Indian smart metering landscape and ADD GRUP vision
During the last few years Indian smart metering landscape has been very heterogeneous and even though the standards for smart meters have unified certain requirements to which all meter vendors have to comply, there is still a lot of diversity not only to the choice of technologies and meter functionality, but also to the approach to smart metering deployments and tender procedures.
Indian government plans to install 250 million smart meters in the next three to four years across all the states. Obviously to bring such an ambitious plan into reality there should be a clear vision over business models, deployment plan, reliable communication infrastructure and fulfillment of mandatory functionality.
EESL and Pay-As-You-Save model. A very ambitious project according to which EESL is a central meter purchaser giving meters to DSOs based on leasing model. DSOs are expected to repay from expected revenues that should be generated after smart meter installation and improved billing and payments. Time has shown that this model has serious issues related to choice of technologies and return on investment and things are not that positive as they were expected. Due to this there appeared Intellismart (subsidiary of EESL) to adopt the below business model.
DBFOOT or BOOT model. According to this model the integrator/bidder has to design, build, finance, own, operate, transfer the system and be responsible for SLA. In case SLA is not met, the integrator/bidder does not get money and pays penalties. The model becomes more and more popular due to the fact that utilities do not want to rely on certain communication infrastructure and reliability/durability of meters to reach target SLA, and leave this into hands of bidder/integrator.
Direct purchases. Under such procedure DSOs take care of smart metering and further deployment on their own.
3GPP or Cellular. This communication solution has been widely used by EESL. On the one hand it seems to be the most reliable. Practically everyone has mobile phone and it seems that communication is everywhere. However the major difference is that telephone is MOBILE and meters are not. There are still lots of locations where 3GPP is not available and Mobile operators will not install another base station just for the purpose of reaching few meters installed in the basement in a metering room. Another serious disadvantage is obviously monthly operational costs that every meter generates – payments to Mobile operator.
RF solutions. Probably the most widely spread communication solution in India in non licensed bands. It obviously has its own natural barriers (concrete walls, metal constructions, cables, other equipment working emitting noise in the same frequency etc). There is also installation issue: gateways/concentrators have to be installation and powered in locations which do not belong to DSO and with each choice of such location there should be agreements made with owners for the right to install and get power supply
PLC solutions. Probably one of the most underestimated communication technologies due to few non-successful pilot projects done long time ago based on older technologies. It does have a natural barrier – noise in non-ideal Indian grids. The technology however has been moving forward including appearance of Hybrid solution (PLC+RF) and few companies are already on the way to test it in Indian grids.
There are others as well like LORAWAN for instance, NB-Iot etc
Few months ago the regulator has decided that all meters delivered to Indian market have to be prepaid. However there is no unity as to the way prepayment has to be implemented. On the one hand there is a requirement to arrange prepayment on the level of central software (the so-called managed prepayment) and the meters are just supposed to be disconnected remotely as credit reaches zero and connected back as credit is topped up. However questions appear:
- What to do in situations when non-ideal communication infrastructure cannot send the command to reconnect the consumer after he has paid?
- What is the solution when prepayment meters are not smart or are not yet a part of communication infrastructure?
- If prepayment is organized on the level of the meter that does not have communication interface, how to assure that the meter is not tampered and how to get consumption data and alarms from it.
As we can see, landscape is really heterogeneous and though the market is very price sensitive, we understand that to address this variety of issues key stakeholders (DSOs and integrators) will be looking for hybrid solution in order to tackle all of these issues and those vendors who are able to offer such hybrid solutions.
ADD GRUP has created such solution by unifying ADDAX and ADDERRA brands and their functionality into a complete and flexible offer that can address all the needs of Indian smart and prepaid metering market.
The result of our efforts is as follows:
The modular meter developed by ADD Grup is fully compliant with IS 16444 standard and can be supplied with next communication modules:
- 2G/LTE Cat1;
- 2G/NBIoT module;
- RF (Wi-Sun) module;
- Hybrid module PLC+RF (G3 or Prime);
- LoRaWAN module;
Besides the standard functionality demanded by utilities and standardization institutions we have added the following features that create technological advantages over competitors.
- BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) mesh network for group metering. Each meter has BLE interface on-board. One of the meters in the group can act as Leader meter having a WAN communication module and serving as gateway for the other meters (up to 64 units). The meters should be placed in a radius of maximum 20 m. In this case the rest of the meters can be installed without communication modules. Such solution can be suitable for metering rooms which are very common in India and helps save significant amounts of money on modules for each meter as well as monthly fees for 3GPP modules to mobile operator.
- Flexibility in the choice of communication solutions. India is a huge country and depending on its landscape, population density, rural/city/industrial areas none of communication solutions will be ideal for all areas. Meter that supports any of the above mentioned communication modules gives flexibility to utility or to integrator to build an appropriate network for a maximum SLA. So the order can be made initially for meters and choice of modules can be made during deployment phase.
- ADDDERA Prepayment / payment control metering. Here we integrated ADDAX smart metering solution with ADDERRA – a cloud-based payment control solution used for metering application and integrated with billing and payment processing platforms. The solution is offered as SaaS and includes the following functionality.
Generation of digital tokens
- In kWh. This is the most standard way of prepayment and is widely used when there is a single-tariff for electricity. The consumption calculation is made on the meter level.
- In currency. This is a commonly used prepayment method for multi-tariff metering. The consumption calculation is made on the meter level.
- In TIME. This is a totally new approach according to which each purchased token activates the meter for a specific period of time after expiration of which the meter will disconnect the relay. In view of electricity theft being an urgent issue in India this can be a very good solution especially for standalone meters without communication. When the token is purchased in kWh or currency, utility never knows, when the consumer credit reaches zero. However when the token activates the meter for a specific period of time, utility will always know that there is something wrong with the meter if at the day of programmed disconnection the consumer does not come to pay the bill for the new token. It is also very convenient for consumer as he can always know when to buy the new token or utility can notify him by sms.
Token transmission and payment processing
- Based on ADDERRA smartphone app. The consumer downloads ADDERRA app and buys the tokens through the app via an integrated payment platform (Stripe, Paypal or any other Indian based). After the token is purchased, it will be send by HES remotely to the meter, if the meter is part of communication solution. Alternatively the consumer can charge the meter with the token using the smartphone app and BLE interface of the meter.
- Based on BLE key-bob. In case the consumer does not have a smart-phone, he can buy tokens from vending point of utility, charge the token to key-fob and later send the token from key-fob to the meter. The token can be also sent by HES remotely to the meter, if the meter is part of communication solution.
Meter data exchange for stand-alone meters.
- With ADDERRA meters that do not have communication module are no longer stand-alone. The system is structured in such a way, that every time you need to get a new token, you first have to exchange data between meter and key-fob or between meter and smartphone app. The data which are received from the meter can be current consumption and alarms (tampering, power down etc) or any other registers. The keyfob and app will send these data into HES before new token transaction happens. Having this info from stand-alone meters utility is much better prepared to deal with electricity theft even without having built communication infrastructure.
From prepayment to payment control metering.
- With ADDERRA utility and consumer are no longer bound to prepayment only. No matter which type of token (kWh, currency or Time) is chosen, they can agree over a certain credit of trust, where consumer is given certain amount of money, kWh or time without the necessity to pay them in advance and only by using out this credit the meter will disconnect the relay. The system (both app or keyfob) will alert the consumer about the necessity to settle the payment.
- Classic prepayment solutions. Despite the obvious advantages of ADDERRA prepayment and payment control metering our solution supports conventional prepayment systems, as follows
- Based on STS model. In this case there will be necessary the additional third-party vending software and vending infrastructure. In case with smart meters tokens can be transferred remotely. In case of standalone meters token can be transferred via BLE remote keypad.
- Managed prepayment. In this case and prepayment and vending is online, ADDAX meters can receive commands for connection or disconnection from server and through communication infrastructure.
The variety of options provided by ADD GRUP as well as the possibility to combine them in one network can give DISCO’s and contractors working on BOOT models full confidence that they will have a solution for any use case they will meet in the field.