Over the past decade, smart meter usage has sky-rocketed worldwide – and for good reason: these handy, high-tech devices provide highly-accurate readings, automatically. The innovation serves as a valuable time and money-saving solution for utility companies, and with the elimination of estimated billing, smart meters also help to put customers’ minds at ease.
But, just because the popularity of these gas and energy measurement devices have been officially cemented as an ‘industry standard,’ doesn’t mean that one size – or model, rather – fits all. Let’s see why.
A Brief Overview of Today’s Smart Meter Trends
According to data published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, smart meter usage is projected to quadruple worldwide by 2020, with China currently being the most prominent national user. In other regions of the world, most notably in Europe, smart meters are being utilized by regulatory bodies to monitor energy savings mandates. North America is trailing just behind but is also considered to be one of the more sophisticated markets as the technology has been used there, most notably in the United States, for longer.
These days, some investor-owned utility companies and small and/or underfunded municipalities are unable to take advantage of the technology as it does require large upfront investment. But, for the utility companies that are able to make the investment, smart meters and the benefits that come with them (i.e., automated data collection, reporting, network operation, and archiving), help to save plenty of money in the long run.
What You Should be Looking for in a Smart Meter
As with most cutting-edge tech, the magic of the smart meter lies less in the physical device itself and more in its connectivity capabilities. Because sensitive information will be delivered automatically, using the meter as a display vessel, of sorts, it’s important that it is capable of maintaining both consistencies, as well as iron-clad privacy. Due to these requirements, utility companies should first ensure that all smart meters include physical and communicative features like these:
- Low power usage: Smart meters that are equipped with low power usage technology are the way to go. Not only does the feature help the environment, it also asks less of the utility company as it usually lengthens the device’s battery life and also decreases maintenance requirements.
- Life cycle: Generally speaking, most smart meters last the user about a decade or so. Depending upon the part of the world in which the meter is purchased and installed, an official guarantee of longevity is required by governing bodies. Take the steps necessary to ensure that your smart meter purchase comes with all of the necessary paperwork to meet your municipal’s guidelines.
- Size and form factor of supporting technology: Investing in a specific model of smart meter isn’t a ‘one and done’ process; you must also ensure that its technology is supported by a size and form factor that can be used across all of your systems and markets.
- Security: Once you implement adjoining software for the smart meter data, also take the necessary steps to ensure that the device’s hardware components are also secure. As models differ, this is a fitting inquiry to make to the smart meter manufacturer.
- Easy-to-update software: And, speaking of software, if the smart meter comes with built-in software, ask the manufacturer about the labor required for updates and upgrades, especially if you have future plans for complex expansion.
- Support: Your chosen smart meter provider should provide a support package option that fits your ongoing needs. This is particularly important as in-home technology continues to innovate into the future.
Different Models of Smart Meters
Currently, there are three different types of smart meters available, each of which is designed to support different levels of energy consumption and usage. Here are the different models, according to Enemalta:
- GISM (230v): This model is known as a ‘single-phase’ smart meter.
- GIST (3*230/400v): This model is known as a ‘three-phase’ smart meter.
- GISS: This is a specialized meter that is installed only for heavy-usage customers.
Ostensibly, the model of meter selected should be suggested by your supplier based on your customer base. In most cases, utility companies will require a mixture of all three types – GISM, GIST, and GISS – depending on the demographics of their specific service area.
While there may not be a notable amount of diversity when it comes to smart meter types, with the similar global longevity policies in place, it’s the adjoining technologies that support them that should be paid the most attention. Make sure that your smart meter supplier is one that is security and support-focused, and always keep in them in the loop about any and all of your expansion-related goals. The key to selecting the right smart meter is to ensure that you give it the chance to stay reliable well into the future.