Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

U-Blox works with metering companies to help utilities track energy use

Steve Rogerson
November 13, 2018
 
U-Blox is developing a way to make it easier for utilities to track and visualise their energy consumption. The proof of concept (PoC) design is the result of a three-way collaboration between the Swiss company and metering firms Iskraemeco and EMH.
 
The PoC design uses a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) interface to connect a smart meter to a consumer’s smartphone or tablet. The mobile device can then provide a more detailed visualisation of current and historical energy consumption than is possible on the simple displays used in smart meters.
 
This PoC will demonstrate an easy way for consumers to get current information about their consumption in a secure and reliable way, especially from meters in cramped utility cupboards or outdoor cabinets. From a utility point of view, using standard technologies such as Bluetooth allows an interoperable and cost effective implementation.
 
The PoC has been developed as a response to utilities that require smart meters to offer users a simple and efficient way of visualising their electricity consumption, including their historical usage, without using any additional equipment. The existing displays on electricity meters are not optimal for this sort of visualisation. A smartphone or tablet app, accessing the data over Bluetooth LE, will be able to present the data in more compelling ways, which will help consumers understand and adopt their usage patterns.
 
“We expect that demonstrating the PoC will result in BLE being established as the interface required in all future smart meters,” said Stefan Berggren, senior product marketing manager for U-Blox. “The inclusion of a Bluetooth Low Energy interface will also make it possible for smart meters to connect into a local smart home environment that could enable value-added services, such as temperature and humidity monitoring for customer locations and second homes.”
 
BLE’s support for mesh networking will also make it possible to extend the range of the smart meter’s connectivity through intermediate devices, such as installed sensors, so users can query their utility consumption information when they are beyond the usual range of a BLE connection.
 
To address concerns about data privacy and security, the PoC uses a secure BLE module from U-Blox, which has been designed to industrial standards. Close collaboration with Slovenia-based Iskraemeco and German company EMH facilitated consideration of particular design requirements and security challenges of the metering business.
 
The PoC was demonstrated at last week’s European Utility Week in Vienna, Austria.