Smart metering technology is yet another aspect of the digital world that is penetrating the lives of contemporary consumers. In exchange for vast quantities of real-time information about users’ lives, utilities that connect service supplies to smart meters will disrupt business models across the spectrum, deliver improved services and home automation, along with the measured flow of electricity and gas that have been the traditional missions of utility companies.
Smart Metering Brings The Value Home
Smart meters collect measurement data about delivered services and integrate it into analytics that reveal patterns of usage and opportunities to improve services or even to completely disrupt established practices and less forward-thinking competitors. The technology also shows promise to give individual users the ability to monitor and control their usage directly from apps on their tablets, smartphones, and computers. Users will be able to exchange information with other connected devices such as smart appliances and HVAC control systems, automating the daily activities of their homes.
The British Smart Meter Initiative
The UK has taken the lead in adopting smart metering technology by coordinating the country’s energy companies to install more than 50 million smart meters by 2020. These devices will go into homes and commercial establishments across England, Scotland and Wales, in line with current EU directives. There is a strong inducement for utility companies to adopt smart metering; the incentive is the reduction in the labor costs of metered services and the increased information that the companies will harvest in operations.
Smart meters replace employees or contractors traveling out to visit and visually inspect each meter periodically, eliminate the estimation of bills between readings and also provide a vastly increased data stream, potentially reading all connected meters in real-time. The information collected by the new technology will bring usage patterns and trends, illuminating valuable fine-grained information about any metered service supply, such as electricity, gas or water.
Smart Living From Smart Meter Technology
The homes of consumers are about to become acquainted with the Internet of Things (the IoT) if they have not already begun to connect, whether it is via their utility companies or Internet-connected home appliances. The IoT is set to become an integral part of homes and predicted to be a multi-trillion dollar segment of the digital economy. Service providers use the data gathered to aggregate information about the behaviors of users from sensor data so that connected systems run more efficiently and give users better experiences and superior service.
For example, connected devices like Nest thermostats use Wi-Fi to connect to that company’s services across the Internet and to link to the user’s other digital devices and apps. Nest mines the data from its installed devices to find the likely patterns of a user’s preferences from their behavior and uses knowledge collected about similar customers, adjusting the defaults to respond without much effort by the user.
Sempra Energy’s gas and electricity subsidiary in San Diego has had smart meters available for purchase by customers since 2013. Users in the service area of SDG&E can now connect with a growing list of digital devices in their homes. Potential future developments in home automation center on the integration of different IoT-enabled home appliances that connect through supported APIs. The openness of APIs puts initiate beyond the designers and into the hands of innovators that intend to disrupt the status quo. Services such as IFTTT give consumers the ability to connect different systems to make customized systems of home automation.
Future Benefits Across Service Silos And Integrated Home Automation
Large utility service providers may find that inconsistent acceptance by governments or communities will not stop them providing savings and sustainability improvements across silos of smart and dumb metered regions. According to the BBC article, German, Australian and Canadian authorities chose to hold back, based on high projected costs. Information provided from smart meter supported regions could be applied as defaults to gain at least a partial benefit. The fullness of time will determine if the cost to nations like the UK will be justified or if those that hold back will miss out on unforeseen innovation opportunities.
The rollout of smart meter technology will add fuel to the trends in Big Data. As homes and businesses adopt smart meters, they will generate vast quantities of data in real-time. Consumers will benefit directly, and those service providers that do take the lead will find disruptive new applications derived from smart meter-delivered utility services. Those service providers will win competitive advantages that can presently only be guessed.