New opportunities within the business sector mean new prospects that require renewed efforts to be competitive. Consequently, the companies that offer high-end technologies, helping with the development of Smart Grids, must create a multi-utility, flexible monitoring framework based on systems that integrate many providers.
In addition, to provide more freedom to users who have become more aware of their energy consumption levels and renewed their participation to save more energy, companies will have to provide hardware and software devices able to interact directly with the user. A new business concept involves private citizens and business companies, allowing them to access energy consumption levels directly from a PC, Smartphone, and Tablet.
What Is a Smart Meter?
Recently, the active participation of consumers within the energy market has seen a notable increase, transforming the customers’ priorities into a key aspect that needs to be at the center of the ongoing development of a smart network. But, how do we keep the communication flowing? The solution is called Smart Meter. Lower costs are based on real consumption levels, allowing users to precisely know their consumption of gas, energy, and water. In addition, the Smart Meter allows managing waste levels in a straightforward way.
Smart Meters are a tool that, inside Smart Grids, guarantees constant communication between consumers and utilities. A useful system allows companies to contact the customer directly and, to the latter, send directly to the energy suppliers’ readings and data linked to their domestic appliances.
A Smart Meter is different from traditional meters because of its ability to register consumption levels at regular intervals, send information to both suppliers and consumers, and help with monitoring energy waste levels to create an almost real-time invoice procedure.
A single piece of equipment composed of different control devices: sensors to identify parameters and communication devices used to transfer data and control signals. Additionally, other problems that might happen during the energy consumption monitoring procedures, connected to the load or performance on the network itself, will be solved inside smart distribution networks.
But it doesn’t stop there. With the integration of devices inside systems managing domestic energy consumption, also known as home energy management systems, smart meters will provide, through communication protocols, information related to energy fluxes and costs.
When we’re talking about data and information monitoring activities, we’re talking about Smart Metering. An intelligent system collects information from the meter (be it a home or a company one), using digital technologies to generate, elaborate, and use those data.
Smart Metering uses survey and control tools that, thanks to an Internet connection (or IoT, if you prefer), can interact with one another to improve efficiency and transfer the acquired data in real-time. The result means quick and precise management of the information.
Smart Meter Advantages
More precise energy consumption levels evaluations and awareness on how much the bill is going to be. Thanks to smart meters and sensors, it’s possible to constantly monitor consumption levels.
- A decrease for reading costs and also for contract management (e.g., supplier switch, termination of contract, etc.) which are made automatically, more frequently, and without the need to have an operator there to help you;
- A drive for energy efficiency and for more rational use of resources;
- Better network management and improved identification of technical and commercial losses;
- The user is truly at the center of the process within the context of smart network management.
Different services within the same architecture show multi-utility platforms are gaining ground. Until recently, the utility sector aimed at companies that would manage different services (power, gas, or water) in different ways. Today, possibilities have changed, and now a conscious client, coupled with smart technologies like the Smart Meter, Big Data, or IoT, requires a different type of system. This is why it’s important to have a horizontal characterization that unites in one single frame, different services, almost as an identity made of more than a single element. With this kind of integration, utilities can: collect data on users’ consumption levels, understand their behaviors, address the issue, and discuss it directly with the user to create a custom-made service.
This new type of platform is based on Smart Metering, which allows for the aforementioned collection of data. However, in order to do that, some characteristics must be standard:
- A multi-service approach;
- Smart meters have to be used for electrical power, gas, water heating systems;
- They must include a building data concentrator, that is a conjunction between AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) and AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure);
- Use the NIALM technique (Non-Intrusive Appliances Load Monitoring) to analyze customer behavior;
- Include data-analysis tools;
- Have a software infrastructure that can collect miscellaneous data.
As you can see in the infographic above, there needs to be a complex multi-layered architecture to join together all different aspects. Seven different levels form this:
- Integration layer – allows operation among heterogeneous devices, ridding itself of certain technology by using web services/building data integrators;
- Machine to machine layer – allows the transferring of data between systems and improves their scalability option;
- Storage layer – collects data from Smart Meters and IoT devices;
- Application layer – a set of APIs and applications to manage the information coming from the previous layer;
- Security layer – oversees the devices’ and services’ security status;
- NIALM platform – used to outline the consumers’ energy consumption behaviors.
EMS: End-User Smart Grid Integration
Speed. Thanks to the incredible developments made by information technology and communication, the energy management inside Smart Grid has been transformed. Energy Management Systems have been strategically positioned inside the consumer’s sphere of the Smart Grid. This means that domestic appliances (like air conditioners, dishwashers, dryers, fridges, burners, and washing machines) provided with a smart meter can be monitored and controlled to improve power source wastes. The future is here!
A new branch of advanced measurement infrastructures has emerged, which can now monitor the use of electrical power in real-time.
Utility suppliers can now have bidirectional communication with the end-users and measure the power consumption data in detail whilst encouraging consumers to improve their energy waste behaviors. This is where HEMS – Home Energy Management System – comes into play. Thanks to this technology, users can keep track of the energy consumption levels with different available services to control reduce the waste of resources.
Summing up: data on energy consumption levels, registered by the user’s Smart Meter, can be monitored through an Energy Management System (EMS) and can be accessed, in a user-friendly format, directly on home PCs or even on cellphones. Therefore, the user is guaranteed to save money thanks to the EMS and its detailed energy consumption levels. To better explain the concept, we can say that: with an EMS, the user can verify what appliances have a low-energy or high-energy impact in real-time. In addition, the user can directly access the information using a PC, tablet or smartphone, and can see the energy consumption levels grow or decrease by simply turning the appliances on and off.