What role will smart metering systems play in the future?

Published: 1 August 2020 - 6 a.m.

Comarch Smart Metering is an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that responds to the need for remote and automatic measurement of media consumption. Originally it concerned only electricity meters, now it also includes meters for water, gas, heat and other utilities, the consumption of which should be constantly monitored. The system architecture, which creates a ready-made solution for the needs of urban infrastructure development, also includes the concepts for creating Smart City and Industry 4.0.

Easy installation

These systems are associated with the IoT concept and are based on a combination of three elements: devices (which download data), cloud solutions (where data is stored) and connectivity (communication technologies through which data is transmitted), while providing a constant fully remote access to data in real time.

Most of them can be implemented using the existing infrastructure (the so-called retrofitting — modernisation, digitalisation process). These systems rely on the installation of small IoT devices that collect consumption data and transfer them to the customer’s IT systems. The installation itself does not require replacement or breach of the integrity of meters, thereby preserving manufacturer guarantees and low-cost digitalisation of the network. One can also carry it out in a fast, less invasive and safe way. Comarch Smart Metering is one such solution.

In less frequent cases, you may need to replace some or all of the existing infrastructure with new components. In some countries, legislation requires the periodic legalisation of meters – the installation of Smart Metering systems can take place during such activities. The entry barrier to IoT activities in the industry is therefore minimal.

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Revolution in the utilities industry

We have entered a whole new era of readings. Smart Metering systems provide companies in the utilities sector with the ability to monitor media supply networks and efficiently respond to current events. Data can be obtained even from meters that are difficult to access and those located at long distances from each other. They are sent periodically, informing the end user about the reading, transmission data and possible failures and errors. This makes it possible to send teams almost immediately where they are needed at any given time. All of this enables teams to respond as quickly as possible if a problem arises.

In addition, the system enables users to monitor their own consumption on an ongoing basis. Thanks to the data provided to them in real time, they are encouraged to reduce their demand (and thus to reduce their bills and engage in more environmentally-friendly behaviour, e.g. to reduce the carbon footprint in the case of smart energy meters). Increased awareness of end users also results in their greater involvement and activity.

The implementation of Smart Metering systems has a real impact on the environment. We are currently observing an increase in the consumption of natural resources, especially water. The growing population causes an increase in consumption in households, industry, agriculture, and business. Climate change causes real threats related to droughts, floods and migration of people, which is why it is so important to strive to change demand for and supply of individual resources and to manage them more efficiently by responsible entities. The implementation of smart metering systems is not only beneficial for business, but necessary in the long term.

In conclusion, incorporating an ecosystem of IoT solutions provides measurable value that allows the utilities sector to rationalise resource management and achieve real business benefits. On the other hand, the telecommunications sector gains revenues due to the digitalisation of the utilities sector. It provides a connection between devices and the IoT platform, and thus also contributes to the creation of green and smart cities, while protecting natural resources and the environment.

Smart Metering system operation in practice

The Comarch smart metering system is a solution that has been operating for over a year in practice. At the beginning of 2019, Comarch Smart Metering was implemented at a water supply company in the United Arab Emirates. The good condition of the current infrastructure there precluded the replacement of currently used meters, so it was necessary to carry out their digitalization. Comarch faced the challenge of retrofitting, which was a great success.

The Comarch Smart Metering implementation confirmed that the device also works in extremely difficult conditions (in the desert, in sewage wells, where meters are located at a depth of up to 8 metres underground). The use of new data transmission technology (Narrowband-IoT) means you can constantly transmit consumption and telemetry data in a secure and stable manner. Crucially, Comarch Smart Metering can also rely on other types of technology, and work is currently underway on the 4G and LORA versions.

The 4G version of Smart Metering is undoubtedly the best solution dedicated to meters in blocks of flats, office buildings, and in multi-family housing, where they are densely located. It can run on any SIM card, which ensures ease of implementation through the use of the existing cellular network infrastructure.

The development perspective of Smart Metering with Comarch

It is predicted that remote monitoring solutions, including resources, which include smart metering solutions, will increasingly revolutionize the utilities industry, according to a report by Markets and Markets.

We are already seeing a huge increase in their popularity. Climate change, and the increase in demand for natural resources while reducing their availability, generates the need to seek new technological solutions to protect our vital resources. The implementation of such solutions is no longer just a business opportunity, but also a drastic need of the modern world to which we must all respond.

Integration into other systems

It is worth adding that the system designed by Comarch is also compatible with other solutions, like Manhole Monitoring, which is a solution for fully automatic monitoring of openings and closures of all hatches, including sewage wells, switchboards or doors, which helps in remote data monitoring and immediate response to unexpected situations.

Comarch IoT Platform is a platform that connects devices with external applications and systems and collects and stores a huge amount of data obtained through IoT equipment. This cloud solution also includes the libraries necessary to quickly create applications with open application programming interfaces (APIs), which guarantees the security when monitoring the devices connected to it. Importantly, it easily integrates with other corporate systems, e.g. for customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and others.

In addition, thanks to the Comarch IoT platform, integration with the Head-End System (HES) is also possible, so it performs automatic measurements and data acquisition. What is more, Comarch FSM (Field Service Management) enables to automate service and network maintenance as well as to manage the work of technicians/field workers, which brings real business benefits.

Download the full report.

Download the use case about the implementation in Dubai.

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