Smart Meter

Smart meters are used widely to measure electricity consumption, voltage levels, current accurately, and also to monitor its usage. Compared to the traditional analogue meters, a smart meter is more accurate, has a reduced margin for errors and displays all relevant information to the consumer. A smart meter also paves the way for easy bill calculation and is designed using advanced infrastructure.

Nowadays, many such meters have wireless communication facilities and work over long distances via a wireless network. Since the last few years, smart meters have evolved to be compatible with smartphone applications and provide regular alerts to users. It also comes equipped with sensor technologies, alerts and a system to monitor power quality efficiently.

Smart meters have transformed the landscape of getting accurate readings and efficiency. Such devices are becoming increasingly popular and have established a solid place of their own in the global market.

Overview

Our client is a utility company based in South Africa that manages the distribution and billing for electrical energy. Since the company bills its consumers, they have to accurately note meter readings and other stats to price every consumer’s usage correctly. However, they were using the traditional method to measure and monitor energy consumption which was rapidly becoming outdated due to new technology.

Therefore, the client wanted to modify their conventional method of manual reading of meters and integrate automation technologies. Billing and data records based on manual readings were more prone to errors. This was one of the key points that needed to be addressed while developing the new product.

Approach

We started the project by recognising the technological updates to be integrated with the existing system. Our team conducted an in-depth analysis of the current system and devised a plan for potential solutions and the use of electronics and automation. We also studied the billing systems, management, data recording and consumer service communication systems to accurately identify areas of improvement.

Our goal was to design a solution that can withstand the tumultuous market for an extended period in the future. We studied electronics platforms and modules and confirmed their potential availability right from the manufacturing store.

As a company that provides well rounded and comprehensive services to its customers, we at Alpha ICT have worked for several years to amplify the sustainability of our products. Energy and resources are some of the major sectors we work with to do our part to promote conservation.

With our professional services, we delivered an enhanced product and satisfactory results to our clients.

Results

Our diverse range of technical skills played a significant role in enabling us to develop a prototype of ZigBee based smart energy meter for residential single-phase users. Since the meter would store its data, we developed a gateway to communicate and store data locally and securely with multiple meters in a mesh network. It also enabled the device to send and receive data, to and from the server via GPRS communication.

To introduce electronics in our client’s product line, we oversaw the incorporation of reliable and relevant access control technologies and its vendors. We also developed a hardware platform to factor in future upgradeable components and technologies. Our team conducted a complete set-up in the electronics production facility along with designing MDAS, MDM, Command Centre and User Interface for admin and consumers alike.

One of our prime objectives was to make a smart meter with automated metering infrastructure and advanced features that could resolve all the current issues our client was facing. Therefore, we included features like automatic bill payment reminders, remote disconnection of service, and periodic consumption alerts.

By integrating these solutions within the product, we were able to –

  • Provide accurate readings
  • Transparent and accurate billing amounts
  • Effective grid management
  • Access to real-time data and usage patterns based on historical data records
  • Reduction of costs for data collection and data recording
  • Increasing energy consumption during off-peak cheaper tariff periods
  • Easy payment collection

Conclusion

This project required the assimilation of several different technology areas. Our team used head-end software, IoT services, meter data acquisition systems, automated data recording, automated metering infrastructure and billing payment gateway to develop a smart meter. We also included a consumer portal that could be operated via web and mobile to be better convenient to the users.

  • Accurate Measurement and Automated Data Recording
  • Automated Metering Infrastructure
  • Meter Data Acquisition System 
  • Meter Data Management 
  • Head End Software
  • IoT
  • Common Command Centre
  • Billing Platform and Payment Gateway
  • Consumer Portal – Web/ Mobile
  • A total of 7 PCBs – all double sided PTH
  • Schematics, BOM, Layouts and Gerbers: PADS from Mentor Graphics
  • Smartmeter – Teridian 71M6511 SoC
  • Telegesis Zigbee module with external antenna
  • Gateway – Microchip 16 bit general purpose microcontroller
  • GPS module from Navisys
  • Customized segmented LCD for smart meter
  • Code in C
  • IDE: Keil, MPLAB