meters (CT, CT/VT) we recommend a direct connection to the test bench. This meters have the current- and voltage circuits separated internally.

Why do I need a vector diagram?

Modern reference standards and calibration devices have usually a graphical function to show the relationship between the voltages and the currents. Most equipment manufacturers call this function vector diagram or vectorial diagram.
In fact it is a phasor diagram. It represents a the phase relations of a sinusoidal rotating system at a certain time.
The system rotation (everything inside the circle) is anti-clockwise. The graph is shown either with

  • current phase L1 in zero degrees position
  • voltage phase L1 in 90° position

Actually the vector diagrams in test equipments are showing only the angles and not the amplitude of the phases. The reason behind is that you won’t see very small current vectors with the given resolution. Anyway, we can nicely read all amplitude values from the instrument. Common practice is to show the voltages with higher amplitude than the currents (voltages are on the outer circle).

Main use for vector diagrams is to check the proper connection of the instrument before you make error measurements.
If you see e.g. that the current of a phase is in opposite to the voltage, it is likely possible that the current clamp is connected in the wrong direction.

The simulation below is kept very simple. You can set the phase angles between I and U, the phase sequence and the reference for the system. The power values are calculated based on your settings.

phase L1phase L2phase L3

With a right-click on desktop PCs you can save your drawing(s).

What is the meaning of the different current subscripts?

Together with tender documents and meter specifications you will find various subscripts related to current.

  • current I without subscript
    This is the actual current flowing trough the energy meter.
  • starting current Ist
    This is the lowest value of current at which the meter should register electrical energy at unity power factor and, for poly-phase meters, with balanced load.
  • minimum current Imin
    This is the lowest value of current at which the meter is specified to meet the accuracy requirements.
  • transitional current Itr
    At this value of current and above the meter must to lie within the smallest maximum permissible error corresponding to the accuracy class of the meter.
  • basic current Ib
    This term is used in IEC standards for direct connected meters. All accuracy values are related to Ib
  • nominal current In
    This is the same like Ib but for transformer operated meters.
  • reference current Iref
    The term is only used in EN 50470-1. It is the reference current (for direct connected meters Iref = 10 x Itr = Ib according to EN 62052-11,; for CT-connected meters Iref = 20 x Itr = In
  • maximum current Imax
    This is the highest value of current at which the meter is specified to meet the accuracy requirements.

Now let’s look more in detail:

  1. Starting current Ist according to IEC
    The starting current is a fraction of the basic current or nominal current. See the multiplication factors below:

    PASS/FAIL criteria:
    The meter has to start and continue recording energy. Means, we need to receive at least two pulses from the meter within a certain period of time.
    How to calculate the time?
    We have the nominal voltage, the number of elements, the starting current and the meter constant. Now we can calculate:

    This is the duration for one pulse for a meter with zero error. So, first we double the time because we need to receive two pulses. Then, the IEC does not specify any accuracy for starting test. So we need to consider the meter error. Best practice is to add 20 % to your calculated time for two pulses. This will be in most cases sufficient.
    If the meter fails with this time-out calculation you are allowed to extend it. The standard setting of CLOU test benches is 120 %.
    From the formula you can see that a higher meter constant is preferable because it saves testing time.
  2. Starting current Ist according to EN
    As usual we have to deal with more standards. For MID the relevant standards are EN 50470-1 and EN 50470-3 .
    Here is the starting current a fraction of Itr

    Itr is directly liked to Iref (see above). So, if we have a direct connected meter Itr is 10 % of Ib. For CT meters Itr is 5 % of In
    The PASS/FAIL criteria are exactly the same as described in #1: starting current Ist according to IEC
  3. Starting current Ist according to OIML R46
    OIML stands for ORGANISATION INTERNATIONALE DE MÉTROLOGIE LÉGALE, in English: International Organization of Legal Metrology. The OIML has published the recommendation R46 (please download the actual version from the OIML website). This description is based on the document r46-p-e12.pdf.
    PASS/FAIL criteria:
    The R46 requires an error measurement for starting current. This means, we set our test equipment to error measurement mode. Best practice is to make the error measurement for two pulses. During production and knowing the behavior of the meter you can also test with one pulse (leads to a higher error deviation).
    The maximum permissible error needs to be calculated.

    Note: The 2010 edition had a more restrict calculation formula for the allowed error. Please make sure that you work with the actual document.

What are harmonics ?

Note: This post is extremely simplified to give some brief information.
Generally a harmonic is a integer multiple of the fundamental frequency (nominal frequency fn). The fundamental frequency is either 50 Hz or 60 Hz.
So, when we have a nominal frequency fn of 50 Hz, the 3rd harmonics is traveling with a frequency of 50 Hz multiplied by 3 = 150 Hz.
We can have harmonics in the voltages and in the currents.
Current harmonics
In a normal AC power system we have a sinusoidally current with the same frequency as the voltage. When a non-linear load is connected, the current waveform will become complex. But the wave can be split in harmonic sine waves with the help of the Fourier analysis. Don’t worry, the calculations are done by the CLOU reference standards and advanced AMI meters.
What can cause current harmonics?

