The Internet of Things (IoT) and how it could impact the electricity industry

Despite the promise, the anticipated fall in the price of electricity is not coming to the average Australian consumer any time soon. In addition to production challenges, the industry is also trying to deal with inefficiencies in the grid. The seemingly straightforward solution proposed is a grid with smart meters everywhere, eventually leading to a nation-wide electricity Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

The cost of implementing this plan will run into the tens of billions of dollars and is probably not going to bring the cost of electricity down. Not straight away. Not in the decade following the implementation.

The smart meter roll-out is underpinned by the best intentions of providing more frequent and up-to-date consumption information to households and helping manage the load on the grid. The costs and concerns around the project, however, give stakeholders a cause for pause, and to consider alternatives. Smart meters alone have proven to be ineffective in changing energy consumption habits.

The variety of needs and motivations behind rolling out smart meters can be met, without the upfront costs involving expensive devices and the increased ongoing operational costs of maintaining a utility owned network.

Rapid technology lifecycles are making business planning for utilities and metering providers even harder. Current strategies for AMI rollouts run the risk of getting caught in a technology cul-de-sac in a few years’ time due to the advent of newer technologies providing similar benefits, faster and cheaper.

Advances in computing power, data management and communications bandwidth make the Internet of Things (IoT) a clear and present alternative towards transforming grid resilience and efficiency. As defined by the IEEE’s IoT initiative, IoT is “A network of items – each embedded with sensors – which are connected to the internet”. Many intelligent electronic devices deployed at substations and distribution networks, coupled with a grid architecture involving applications, sensors and networking can make the existing infrastructure smarter.

The challenge is charting a path to achieve the intelligent grid vision using cost-effective strategies. Meeting this challenge requires tuning out the noise about industry disruption to identify and seize the opportunities that IoT technologies enable. To realise the full potential of IoT technologies, we need to understand how to create and capture value from information

An intelligent grid doesn’t have to be billions of dollars and decades away. Meeting the challenge requires navigating the hype about ‘smart devices’ and considering proven, smart approaches to electricity data collection and management, where the real value of the smart grid lies – for consumers, retailers and generators. The time to seize the opportunity presented by the Internet of Things is now.

To learn more about how electricity stakeholders in the Australian utilities space can find inexpensive alternatives to smart data collection, read the DataCol white paper – The Long Road to AMI.

DataCol has decades worth of experience in delivering cost-effective metering solutions and practical advice to electricity industry stakeholders around the world.

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Strongcast – a powerful partner to complement Itron’s water solutions

Strongcast setup
Strongcast has been working alongside Itron in Australia since 2011 and in that time has developed a range of ancillary products to complement Itron’s world class water solutions. Since Strongcast’s arrival, an innovative range of products has continually been introduced to the domestic metering sector that has not been seen before.

Strongcast Manifold Metering Solution Installation

Strongcast has been able to design, trial and produce such practical solutions due to a long history of plumbing works and a coherent comprehension of Utility services. Strongcast has been able to design and manufacture metering networks with the least amount of connection points, set and protect assets in ground as well as offer a robust and future proof network. The Strongcast virgin DR brass valves, fittings and manifold bases can be expected to last decades in the ground and still allow for itemised maintenance if necessary.

StrongCast Manifold Metering Solution – 25mm Polyethylene Pipe + Additional Downstream Ball Valve

Queensland Urban Utilities is one of Australia’s largest water authorities and relies heavily on manifold water meters in high populations. Strongcast’s manifold product range has been used for a number of years here and has solved many of the issues that became extremely costly for the utility. Diaphragm valves and polymer ball valves have all been banned in QUU due to the high failure rate and the consequential cost their maintenance created.

Strongcast and Itron have delivered a system that has allowed the Councils to be able to use both manifold and inline meters alike in very similar assemblies, making this versatile system ideal for both scenarios if ever desired.

Strongcast Moulded Meter Bracket

As many Utilities race towards advanced metering solutions, it must be emphasised that even the smartest meters can be hindered by poor performing ancillary components. The meter is the heart of any billing assembly, yet the neighbouring parts are just as critical to the success of this asset.

Through the DataCol and Itron partnership, Strongcast can now also enter the New Zealand metering space to offer a superior range of products. DataCol take an agnostic, multi-vendor approach, which enables them to work with multiple meter brands at utilities and councils. It gives New Zealand water utilities and councils the flexibility to use multi-meter networks, rather than replacing any current meters with vendor exclusive equipment. DataCol clients save time and money, while still producing reliable, quality results. The open technology framework of DataCol also protects their client’s investment – if another type of meter is added to the infrastructure in the future, they would still be able to read that meter-generated data using the DataCol solution.

To find out more about the benefits Strongcast, Itron and DataCol can bring to your New Zealand water utility infrastructure, give Mark from DataCol a call on 021 416 311.

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The long road to AMI

Long road to AMI white paper coverThe electricity landscape in Australia is undergoing enormous developments right now, driven by changing regulatory, technological and network innovations. It is becoming apparent that a smart electricity network is coming to Australia, sooner rather than later.

So far, the most stakeholders in the industry have considered is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) roll-outs using smart meters and electricity utility owned data networks. However, this approach demands substantial upfront capital outlay, complex and lengthy deployment and doubtful cost-effectiveness.

“Rapid technology lifecycles are making business planning for utilities and metering providers even harder. Current strategies for AMI rollouts run the risk of getting caught in a technology cul-de-sac in a few years’ time due to the advent of newer technologies providing similar benefits, faster and cheaper.”

We discuss and compare the lesser-known smart grid options in our white paper ‘The long road to AMI (and alternative routes to get there)’.

This is the first in the DataCol Insight white paper serieswhere we explore the options available to stakeholders in the Australian utilities space, when considering the future of smart data collection.

One possible approach involves making existing infrastructure smarter, instead of rolling out an entirely new communications infrastructure. Machine to Machine (M2M) interfaces are getting smarter and cheaper to deploy every day. This technology transforms smart meters into high speed, connected hubs allowing utility and metering companies to deliver real time consumption information to the users and react immediately to service interruptions.

“The rapid advances in computing power, data management and communications bandwidth as well as the considerable reduction on the cost of each, has resulted in the Internet of Things (IoT) presenting a potential to transform grid resilience and efficiency.”

Download the white paper The long road to AMI (and alternative routes to get there) to learn about:

  • Locking down the AMI cost-benefit equation.
  • Absence of perceptible benefits to end consumers.
  • Challenges for utilities.
  • A smart approach to meter data collection.
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