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INTERNET OF THINGS SMART METERING MIGRATES INTO THE SMARTPHONE ERA By Emmanuel Maçon-Dauxerre Briefly put: Significant changes are needed in order to engage the market and enable smart meters to deliver their full potential. Consumers must be motivated and new business models implemented so that we can protect the environment against increased usage of a precious commodity. Smart meters monitor energy consumption at regular intervals and transmit that information to the utility companies. This allows utilities to introduce more flexible payment methods and also eliminates the need for periodic trips to each physical location to read a meter. The first key consumer benefit is the provision of accurate, up-to date billing information, which in turn allows utilities to introduce more flexible payment methods. The second benefit should come from the addition of in-home displays (IHDs) that allow consumers to monitor and better control their usage of electricity. SMART PLUGS & SMARTPHONES Smart meters are not mandated in most US states. They don’t help in the reduction of power at times when there is an unexpected critical peak, which comes during high-usage periods such as hot summer days when demand for electricity is highest, or when there are problems with the grid and this results in the grid being strained. That is a critical issue for the utilities. The issue has been partially addressed via improvements to network infrastructures, but consumers need to come on board. What the utilities need is a solution that allows them to reduce the peak consumption by motivating their customers to reduce their usage during those critical times, which may only be a few dozen hours a year. However, these displays represented a significant cost that consumers are reluctant to pay; therefore mass adoption requires a subsidy from the utility or the government. So far this hasn’t happened and the energy-saving features are not realized – even today the public has a limited understanding of the benefits of smart meters. SMARTPHONE APPS Smartphone apps represent an alternative, convenient way of giving consumers information on their energy consumption. More and more individuals have smartphones and tablets, so there is no additional cost and no need for a subsidy. As soon as the new meter is installed consumers simply download an app and then can get live visualizations of their energy consumption, e.g. the total amount, a historical view of consumption over time, and in some cases the ability to interactively measure the consumption of any switchable electrical application in the house. The applications provide fine-grained consumption information in real time, which can be seen anywhere and at anytime. This means that smartphones are going to generate increased awareness of the need to minimize energy consumption. These apps also allow consumers to share their carbon footprint in a competitive 54 and the utilities. This allows additional services like remote connect/disconnect and a reduction in the amount of energy that the subscriber can employ. AMI also enables utilities to provide guidance about behavioural changes that would have a big impact on their electricity bill. For example, the utility can see that heavy-duty appliances like dish washers are being used in the day and suggest that they are employed outside peak-usage times. This information can be sent as emails or text messages. and entertaining way on Facebook and other social networks. And utilities can encourage and even initiate this kind of customer engagement activity, with the resulting information being used to develop behavioural energy efficient solutions. This illustrates how the industry can and should employ a new mind-set in order to leverage its pivotal position in the home environment. Utilities have a physical presence as well as an established business relationship with the public. The introduction of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) enables two-way communication between the consumers Solutions that provide the requisite functionality have been developed. They’re based on smart plugs and the solutions are sold to power aggregators (utilities and/or energy service companies). An energy management system for the control centre is included, as well as applications that allow consumers to control and monitor their appliances. Aggregators use the solution to monitor overall power consumption, predict power reduction, reduce power and provide consumers who sign up for an incentive program with a monetary refund, e.g. 10% off the bill if they agree not to use the heavy-duty appliances during those peak demand times. They offer financial savings up front and they can be used as a marketing tool. “Smartphones function as a cost-effective, convenient display, both in and outside the home” METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 1 | 2014