  • rectifiers
  • computer
  • UPS
  • fluorescent lighting
  • battery chargers
  • variable speed drives
  • PV- and wind power converters

Voltage harmonics
Voltage harmonics are caused by the current harmonics, so they are typically smaller than the current harmonics.

Beside of a magnitude harmonics also have a phase angle, indicated relative to the fundamental wave.

What is the impact of harmonics?
Harmonics can cause

  • overheating of motors, transformers, cables
  • malfunction of relays and breakers
  • disturbance of PLC communication
  • damage of capacitors or capacitor banks for power factor compensation

What are the limits?
Most countries follow the IEEE 519 recommendations.
Voltages up to 1 kV are allowed to have a individual harmonics content of 5 %, the THD (total harmonic distortion) should not exceed 8 %. Odd current harmonics (between order no. 3 and 11) with a current between 50 A and 100 A are allowed to have 7 % for individual currents and a maximum THD of 8 %.
Please note that utility regulations might be different.

With CLOU portable reference standards you can monitor the harmonics behavior on site during a calibration. Our AMI systems can provide long time statistics.

order no.amplitude %phase shift °

The fundamental wave is blue, the total harmonic distortion is red.

Reference literature:
IEC 61000-4-7

Isolating Current Transformer CL2030-D

If a meter has no possibility to open the internal link between voltage and current, the test must be performed with an Isolated Current Transformer (ICT) at each measurement position.
The CL2030-D has a built-in electronic compensation. The ICTs can be remote controlled by PC. A safety protection by controller is built in. This assures that the secondary side is closed in case of high burden or open circuit. Each ICT will be delivered with a company calibration certificate. A certificate issued by an ILAC accredited laboratory is optional available.


Specifications ICT CL2030-D

Nominal Current100 A, max. load 120 %
Ratio1 : 1
Ratio error±0.01 % (0.2 A … 120 A)

±0.03 % (0.05 A < 0.2 A)

±0.05 % (0.01 A < 0.05 A)

Phase displacement±0.3’ (0.2 A … 120 A)

± 3’ (0.05 A < 0.2 A)

± 8’ (0.01 A < 0.05 A)

Max. rated secondary voltage0.7 V
Max. rated burden for 10 mA ≤ I < 2 A200 mΩ
Max. rated burden for I ≥ 2 A0.7 V / I
Frequency range45 Hz … 65 Hz
Weight:15 kg


CLOU control box CL2030-3D-CB
The ICTs can operate stand-alone or together with a remote/control by PC. For remote control with 3rd party equipment a control box CL2030-3D-CB is needed. A interface-description is available on request.

This links are uses to interconnect the primary side of ICTs. The copper links are galvanized. This links are designed to connect ICTs with a center to center distance of min 297 mm and max 317 mm.


If you are test equipment manufacturer you can get the ICT2030-D with your company-logo and without any CLOU indication from outside visible.

Category: CL2030

Principally yes, there must be enough space behind the quick connectors and the source must be powerful enough. Please sent us more information, then we can do a proper integration.

Category: CL2030

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Wireless Scanning Head for Pulse Detection TP-17

This scanning head can be used for detection of metrological LED pulse outputs for static electronic meters together with CLOU/CLOUTEK portable meter test equipment. It is also possible to connect to meter test equipment from other manufacturers

The TP-17 Wireless scanning head is based on the Nordic nRF24L01+, highly integrated, ultra low power (ULP) 2 Mbps RF transceiver for the 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) band. It includes the Enhanced ShockBurst™ hardware protocol accelerator for a high-speed SPI interface. The no. of TP-17 Wireless scanning heads working in parallel is not limited.


Specifications scanning head TP-17 Wireless
wavelength400 …1100 nm
max. sampling frequency3 kHz
uncertainty of switching edge detection± 1 μs
pulse width≥ 0.2 ms
operating voltage3.3 V DC
scanning distance10 … 100 mm
housinghard plastic
dimensions55 mm x 30 mm x 38 mm
weight< 90 g
transmission power0 dBm ≙ 1 mW
transmission range, outdoormax. 40 m
transmission range, indoor, industrial environment25 m (one wall)
battery capacity800 mAh
permanent operation, battery full charged72 h
battery chargingUSB adapter cable
ingress protectionIP 54
operating temperature:-40 °C…+85 °C
relative humidity:> 85 %


Specifications receiver for scanning head TP-17 Wireless
operating voltage3.3 V … 5 V DC
operating current≤ 30 mA
output signal, high≥ 4.5 V
output signal, low≤ 0.3 V


The scanning system consists of

  • Scanning head TP-17 wireless 2.4 GHz transmitter, fixed at the energy meter
  • Fixing device TP-GS 2
    – fastening to meter by two side-plates, can be moved up and down along the meter
    – can be used for rectangle- or round meters
    – adjustable width from 35 to 180 mm
    – provides magnetic adhesion to scanning probes
    – provides mechanical adhesion to scanning probes
    – probes can be moved left/right freely
    – made of insulation material, which ensures safety and portability
  • Receiver TP-17 wireless
  • USB charging cable for scanning head
  • Pairing cable
  • Transport bag


ce mark

Yes, the scanning head TP17-wireless is designed and manufactured in conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). The compliance was verified by MicroTest (external type test laboratory).

