Orange SA has announced a major machine-to-machine (M2M) telemetry deal that could dramatically cut the cost of electricity billing for both UK energy providers and their small and medium-sized business customers.
The system, known as SmartMeter, is the brainchild of metering supplier BGlobal Metering. SmartMeter uses SIM-enabled meters made by Singapore-based EDMI Ltd. to collect data on electricity usage which is then sent using a dial-up connection over Orange’s GSM network to BGlobal’s systems. From here it is made available to the relevant energy supplier through a dedicated electricity industry portal.
More streamlined billing processes, allied to greater visibility into end users’ electricity usage should help remove criticisms around charging based on predicted electricity use as opposed to actual consumption. SmartMeter is targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises that, due to relatively low usage, are treated like residential customers in terms of billing.
BGlobal’s managing director Peter Kennedy told ComputerWire of an unnamed supermarket chain that expects to save up to 20% or 300,000 pounds ($549,000) a year on its electricity bill because of SmartMeter.
Savings will be reinforced by the reduced level of climate change levy payable on lower bills. A thorough analysis of the benefits of SmartMeter is currently under way by the UK government-backed lobbyist The Carbon Trust, which plans to publish the results at the conclusion of the study, said Kennedy.
Despite a potential 2 million suitable electricity meters in the UK that could potentially be automated using M2M technology, BGlobal’s initial order is for 60,000 units.
Kennedy said the cautious initial order reflected the conservatism of the electricity industry in the UK and the fact that metering was only deregulated in the UK last year. Similar systems are already in use in, for example, Italy.
I think people looked into GSM early and decided it wasn’t the appropriate technology [for automated metering] and never would be. And the industry doesn’t like change. It’s run more by accountants than entrepreneurs. We can move much more quickly.
However, he said it is now a good time to launch SmartMeter, with energy providers now looking for service differentiators following the land grab after that industry’s own deregulation. BGlobal said it is in contractual negotiations with four UK electricity providers and is working with another three.
Alastair MacLeod, customer development director with Orange Business Solutions, said interest in GSM-enabled M2M has boomed over the past year. There’s been a lot of things happening below the radar in the last 12 months with nearly a 200% increase in telemetry connections on the Orange network. It just hasn’t always been appropriate to tell the world.