Unlocking the Power of Smart Metering

Last updated: 17 May 2024

An energy crisis, inflationary pressures, climate change… the need for monitoring and managing energy usage and resources is clear. Smart meters have emerged as one of the ways to do this – for businesses, public sector organisations and individuals alike.

Against this backdrop it will be no surprise that there has been mass adoption, with latest figures showing over a billion have been adopted worldwide so far.

Massive IoT is combining the power of data and a multitude of sensors to find creative ways to make our everyday lives better. Smart meters are a large part of this – enabling real-time data reporting and analysis, remote management, and predictive maintenance among other use cases. By 2030, it is predicted that over half of the global electricity meter market will consist of IoT devices – it currently stands at around 43% according to the Global Smart Meter Market tracker.

Connectivity challenges:

There’s no ‘one sized’ fits all IoT smart meter – and each type brings with it unique connectivity challenges depending on its application area – such as how they’re powered.

For example, gas and water smart meters rely on batteries due to their lack of direct contact to an electricity supply – unlike electric smart meters which are directly connected to the grid.

Both types of deployments have challenges that need to be mitigated against to ensure no disruptions occur and no inaccurate data is reported. The continuous power supply that electricity meters require is at risk of disruption and downtime, whereas for water and gas meters there’s the challenge of batteries that are long-lasting enough, but don’t take up too much space or interfere with other features of the meter (for instance Display or LCD panel, Communication Modules)

Alongside that, each meter must navigate specific technical requirements and regulatory compliance to integrate into the wider IoT ecosystem. Additionally, interoperability issues may arise when integrating various metering solutions into existing infrastructure, necessitating standardised protocols and robust compatibility measures.

Utilising diverse communication technologies such as cellular networks, power line communication (PLC), or radio frequency (RF) mesh networks, these meters play a pivotal role in facilitating efficient data transmission and connectivity within the expansive IoT network.

In addition, smart meters in the field, often have a lifespan of 10-15 years, while mobile subscriptions typically need to be renewed regularly, well before that. Therefore, there must be a seamless way to remotely manage the connectivity of these devices, ensuring they remain connected without interruption.

The role of eSIM technology 

One of the key advantages of eSIMs lies in their ability to facilitate the remote management of connectivity. This feature proves invaluable for devices deployed in the field, allowing utility companies to seamlessly switch carriers without the need for physical access to the meters.

Moreover, eSIM technology enables remote firmware updates, ensuring that smart meters remain equipped with the latest features and security patches without requiring manual intervention, all this securely. This capability not only enhances performance but also streamlines maintenance processes, saving time and resources for utility providers, in a trusted framework.

eSIM technology also delivers uncompromising protection through embedded hardware and software, safeguarding device IDs and ensuring firmware integrity before updates.

In situations where environmental resilience is needed, especially for water and gas meters, ruggedized eSIMs in soldered format emerge as the ideal solution. Their robust construction allows them to withstand harsh conditions, whilst eliminating the need for removable SIM swaps.

From a manufacturing perspective, eSIMs simplify production processes by eliminating the need for multiple product variants tailored to different regions. This is particularly useful when manufacturers do not wish to personalise mobile subscriptions ahead of deployment. Instead, with connectivity management systems in place, the device will connect to the destination network once deployed. This uniformity enables manufacturers to create a single product SKU that can be deployed globally, streamlining inventory management and reducing costs.

Advancements in eSIM form factors, such as iSIM, offer benefits in terms of size and power efficiency. These compact designs contribute to prolonged battery life and make eSIMs suitable for devices with stringent size constraints, further expanding their applicability in the realm of smart metering.

In summary, eSIM technology significantly enhances the operational efficiency and global scalability of smart meter deployments. By providing robust security, remote management capabilities, and continuous remote updates, eSIMs ensure that smart meters deliver reliable performance while adapting to evolving needs and technological advancements in the utility sector.

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