The SmartReach consortium, which includes Arqiva, BT, BAE Systems Detica and Sensus, and ScottishPower have announced an 18 month trial of smart electricity meters in 5,000 homes in in Glasgow and Lochwinnoch, Scotland. For the trial, SmartReach is using Arqiva’s existing tower infrastructure, Sensus’ FlexNet smart metering communications solution and smart meters from EDMI.
The trial is intended to demonstrate the suitability of long-range radio communications for smart electricity meters by showing it can reach meters in all locations. Lochwinnoch is only 20 miles from Glasgow but is the type of rural location that other communications networks find hard to reach. Densely populated Glasgow presents a different kind of communications challenge, with meters located deep inside buildings, including basements.
Andrew Ward, ScottishPower’s Operations Director, commented, “We are committed to delivering the same high quality smart metering services to our customers, whether they live in city centres or rural areas. It is therefore essential that the supporting communications technology is easy to install, reliable and always available. This trial of long-range radio with SmartReach will build on the positive experience of our trial in Ipswich to help us to understand how ‘hard to reach’ locations can be accessed.”
Review: This trial is very much aimed at establishing what SmartReach believes is it’s competitive advantage – the fact that it is better able to communicate directly with meters in a range of locations. One of the main challenges of a smart meter implementation programme is to ensure that all the installed devices can be communicated with first time, with no call backs or additional technology required. SmartReach’s solution promises simpler and less expensive smart meter installation.
The technology behind SmartReach is already widely deployed in the US, where more than ten million smart meter are connected to long-range radio based networks. The consortium is clearly trying to show the UK government, and other potential purchasers and decision-makers, that it also works in the UK (and Europe). It seemed like an ideal solution to me when I visited Arqiva a couple of years ago.