Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Spanish field trials prove NB-IoT for gas meter reading

Steve Rogerson
March 2, 2017

A trial of NB-IoT for a smart gas metering application has been completed in Spain by Swiss wireless module company U-Blox, gas metering firm Pietro Fiorentini, and Terranova, an Italian meter data management software company.
The field trials were run on a full working NB-IoT cycle inside a gas meter, with focus on the results achieved in the field, in areas where reachability and battery consumption, as well as product robustness and reliability are crucial.
The trials involved two Spanish major gas distribution companies and a significant number of Pietro Fiorentini gas meters. 
NB-IoT technology supports bi-directional communications, data encryption at 128bit and remote commands for meter shut down. All these are additional to the conventional remote meter reading and gas consumption profiling. 
The trial covered the whole chain – gas meter, NB-IoT network, communications protocols, and data acquisition system and meter data management on software provided by Terranova, making the data available to any ERP system.
The results demonstrated end-to-end functionality, bi-directional communications and scalability from 2G to NB-IoT.
These trials are said to reflect the companies’ eagerness to meet growing demand for low-power wide area (LPWA) connectivity, as delivered by NB-IoT technology, which was standardised by the 3GPP in June 2016.
As NB-IoT operates on networks within the licensed spectrum, it also offers security and freedom from interference and is therefore suitable for critical infrastructure devices, such as utility meters. Additionally, NB-IoT is power efficient and provides coverage in shielded areas, making it suitable for the long lifecycles and underground locations of many meters.
Embedded in each gas meter is a U-Blox Sara-N2 module, a cellular radio module compliant with 3GPP Release 13. 
"We needed a high quality and reliable smart technology for conducting NB-IoT trials in a gas meter anticipating the communications needs of the modern gas industry,” said Gianfranco DeFeo, marketing principal at Pietro Fiorentini. “Sara-N2 was therefore the right choice. We were satisfied to see the success of the complete end-to-end solution with bi-directional data communications fully integrated in the Terranova meter data management platform.”
The results achieved are preparatory for further roll-out in the field.
"It was very exciting to collaborate with market leaders such as Pietro Fiorentini and Terranova in conducting trials that would eventually guarantee secure high quality wireless communications in smart gas metering applications," said Stefano Moioli, director of cellular product management at U-Blox.

U-Blox has announced PTCRB certification of its Toby-R202 and Toby-R200 LTE Cat 1 modules for T-Mobile's US 4G LTE network. Both modules will be available for both of T-Mobile's IoT access packs, which offer simple IoT pricing with a Cat 1 module and support a broad range of industrial IoT applications.