smart meters

With the global total base of installed smart meters expected to reach 780 million units by 2020, Europe is expected to be the world’s second largest market.ABI Research predicts that the deployment of the new metering system by EU member states will have a positive impact on the worldwide installed base by 2020.

Adarsh Krishnan, Senior analyst at ABI Research said: “The region will overtake North America, where mass roll-outs by large utilities peaked already in 2012.”

Smart meters communications platforms

According to ABI Research, the increase in the adoption of smart meters can be attributed to utilities' efforts to improve grid reliability, as well as, the availability of financial capacity to fund the implementation of the smart metering systems and related communications technologies.

For instance, in European countries such as Italy, Belgium and Spain, early adoption of Power Line Communications network for the connectivity of the smart meters is facilitating easy adoption of smart metering systems.

However, the rise in partnerships between utilities and telecommunications firms to deploy wireless cellular connectivity platforms is also expected to increase the adoption of smart meters.

The connectivity model is gaining acceptance due to its decrease in subscription costs.

Adoption of IoT networks in Belgium

In 2015, French utility Engie partnered with IoT network firm Telenet for the deployment of an IoT communications network developed by Sigfox.

The rollout of the technology was to set a foundation for the deployment of smart city applications such as automated metering infrastructure (AMI) utilising wireless cellular networks in Belgium.

The collaboration of the two parties allowed for the rollout of the wireless network in 10 Belgian cities.

The development was described as an opener for new opportunities and new fields for the utility industry in the western European country. [Deal watch: Elster wins in Belgium with advanced meter platform contract].

Dirk Indigne, the CEO of ENGIE commented: "It is expected that within the next three years several million objects, including bicycles, smoke detectors, smart metres and cars, will be able to communicate using the network."

More importantly, the programme attracted Belgian energy corporation Electrabei to seek permission to use the network for its business to business (B2B) and business to consumers (B2C) including smart metering services.

Smart meters deployment

Efforts to deploy wireless networks for use by smart meters and other IoT devices did not end with the Engie, Telenet and Sigfox partnership.

Earlier this year, a Belgium consortium comprising power utility ORES, water utility Societe Wallone des Eaux (SWDE) and the municipality of Charleroi also entered into an agreement with Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica for the rollout of a smart meters pilot in the city of Charleroi.

Under the agreement, Telefonica agreed to supply the consortium with a complete AMI solution including smart gas, water and electric meters as well as a wireless communications technology to provide connectivity of the smart meters for five years.

The programme is expected to enhance energy efficiency and sustainable use of water within some 250 municipal buildings through real-time monitoring of the networks provided by the 900 smart meters. [Eandis deploys technology for Belgium’s largest smart meter pilot].

On the utilities side, the project will ensure accurate billing by reducing non-revenue water, gas and electricity through fraud detection.

Smart meters data privacy

Following the increase in the adoption of wireless networks and smart meters, the Belgian Privacy Commission has announced that it has kickstarted a programme to examine how utility companies communicate their privacy matters to their customers.

The programme is part of the Global Private Enforcement Network which analyses and examines how IoT devices use personal data, and how consumers are kept informed.

The BPC is part of some 29 data protection agencies and will carry out its investigation on utilities’ websites on which devices that relate to smart metering systems are found.