Author Archives: Flavio Gomes

IoT Smart Metering

According to new research from IDC, the worldwide Internet of Things (IoT) market will grow from US$655.8 billion in 2014 to US$1.7 trillion in 2020, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9%.

As the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and IoT markets continue this upward trajectory, one market with potential for strong growth is smart metering, which allows utilities to remotely monitor in real time or in intervals electricity or gas usage and conditions at a residence or business. In many regions, territorial and regulatory hurdles to enable smart metering have been cleared. The European Union (EU), in fact, has mandated that the majority of gas and electricity meters be replaced by smart meters by 2020, as part of a move to address the challenges of climate change and the scarcity of energy resources. In China, Chinese state-run utilities continued their rapid replacement of outdated basic electromechanical meters in 2014, and that work continued in 2015. In the United States, several states are also mandating smart meters, further driving growth in this segment.

In a typical smart meter scenario, smart meters collect usage data and transmit it to the supplier back office. From this data, customer bills may be calculated and suppliers can gain a more immediate and accurate view of the consumption of energy. A two-way communication channel is established between the supplier back office system and the end customers premises (panel, smartphone, tablet), sending usage and billing information detailing energy consumption in an understandable format. Mobile apps can enable customers to view their usage profiles in real time and amend their consumption behaviour to reduce overall costs.

M2M technologies are key to real-time monitoring and alerts that help control consumption and report issues. However smart these meters might be, they all require two things: connectivity to and support from a communications network, and a new approach to service enablement, billing and management of these micro-transactions. What was once a very manual process for utilities—sending a meter reader to check actual usage or guessing on estimated usage—is now simplified through real-time monitoring and reporting.

However, although M2M may have simplified a process and reduced labor costs, the process of handling all of these little pieces of data is far from straightforward. Utilities have two choices: invest in new billing and business process management (BPM) systems themselves, or partner with a third party, such as a competitive service provider (CSP) who already has a strong relationship with the customer. CSPs already have a quadruple play of services—telephone, broadband, video and mobile—that they bundle to the end user. Can they successfully add utility billing into this mix?

In theory, it would seem to make sense for CSPs to enter this market.

They are:

Already part of the smart meter food chain, so to speak, because they are utilised to connect the smart meter with the utility

Already have an established relationship with the user through the other services they offer

Starting to understand the unique requirements that M2M services bring to the table in terms of back-office systems.

It would seem to be a natural fit for utilities and CSPs to establish partnerships to maximise their strengths and their revenue. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll look at the challenges to making this a successful union and what’s truly needed in order to effectively engage with customers on smart metering.


By: Flavio Gomes, CEO at LogiSense
As posted on: M2MNow The Global IoT News Source

real-time utilities rating and billing

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have long been wanting to move past being a dumb pipe into a customer’s home. They’ve taken a hit from VoIP and mobile providers, who have cut into their voice revenues; over the top (OTT) players, who are trying to wrestle away their video and television revenue, and alternative internet providers, who have cut in on their broadband revenues.
Many are looking for new ways to generate new revenue, and finally overcome the dumb pipe mantra that has been bestowed upon them.

M2M communications—and more specifically smart metering—could help them bridge the gap. Smart metering, which allows utilities to remotely monitor electricity or gas usage and conditions at a residence or business in real time, has recently cleared significant territorial, regulatory and privacy hurdles to gain significant traction in regions such as the United States, Western Europe and China. CSPs already own the relationship with the customer, so it on paper at least make sense that they partner with utilities to take on the back-end support for smart metering and become the single-source vendor for residential services.

The scenario isn’t unprecedented: NTT DoCoMo latched onto an opportunity to move beyond offering telecom services and become the financial platform of choice for bill payment and outsourcing. The same—in theory—can be done for utilities, with CSPs offering billing as a service capabilities. In the past, utilities used to manage the entire supply chain, from power generation to distribution to selling to billing. Now they likely outsource the billing portion.

However, smart metering is going to put a whole new strain on legacy billing systems. If CSPs want a piece of the action from utilities, they need to embrace making changes in their billing systems and processes to effectively engage with customers at every stage.
These include:

  1. Providing an omnichannel experience—including mobile apps—to interact with customers across any device. One of the goals of smart metering is reduce electricity use. Customer need a medium through which to view their usage in real time, and then take an action to perform a remote connect/disconnect, or adjust payment options/methods on demand or in a scheduled manner from any channel (smartphone, desktop, tablet, telephone call).
  2. Understanding the impact of convergence. The convergence of mobile, the cloud and the Internet of Things makes the integration between apps, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), billing and rating a huge challenge, especially since different capabilities like reside in different systems (including inventory, billing, provisioning, usage, etc.). Providers need to look at their business process management in an end-to-end manner and consider consolidating under a single master system of record. This ensures that the information is captured in the most consistent manner and made available to the right people at the right time across any channel to support improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction at the lowest possible total cost of ownership.
  3. Providing a secure framework that provides proper authentication and authorisation to protect sensitive customer data.
  4. Utilising accurate, scalable real-time rating capable of scaling to support millions of connected devices that are sending usage data in real time. Two-way connectivity helps inform the customer of specific usage thresholds and the actions to be taken in real time. Emerging prepaid energy models should also be supported.
  5. Understanding what analytics will be important to this market. Billions of records will be generated from smart meters. How can this data be used to make a real difference in the energy sector?

CSPs have a real opportunity to be the partner of choice for utilities as they embrace smart meters. Will they overcome the challenges and embrace the model that can help make this a reality?


By: Flavio Gomes, CEO at LogiSense
As posted on: M2MNow The Global IoT News Source