The reader that never sleeps

If WRS founder and managing director Jan-Gunnar Mathisen gets his way, the total of 2.2 million metering points in Norway – and preferably some elsewhere as well – will soon be equipped with WRS modules. The system sends meter data from the meter to the net owner by wireless.

Mathisen emphasises that the first contract between WRS and a net owner has been signed and that several contracts are in the pipeline.

The list of shareholders includes heavyweight companies within the Norwegian energy supply industry and confirms how seriously the concept has been received. The chairman of the board is Ole Jørgen Fredriksen, former managing director of Infocus.

Last summer WRS acquired Energy Market Systems AS (EMS). EMS in turn originated from the systems department of Landis & Gyr, which later became part of Siemens Metering AS, and has developed and delivered systems for collection and processing of meter values since 1984.

“It was important for us to find a company like EMS that would supplement our own product. By doing this, we are now capable of delivering a total concept for meter reading, processing and distribution of meter data,” states Mathisen.

The story of WRS is the story of the car electrician who started doing something completely different. “It was coincidences that led to a two-way wireless meter reading system,” says Mathisen.

It has also been a long and industrious road. The first prototype was constructed using discrete components, but this was not well received. Industry opinion was that it was too bulky and too expensive. But Mathisen did not give up and approached several different professional developers, including SINTEF (The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology) and the Norwegian branch of the US company Photobit, one of the world’s leading suppliers of CMOS image sensors.

”We are very pleased to have signed a contract with WRS,” says Johannes Sølhusvik, general manager of Photobit/Norway. He goes on to state that WRS’s product is very exciting and has great business potential.

Well-proven Technology

“The complete, specially designed circuit of ours is exclusively based upon components that have been tested for years. We ensure that these components communicate, utilising our own software developed in-house,” states Mathisen.

A fundamental requirement in the development process has been to prepare a production-friendly design, and WRS will have prototypes ready shortly. These are to be run in pilot projects with a number of net owners in early 2002. Commercialisation and mass production will start later in the year. The order for the first production phase is 2 million units.

Even if end customers can save net owners large sums by reading their meter and submitting the data by phone or Internet, these solutions still amount to NOK50 - 90 ($5 - 10) each time, depending upon how smart the solution is.

“By utilising our solution these amounts will be reduced to below NOK10 ($1). Each unit will cost approximately NOK300 ($33) and the installation is very simple. Consequently, there will be great savings for net owners,” states Morten Braarud, marketing manager of WRS. “The technology will also increase the possibilities for time-differentiated tariffs and the identification of losses in the net, such as theft of electricity,” he adds.

He also points out that the system can be utilised for a number of other purposes than meter readings, e.g. for alarms and time-controlled functions of different types. “Then,” says Braarud, “we are looking at an enormous market.”