Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Huawei starts NB-IoT smart meter pilot in Portugal

Steve Rogerson
July 18, 2017

An operational pilot project using electrical energy smart meters and NB-IoT communications has started in the Parque das Nações in Lisbon. China-based Huawei has developed the NB-IoT smart meters in partnership with Janz CE and U-Blox.
Utility EDP Distribuição is using the technology for the pilot, which will be concluded by the end of the year, as part of the Upgrid project of the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission. The infrastructure network using NB-IoT technology has been installed by NOS, the biggest communications and entertainment group in Portugal. NOS thus becomes the first operator in Portugal to test the 4.5G IoT technology on its network infrastructure.
“We are really proud of NOS’s involvement in this innovative project, which will make a real difference in making electricity consumption more efficient in Portuguese homes in the near future,” said Manuel Ramalho Eanes, board director of NOS. “Working with long-term partners, such as Huawei, and with new companies with a vision of the future, is always a guarantee of success and will strengthen the competitive position of NOS.”
This pilot combines emerging technologies with the smart metering of electrical energy and the latest generation networks to oversee the electricity network.   
NB-IoT is a low-power wide area (LPWA) wireless access technology, which has advantages such as a battery life of up to ten years, a gain of 20dB over conventional GSM networks and support for more than 100,000 connections per cell.
Based on optimised and bi-directional communications, NB-IoT can handle the automatic detection of failures, improving the time needed to restore service. In case of storms or other abnormal situations, quicker detection of the area affected allows teams to be allocated immediately and precisely on the ground for the problem to be resolved rapidly.
Online measurement of consumption supports various values per hour, and a range of energy events and statistics. On demand response functionality is based on the installed capacity being managed almost in real time. This function is particularly useful taking into account the on-going and progressive adoption of electric vehicles and the increasing pace of transition towards renewable sources of electrical energy.
The Parque das Nações area in Lisbon was chosen by EDP Distribuição to pilot the project among around 100 customers until the end this year. This cluster of the city is already covered by NB-IoT and has been equipped with two NOS base stations, which provide NB-IoT coverage.
João Torres, chairman of EDP Distribuição, said: “EDP Distribuição is available, as it always has been, to participate in partnerships and share knowledge with a view to finding ever more innovative solutions that can leverage value creation for final customers in relation to new concepts of intelligent networks and new business models.”
Intelligent energy management in the homes of these customers, who will also play an active role in helping to improve their energy consumption efficiency, is said to represent a relevant practical example for this technology.
“Huawei, a leader in innovation in this industry, has been an important contributor to the NB-IoT standards” said Chris Lu, CEO of Huawei in Portugal. “We strongly believe that this technology will be the driver for mass adoption of IoT due to its unique advantages.”
Huawei is also contributing towards faster development of the E2E ecosystem, by deploying several labs around the world focused on the integration of NB-IoT technology in various devices.
“We are really pleased to have achieved with Huawei the development of the first electrical energy smart meters in the world using NB-loT technology, and tested by EDP Distribuição and NOS,” said António Papoila, CEO of Janz CE. “The shared vision in this project is crucial for ensuring the development of a unique strategy that offers broad access, long term value creation and integration with existing infrastructure.”
The project can create value for utilities with new functionalities and the advanced management of electricity interruption. It also creates a sustainable connection between intelligent networks and smart cities.
“This technological partnership is based on mutual strategic and technical confidence that overcomes the complexity, takes advantage of the competencies of the parties involved and reduces the time-to-value of the smart meters application,” said Papoila.
Swiss-based U-Blox has been an early pioneer developing technical expertise and thought leadership in NB-IoT.
“We’ve worked closely with Huawei and with global mobile operator partners to complete technology demonstrators and the first successful commercial trials of pre-standard NB-IoT in several industrial IoT and smart metering applications," said Andreas Thiel, executive vice president at U-Blox. “With Sara-N2, a 3GPP compliant NB-IoT module, U-Blox keeps driving innovation to the smart metering industry, and we are now really pleased and proud to support, along with our partners Janz CE, Huawei, NOS and EDP Distribuição, the world first electricity smart metering pilot performed on a live commercial network and using 3GPP standard NB-IoT technology.”