With global energy demand set to double by 2050 concern about climate change, carbon emissions and security of supply is driving new pressures in the utilities industry. Current legislation requires utilities to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, lower energy consumption and introduce alternative fuels. Driving operational efficiency is also a top priority amidst ageing infrastructures, a shortage of labour and squeezed margins. And increasing customer expectations mean utilities need to find ways to deliver better customer service.
The Smart Grid gives utilities the means to meet these challenges - remote data management and monitoring capabilities, automation and control, and the systems for the effective utilisation and safe management of transmission and distribution networks. The Smart Grid not only enables utilities to deliver electricity in a sustainable, economic, efficient and secure way, but it also opens up opportunities for the development of other new low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and the smart home.
Today smart metering is being used to facilitate a wide range of applications in the fields of remote meter reading, customer relationship management, demand-side management and value-added services. Smart meters that enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system are making it possible to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways and to deliver a higher level of customer service than ever before.
The first immediate benefit is the ability to provide business and residential customers with energy bills based on actual, rather than estimated, consumption. All improvements of the billing process contribute to improved cash flow, less bad debt, and fewer inquiries over billing and payments. Smart metering is also an enabler for new pre-paid energy services that can be offered to customers who lack the funds for an up-front deposit or high pre-payments.
Smart M2M technology is already being applied to home appliances, for example a smart chip within a fridge-freezer or air conditioning unit that can power down the appliance when it is at the optimum temperature and power on again when required.
Usage information can be uploaded to a central hub in the home where it can be used to instantly meet comfort, cost or maintenance needs on an hour-by-hour basis. Users can interact with these intelligent appliances via their smart phones to operate them remotely, for example turning on or off central heating, lights or a washing machine.
As well as providing immediate and constant feedback on how building services are consumed, M2M can also place greater control over how the building operates. Smart sensors can be placed anywhere in the home without the need for permanent fixtures and can be easily moved to make readings more accurate.
eMobility (electric vehicle charging and monitoring) is one of the rapidly emerging smart technologies. Managing the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for the eMobility infrastructure is a critical success factor in providing clean, sustainable transportation on a national and even global basis. It enables efficient electric vehicle charging across communities, regions, and countries, and ensures that utilities can support vehicle charging while maintaining balance in the local energy grids.
Our cellular technology underpins all of these solutions and is already widely used, proven and available for the Smart Grid and Smart Metering. The core of our offering is our own Global M2M Platform, designed to take away the complexities and cost of deployment by automating provisioning, billing and other logistics processes. Considering that 30% of the cost of implementing smart metering can be related to the installation, this can mean significant savings.