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Guest article: Making the right communications choice for smart meter technology

Stevan Hoyle | April 11, 2013
Smart metering presents an innovative and cost effective way to provide customers with real-time information giving them greater control over energy costs, while supporting the goal of a greener economy.

Long Wave Radio

Another option being considered is long wave radio. Operating on a dedicated licensed spectrum, long wave radio provides energy and utility companies with the confidence that smart meter readings will be transmitted over a secure network. In an era where loss or theft of customer information can seriously damage brand integrity and directly impact revenue, the ability to protect consumer data is an advantage for the use of long wave radio.

In order for this technology to facilitate the widespread deployment of smart meters, a large amount of infrastructure development is needed to get it up and running. The time, money and planning required means there is reluctance within the utilities industry to adopt it for smart metering. There is also a belief by many that hinging the success of such a largescale project on an untested network is too much of a risk.

The Mobile Operator

A third option increasingly being talked about is mobile networks.

The mobile network is being considered because it is an existing tried and tested infrastructure, with near complete coverage in most regions.

If the mobile phone network is chosen, it could be activated immediately and require minimal infrastructure costs. The ability to use the existing infrastructure will help Asia Pacific to pursue its Green Growth policy of having ecologically sustainable economic progress to foster low carbon and socially inclusive development as the carbon impact of a mobile operator run smart meter programme would be marginal. In addition, as the size of the information being transmitted is relatively small, the impact on the network would be negligible.

The Changing Nature of Energy Consumption

Smart metering is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the use of M2M technology. Once machines are connected, almost anything with a SIM card can be monitored, tracked and controlled through a mobile network. This includes any SIM-enabled device in the home.

That will be made all the more important for customers when energy companies start to introduce more complex tariffs based on consumer habits. For example, mornings when people wake up and evenings when people get in from work are times of heavy energy use. In order to deal with excess demand, power plants turn to inefficient generators to ensure supply, which in turn drives up carbon emissions. By making energy cheaper during specific times of the day or night, suppliers will be able to govern demand and energy supply more effectively by encouraging people to use their utilities at certain times.

Where smart metering and M2M technology will help is by giving customers greater control over how and when they use energy - irrespective of when they are at home. As such, M2M will have some profound advantages for customers, giving them greater control of their spending by enabling them to set their washing machine, tumble dryer, or charge an electric car during off peak hours. Not only will this reduce energy bills, but smart meters will also alleviate the strain on the network and reduce carbon emissions.


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