Mystery of Smart Metering at EUW, Amsterdam05.11.2014
Energomonitorparticipated in European Utility Week(EUW), the largest European event for the energy sector that took place in Amsterdam. We generated a substantial amount of interest at the three-day event. Although we wanted to participate in European Utility Week last year we didn’t feel we were ready. The wait paid off, we matured and advanced our product and we were able to have a much more wholesome presentation. Much of our success this year came from being able to present the product as a whole and complete system. This is why we were able to attract a lot of attention at the EUW2014.
Mystery of Smart Metering
The global trend of raising energy costs push towards renewable and questions in energy security has placed smart metering on to the centre stage of the energy sector. Until now it was believed that the only solution in smart metering was to replace the existing “dumb” meters with smart ones. Pilot programs were run in some countries to see if the technology was viable. The conclusion was that there is only one problem and it is the price. The model of replacing perfectly functioning meters and replacing them with brand new, much more expensive smart meters and building out huge data transmission infrastructure was just not viable. The consumer has no appetite to pay for this expense since direct consumption billing instead of the deposit system is rather disadvantageous for him. The energy sector was also not interested in rolling out the new system because it would be a significant costs and the rate of return wouldn’t be that fast. Cash strapped governments also opted out of any plans to pay for the smart metering systems. So this stand-off resulted in waiting until the price of smart meters falls to one-fifth preferably one-tenth of the current price.
If you are an IT person here is a simple explanation of what smart metering is. The current meters are like web counters – each visit adds one number, but that is all you get. Smart metering is Google Analytics – you can expect a lot more information and information you can work with. If you understand that then smart metering opens up a lot of potential for saving energy but also working with information gathered from the meters.
At Energomonitor we believe that the smart metering of utilities (water, gas, electricity, heat, etc.) will only be viable if the technology is cheap and provides the end user with benefits of savings and insight into their usage. The current concept of smart metering is just too expensive and doesn’t offer the end user any tangible benefits.
Minus the costs
What we presented at EUW2014 was the following. We connected several types of meters: old mechanicals ones and new digital meters to our system. The data was sent through an internet connection from there to a cloud service where the data gets visualized into attractive graphs and charts. What is special about the Energomonitor system is that we also provide advice on how to change your consumption so you you can use your utilities efficiently. Since Energomonitor can work with existing meters, no new GPRS or PLC systems have to be set up. The other benefit the end user will have – compared to other smart metering systems – is information in real time. Energomonitor has a one-minute delay on this system, other smart metering systems have delays of several hours. All of this at an extremely cheap price compared to our competition.
We had some very interesting reactions at EUW2014 to Energomonitor. Most people asked twice if they heard correctly when we told them the price. Three people asked us to write down the price on paper to be really sure if they understood correctly. One gentleman from a major manufacturer of smart metering devices let out a hysterical laugh when he heard the price of the product and joked that when his boss will hear the price he is going to have to burn down our stand. Luckily he never showed up. A gentleman from a Chinese company was outraged that our prices are better than theirs and proceeded to take photos of our entire presentation.
Our presentation was significantly different since we didn’t use generic stock footage of meters or people. Our stand was hand painted and told our story really well. Everything in our presentation had its meaning. The demonstration panel was designed by five people and produced by five people with the overall intensity of 10MD. All three meters worked as we wanted them to. We had one gas meter, one water meter (spun by a fan from the back) and one electricity meter. The only occasional glitch we had was when the WiFi provided by the fair had problems. You could turn on the lamp and watch how the data displayed on the web after passing through the Amazon data center in Ireland.
Participating in EUW2014 was a huge boost for Energomonitor. People actually understood us. We did not need to explain to them why smart metering is important. They understood that producing in the Czech Republic, part of the EU, is going to be good for marketing. It was a great feeling especially after three years of hard work and a lot of money spent.
The Energomonitor product is different, and it hit the market demand spot on. We have competition that can throw a lot of money at smart metering products and they have customers simply because they have the backing. We had many visitors that understood that we are providing the same product as expensive smart metering technologies but at a fraction of the price. Some were concerned about the internet connection (we can always add a GPRS module). There was significant interest from the Middle East and Far East. One gentleman from Pakistan told us that if the design could be altered it could be used in 10 million supply points that his company operates.
Another issue somebody brought up was data and the NSA spying scandal. Some companies didn’t like that we currently have the data go through the Amazon cloud service. This service is based in Ireland so it is fully under EU regulation. Amazon also opened a data centre in Frankfurt recently and we would consider other options if this was an issue for many clients.
We have come a long way. We don’t have just theory and PowerPoint slides behind us but we have the experience. We have the small boxes, we are able to produce them, we are able to program them, we know if they have security flaws. It was refreshing to walk around the exhibition hall and talk to the others and hear an earnest evaluation of their products. We are quite ahead in almost all aspects. So the hard work has been paying off.
One annoying issue that we saw at the fair was that smart metering has a lot more support in the rest of the EU compared to Czech Republic. In an expert panel that was held at EUW2014 it was clear that ideas of energy conservation and smart metering is a mainstream trend while in the Czech Republic it is still a dirty word.
We are yet to get the final results for participating in EUW2014 but if only one of the deals goes through it was totally worth it. There are some exhibitions outside Europe that are also very important and we will consider attending them although their costs are quite high.
A big thank you to all the people in Energomonitor for preparing the presentation. Thanks to Jirka, Filip, both Michal and Peter, Pepa and Ondrej, Paul and Inka. Paul persuaded me at the last moment to change the graphics. It was two months of intensive work, but it is good that we have had them. A fixed deadline that you can not postpone is a great motivator.