How Smart is the UK’s Smart Meter Project?
Smart meters calculate electricity, gas & water consumption in a much more detailed way than conventional meters, putting more information in the hands of the householders and the service providers. They offer the possibility of communicating this information through a smart grid to a control centre of the local service company, which can use the data for billing or tracking purposes.
The UK’s Smart Meter Application project is a major national infrastructure project involving the deployment of 53 million gas and electricity meters in the UK by 2020. Around 4.2 million smart meters have been connected in the UK by Trilliant’s communications network. These jobs are part of the British Gas Intelligent Measurement Systems deployment, which includes gas meters, electricity meters and information screens within homes.
The smart meter is much more advanced than a regular meter, both functionally and technologically; has multiple power registers, can simultaneously manage multiple contracts with various rates and has multiple records of supply quality events and fraud control.
From the technological point of view, it incorporates a power limit switch and has additional communication channels (in addition to the optical port for local reading) that facilitate remote communication with the meter to read, send new tariff tables, modification of the parameters associated with the contracts and the performance of the internal switch.
Smart meters monitor, measure and communicate customers’ electricity, gas, and water consumption data to service provider companies. They can operate autonomously or as part of a wireless network or mesh with nearby smart meters and transmit information to service companies.
Many of the appliances and consumer goods currently on the market have small RFID chips that are capable of communicating with a smart meter so that the system can record what devices, devices, and products are used, at what time and for how long.
A wireless smart meter has two radio transmitters that operate on two networks – the wide area network and the home network. The Wide Area Network or WAN connects the individual properties with each other and with the base station. If it is wireless, then you can use mobile phone networks, TETRA or other frequencies that are typically located at the sub-1 GHz level. Some frequencies have exceptionally long wavelengths for traversing concrete and basements.
The Home Area Network or HAN network connects the meter to the appliances within the property. If it is wireless, you can use ZigBee, Z-wave or Wi-Fi radiation systems, usually within ~ 2.5 Ghz approximately. Although operating at shorter wavelengths, the wireless home network (HAN) is also capable of penetrating walls, floors, and ceilings.
The frequency with which the signals are sent depends on whether the meter is gas, water or electricity, and other factors. Each signal can last for a few seconds or less, but this may vary. Gas and water data can be sent between one and several times a week. However, power consumption data can be transmitted every few minutes or even seconds during peak consumption hours.
In short, smart meters allows you to manage and monitor current and future energy needs, linked to increased connections, with benefits for companies, eliminating costs, optimising management and simplifying maintenance, updating meters and employee levels.