Wireless Technology Makes Fixed Meters Smart

Everybody seems to agree these days that a more regular check of electricity and gas meters might help users use less energy. That is big news with politicians worldwide, as they publicly set tough targets for reducing carbon emissions and privately worry about the consequences of dependence on dwindling fossil fuels for both economies and security. It is also big news for the utilities industry, which would love a cheap alternative to sending someone round in person to read the meter. You can also expect them to be looking for big taxpayer subsidies if they are expected to replace their stupid old meters with new “smart” meters designed to support better energy efficiency. So it is nice to see the electronic communications industry are working hard to find solutions to save the planet, or cash in, depending on how you look at it. I have blogged before about utilities using power line communications to link to smart meters. That solution is elegant because if the metered customers is connected to an electricity line, using that line to carry data as well avoids needing extra infrastructure. The alternative is to adapt meters with standard phone technology, allowing them to make and receive calls. The advantage here is that the communication infrastructure is largely in place already. With wireless especially, as long as the meter can pick up a radio network signal, no further infrastructure is needed, meaning lower costs and less disruption. It remains to be seen exactly how many businesses and homes have meters suited for a mobile phone call – the cupboard under the stairs hardly seems like the ideal spot. According to this article, however, there is at least one business betting on adding GPRS modems to traditional meters. We shall have to see which technology proves to be a winner.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.