Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Smart meter development could identify usage by appliance type

Steve Rogerson
October 10, 2017



A UK company is developing smart metering technology that could let energy suppliers provide customers with itemised bills and statements showing specific electricity consumption by appliance type.
 
This detailed analysis, which can also be displayed in real time via a phone app, could give consumers the feedback and encouragement they need to start taking a more active role in managing their household electricity bills. For example, by deciding to limit usage of specific appliances, to switch devices off rather than leaving them on standby, or to replace out-dated appliances with more energy-efficient models.
 
Called 42 Technology, the company is developing the patented Triple Ohm technology for integration into a new generation of smart meters for use in domestic or commercial environments. The technology works with all electrical appliances and has been designed so that everything is embedded within the meter without consumers having to purchase any special switches, devices or other technology add-ons.
 
Triple Ohm works by monitoring changes in the high frequency current or voltage harmonics in a single- or poly-phase power supply caused when specific appliances are used within a building. It can identify and differentiate between the characteristic traces belonging to specific appliance types and, using a data analysis algorithm, separates them out to calculate energy consumption per device. The resulting data can then be displayed in real time via a smartphone app or a low cost home energy monitor, or stored within the meter for incorporation into the householder’s next bill.
 
The company has recently been awarded an Innovate UK Energy Catalyst 4 grant to help it demonstrate the feasibility of using Triple Ohm technology to identify different appliance types and to separate out their demands from a single metering point.
 
“We have already built a number of demonstration units,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director of 42 Technology. “Several team members have had them installed in their homes as part of a field trial, and we are starting to collect real usage data to show potential development partners.”
 
One of the problems with the current generation of home energy monitors linked to conventional or smart meters is that they can only display a householder’s total energy consumption. A consumer can immediately see how much their electricity consumption has increased when switching on a specific appliance but it does not tell them how much of their total bill is accounted, for example, by use of their washing machine, oven or lighting. Academic studies carried out in the USA have shown that when householders were provided with this level of detail it led to an average 12 per cent reduction in their domestic electricity consumption.
 
Triple Ohm can also be used to monitor how specific devices are behaving under load as an indicator of a potential performance issue. Initial studies have shown the technology can differentiate between a vacuum cleaner with a full bag or an empty bag, which is a feature that could be developed to alert customers for example to check their washing machine or tumble dryer filter, or to arrange a service call to maintain an appliance in peak condition.
 
The smart metering technology can also provide energy companies with more detailed feedback on patterns of domestic and commercial energy usage than is available with existing technologies and monitoring systems. As a result, it could help energy suppliers find more cost effective and efficient ways to balance supply with changing demands while complying with carbon reduction targets.
 
In addition to smart metering, 42 Technology is also developing Triple Ohm for use in a low cost system for remote monitoring of the UK’s network of electricity distribution substations. The company was awarded an Innovate UK phase one grant for this application which it announced in November 2016 and since then has secured phase two funding to enable further commercialisation.