Industry Analysis

IoT makes meters smart

Analysis on IoT meter and its advantages

Smart meters are the heart of the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) deployed for better energy efficiency through demand side management and flattening of dangerously fluctuating peak demands, integration of renewable energy sources, better forecasting of energy demands, asset management and many such advantages aimed at achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of 24×7 ‘Powers for All’.

IoT plays an important role in meter. IoT connects the users to the device and makes one aware of what is happening inside. With Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled meters the user can have the consumption analysis, billing and current power usage on a smart phone or on in-home display.

On the other hand it allows the power utilities to manage the total power demand and losses, ensuring higher efficiency in operation and distribution.

Advantages of IoT meters
Explaining about the advantages of IoT enabled electricity meters Dhananjay Kulkarni, SVP – IoT MosChip, Ex-COO, Maven Systems Pvt Ltd says, “In private sector, IoT enabled meters can be used for sub-metering in industries, malls, and commercial establishments. This allows precise data collection regarding which machine on shop floor is consuming how much electricity. Which vending machines are energy guzzlers? Which tenants are consuming more electricity during day time vs. night time vs. when on diesel generator? Which of the branch office/franchisee shops/hotel room are spending how much electricity? Hourly measurement of data is first step towards energy audit and eventual energy management. Through analytics, one can then deduce waste of energy due to (old) age of equipment, responsible vs. wasteful handling of equipment and rental space, faulty air conditioner (over-worked compressor), and several similar money-wasters.”

Kulkarni adds, “Other advantages include quick detection of theft, deterioration of transmission lines or transformers, timely billing, quick replacements in case of faulty meters or faulty lines and so on.”

In a country where electricity generation is at handful locations, knowing demand patterns of each region is immensely useful. Cultural diversity results in having different festivals at different times in different regions. Each festival results in high demand – in that region. Knowing the consumption behaviour at micro level is immensely useful for planning electricity generation, transmission and maintenance. “This is possible only through IoT enabled meters connected to communication backbone transmitting data several times a day to the main cloud server which is capable of performing analytics,” says Kulkarni.

Conventional electricity meters are islands – working in isolation, believes Kulkarni. He informs, “In India there are over 20 crore such islands. On the other hand, an IoT enabled meter is an end point of a communication tentacle. All these 20 crore end points can collect consumption demand information from each house-hold.”

On the other hand Abhed Misra, System Applications Lead, LPRF Solutions, Texas Instruments India Pvt Ltd believes that more than advantage it is a necessity for every electronic device to be IoT enabled. World is getting digital day-by-day and people stay on ground but live in cloud (World Wide Web).

He adds, “The most important thing is that the users are driving this revolution. Consumers want to know what is happening inside their appliances, and especially meters, which have always been a black box with some figures on display which may not be even clear to most of the users. And this is where IoT plays its part.”

With the smartness being brought by IoT, electricity meters have a lot more to offer like load control, prepaid recharge, non-tampering and anti-theft features too. Unlike conventional pre-paid meters, where you had to manually enter the recharge code, smart meters get recharged through wireless connectivity after doing authentication from utility’s central server on cloud.

“IoT enabled smart meters have two distinct functionalities over the presently deployed anti-tamper meters in India,” states Jitendra K Agarwal, Joint Managing Director, Genus Power Infrastructures Ltd. These are- remote connect and disconnect feature and two ways communication, IoT based open standards based state of the art communication technologies.

Agarwal adds, “With this functionalities, the existing meters turn into an extremely powerful IoT sensor, spread all over the country in hundreds of millions numbers, as a tool enabling utilities to get timely information to control AT&C losses.”

Acceptance of IoT enabled electricity meters
Sharing his views on the acceptance of IoT enabled electricity meters Agarwal says, “Earlier only a few people were using a smart phone but today majority of them have smart phones. It has empowered common people. Similarly, smart meters will not only empower the consumer but the utilities too. Utilities can have direct monitoring and control till consumer end.”
Agarwal observes, “At present, one of the biggest pain area of the utilities is the direct control at the consumer end and this problem can be taken care by smart meters.” Ministry of Power is also aggressively working with all the stakeholders for deployment of smart meters in entire country. Central Electricity Authority has released functional specifications for smart meters and BIS has also released relevant standards of smart meters recently.”

Kulkarni also believes that IoT enabled electricity meters are well accepted in India and especially in the private sector. He says, “This (IoT enabled electricity meters) meter is well accepted in India.” Nearly all the new consumer meter tenders floated by the state electricity companies insist on IoT enabled ‘connected meters’. Since there is very little standardisation in this space, the tenders ask for different ways of connecting – using ZigBee, DLMS, 6LoWPAN, PLC and others. But overall the concept is well understood and sought after in India,” believes Kulkarni.

In addition Kulkarni says, “In private sector, there is even more drive towards these meters because of direct benefit in regards to detecting problems and saving electricity costs. The main challenge is to find companies which can provide end-to-end solutions or interoperability with different types of IoT meters. But that problem is reducing with recent advances in technology.”

It won’t be wrong in saying that India till now has been one of the fastest adopters of IoT technologies in India. Whether it is Zigbee or 6LowPAN or GSM/GPRS, we have installations of all the technologies in field. And this is the reason that India has a very good knowledge base of which technology performs how and in what field conditions. “Smart electricity meters have been happening now from past 10 years. However, the drive did catch up in last few years especially, but the best part is more and more POC’s are happening with newer technologies integrated inside smart meters,” observes Misra.

“We already have a huge base of smart meters installed and used in field. And with power utilities, ministry of power and semiconductor solution providers like Texas Instruments the effort of refining and defining the next generation smart meters is more focused and directed,” informs Misra.

The user today wants to know more and more and wants to be connected always with everything. This has actually laid the foundation of smart meters being accepted at much greater pace than five years ago.

Players readiness for IoT meters
Genus Power Infrastructures Ltd is ready and has been developing smart meters for India in parallel with the evolving Indian standards and contributing aggressively. Its manufacturing facilities have also been upgraded to support the smart meter production for domestic as well as global needs. Its in-house R&D center equipped with NABL accredited laboratory, world class equipment and highly qualified and experienced team of engineers with domain expertise has developed complete solutions right from hardware, firmware to communication technologies and software.

In addition all its products and solutions undergo a stringent process of reliability tests and validation process before mass roll out. “We are the first company in India who has deployed smart meters in smart grid pilot projects with various utilities,” claims Agarwal.

Explaining about the readiness in this domain Misra says, “India is a very big nation and in other words is a group of nations inside. But one of things, which are common in this vast diverse set of users, is the need of being connected. With companies like Texas Instruments who are already offering very mature and secured solutions on technologies like BLE, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and 6LowPAN, along with entire solution in less than a nail size, it only proves the solid preparation and readiness to make smart meters a big success from design, usage and adoptability perspective.

“The most important part is being played by Ministry of Power and State Power Utilities in working with meter manufacturers and semiconductor solution providers like Texas Instruments, to use every single moment in making India a smarter nation,” he adds.

Maven/MosChip has IoT meters deployed in the field since 2013. The solution consists of connected meters, gateways, cloud server application and its connectivity to billing server. “With more than 50,000 IoT meters in field, Maven/MosChip has one of the most advanced field proven end-to-end solution in this space,” informs Kulkarni.

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