Smart meter gateways as lifesavers?
The rolling out of smart metering infrastructure is about much more than “just” technology that is rollout-ready. Does that make sense? Excellent! In anticipation of 2017 being an exciting year, please join me on my journey through the year 2016. What were the hot topics of discussion in the context of smart metering in Germany?
Disruption is the keyword – or perhaps digital transformation?
The “old” world of the energy industry is being turned on its head – and a lot of companies in the energy market are finding this disruptive. In contrast, other markets are talking about a digital transformation – two very differing perspectives.
These processes of change with the goal of digitalization have been underway for some time now. In the energy market, this has been driven above all by the increasing decentralization of production – which has also given rise to a new role in the market: the prosumer, who is both a producer and a consumer.
For many energy companies, the need to build up a completely new technological base is uncharted territory and something they’re experiencing for the first time. In addition, digitalization is a sociopolitical topic. It affects us all: not just the energy suppliers, but customers and the general public.
The Internet of Things is establishing itself in the energy market
Do you wonder what the energy market and the IoT have in common? If so, you’re not alone. So far, the energy industry in Germany has seldom been associated with the IoT. Arguments such as data protection, guidelines, and directives were used to explain why the IoT was not relevant to the energy industry. In 2016, this view finally began to change in Germany, too.
The tone at various smart metering events was that the IoT – in other words, the networking of devices and services – is a prerequisite for new offerings and new business models. These, in turn, are an essential step in getting the necessary buy-in from customers for the smart metering rollout – something almost everyone agrees with today.
This turns the smart meter gateway into the enabler for the IoT. It allows the creation of a multitude of new services and business models that have been unthinkable to date.
The new metering infrastructure will deliver huge amounts of data. In other markets, this data has long been used in business operations and to generate added value. Data scientists will apply their data mining expertise to develop new services and business models with experts from the energy industry. Already, a few of the ideas in play are geared to the energy market:
- Tenant’s electricity supply
- Energy consumption monitoring of vacant homes
- Multidisciplinary energy consulting
Business models that can analyze meter readings to tap into completely new services in other fields will be the ones that are disruptive.
This is now technically possible! Family members receive the electricity and water consumption of elderly or dependent relatives in a timely manner – taken for granted that both parties have agreed to data sharing.
If a real-time monitor detects no consumption of water or electricity or no usage of the flush, shower, lights, coffee machine, hair dryer, or toaster, it triggers a cascading series of activities. This begins with a phone call, but can also involve notifying a neighbor or the nursing service if necessary. In an emergency, a visit is organized. Even though it’s an unpleasant thought, the answer is yes! This is exactly the kind of service we would want without a doubt in such a situation.
Customer first, technology second
Many consumers, particularly in Germany, have been critical of smart metering. Concerns about inadequate data protection or even data misuse are fueling the discussion. At the same time, customers are unwilling to accept additional costs without receiving added value from providers. This clearly proves that communication has so far been sorely lacking.
Some public utility companies report busy phone lines in customer service as soon as a modern metering device or a smart metering system is installed. Many energy suppliers are still unprepared. Up to one third of the on-site assembly time is lost to “information discussions.” That is why it’s so essential to train technicians and all staff, not just those in customer service, to highlight to customers the added value now within their reach.
Speed wins for smart meter rollout
In principle, energy suppliers have the following options to implement the rollout: progressive, linear, or degressive. Initial experience shows that it makes sense to start the rollout as quickly as possible. Why? For the following reasons: the sooner a company starts, the faster it can offset costs against its revenue. It also speeds up the process of building up the necessary amount of data to quickly be able to offer customers new, attractive value-added services.
Speed is also important in individual cases: on-site installation and commissioning time is one of the few cost factors that energy suppliers can have a major impact on. This makes it all the more important to minimize this time – by automating processes and having trained staff carry out effective customer communication through the appropriate channels.It will be exciting to see what the “biggest IT project of the century” entails and what’s in store in 2017 and beyond.
Smart meter rollout: getting started
Our white paper “A roadmap for the smart meter rollout” offers specific recommendations for the rollout of smart metering infrastructure. The checklist will guide you with your individual implementation.