Category: TP17-wireless

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What is the difference between adjustment and calibration?

The term calibration is often misused.
Calibration means the comparison of a unit under test (in our case a energy meter or reference standard) with a test equipment with higher accuracy. It is a strict comparison to evaluate the accuracy error.

Adjustment involves a manipulation of the unit under test. Electromechanical meters have adjustment screws, electronic meters have special memory for correction values.
After production a energy meter is adjusted first. The target is to bring the meter as close to zero error as possible. Once the meter is adjusted, the performance must be verified.
This is done with a calibration.

Three Phase Reference Standard CL3115

reference standard CL3115-HW

This reference standard has accuracy class 0.02 1
It can be used for

  • voltage measurement
  • current measurement
  • phase angle measurement
  • frequency measurement
  • harmonics analysis up to the 63th
  • power measurement, active-, reactive-, apparent
  • self consumption measurements
  • accuracy error calculations 2
  • register tests
  • Specs

    Specifications Reference Standard CL3115-HW, Mains connection




    85 V … 265 V AC


    45 Hz … 65 Hz

    Power consumption

    < 30 VA

    Preheating time

    15 minutes

    Operating temperature

    5 °C … 45 °C

    Max. relative humidity

    ≤ 85 %, not condensate

    Surge voltage protection

    class C

    Installation category


    Pollution degree



    approx. 13 kg


    19” 3 units,
    H x W x D: 132,5 mm x 483 mm x 405 mm

    Specifications Reference Standard CL3115-HW, measurement values



    Test voltage, phase-neutral

    30 V … 576 V

    Voltage ranges

    60 V, 120 V, 240 V, 480 V, auto range

    Test current

    1 mA … 120 A

    Current ranges

    10 mA, 20 mA, 50 mA, 0.1 A, 0.2 A, 0.5 A, 1 A, 2 A,
    5 A, 10 A, 20 A, 50 A, 100 A, auto range

    Frequency range, fundamental wave

    40 Hz … 70 Hz


    4 kHz

    Voltage measurement accuracy

    < 0.01 %

    Voltage measurement drift

    < 35 ppm / year

    Current measurement accuracy < 25 mA

    < 0.02 %

    Current measurement accuracy ≥ 25 mA

    < 0.01 %

    Current measurement drift

    < 65 ppm / year

    Power measurement accuracy P, Q, S

    < 0.02 % (current ≥ 25 mA and λ = 1)

    Power measurement drift

    < 100 ppm / year

    Phase angle

    < 0.01° (current ≥ 25 mA and voltage > 30 V)


    0.005 Hz

    Voltage temperature drift

    < 2,5 ppm / K

    Current temperature drift

    < 5 ppm / K

    Power temperature drift

    < 7.5 ppm / K

    Errors are independent of measurement mode and when using auto range. The reference standard provides a power proportional frequency output (160 kHz nominal).


    The equipment can be operated manually with menu keys or via RS485 remote control. A interface description for integration into 3rd party meter test equipment is available on request. Below are some screen-shots
    Power indication in 3 phase 4 wire mode

    voltage, current, phase angle

    Power indication in 3 phase 4 wire mode

    power indication in 3ph 3 wire mode

    accuracy measurement


    scanning head
    transport case


    The recalibration period is defined by national rules or by company policy. Typically it’s one or two years.
    The reference standard can be calibrated by any recognized body or metrological institute.

    Please note that there is a difference between recalibration and readjustment.

    An adjustment becomes necessary once the reference standard accuracy is out of the specified class. The adjustment can be done locally. There is no need to sent the instrument back to us.

    The reference standard CL3115 is by default delivered with a company calibration certificate. It can also be delivered with a calibration certificate issued by an ILAC accredited laboratory on additional cost.

    Following measurement modes are supported by the reference standard CL3115:

    • Three-phase four-wire system, active/ reactive true/apparent
    • Three-phase three-wire system, active/ reactive true/ apparent
    • Single-phase system, active/ reactive true/ apparent
    • Three elements cross connected 90° (Q390)
    • Two elements cross connected 90° (Q290)
    • Two elements cross connected 60° (Q260)
    CL3115 meter constants

    3 wire and 4 wire mode



















































































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