IoT-enabled long range, low power applications are creating a smarter world with cost effective solutions for smart utility metering.

By: Rémi Demerlé, Marketing Director, LoRa Ecosystem, Semtech

Traditional utility operations are labor intensive. As meters are often located in dense urban environments, indoors or even underground, they can be challenging to reach and collect data from, which is oftentimes still subjective. While organizations look at ways to increase sustainability efforts for metering, Internet of Things (IoT) applications leveraging long range, low power capabilities have emerged as a more manageable and cost effective solution.

According to ABI Research, by 2026 IoT solutions leveraging non-cellular low-power wide-area networking technology are expected to represent up to 20% of all smart meters deployed. This is due in part to its ability to provide a more effective way of monitoring, forecasting and measuring data in real time, and from remote locations.

By investing in IoT solutions, utility providers can differentiate their offerings based on the performance and services their solutions can support.

LoRa® devices enable utilities to remotely access meters in rural and dense urban areas.
LoRa® devices enable utilities to remotely access meters in rural and dense urban areas.

Benefits of LoRa® and LoRaWAN® in the Utilities Market

Traditional connectivity options, like cellular networks, can be complex and costly to install and they lack interoperability with other networks and sufficient coverage, especially when indoors or in remote areas. IoT solutions that leverage long range, low power connectivity are not only scalable and easy to deploy, but they enable the capture of meaningful data.

A smart utility infrastructure comprised of sensors and gateways, utilizing the LoRaWAN® standard, provides utility and metering companies a more efficient way to collect real-time data, analyze it and act on the insights. Unlike traditional in person utility check-ins, smart sensors offer 24/7 remote monitoring that provides real-time notifications to workers. By leveraging two-way communications to send and receive messages, utility workers can identify red flags like dangerous gas leaks or abnormal water quality, and automatically shut down problem areas for maintenance. Access to data also allows for a better use of resources, including personnel, which helps to streamline operations.

This type of technology can run for years without requiring any maintenance thanks to batteries that can last for decades. Sensors are also purpose built for range in challenging environments, meaning they can be deployed deep underground, indoors or outdoors to support utilities of all types.

With hundreds of utilities use cases growing, applications integrating Semtech’s LoRa® devices and the LoRaWAN standard, offer customers strong business value and deliver a quick return on investment.

Gas metering

Several smart gas metering applications have been successfully rolled out globally. For example, in China, Suntront deployed 800,000 smart meters to date while in South Korea, Telecom has kept deployment of their smart meters in both residential and industrial sectors. Another example is with NTT West for Osaka Gas in Japan, who are aiming to retrofit million of gas meters, and lastly Nortegas, second largest gas utility in Spain, successfully tested LoRa in two pilots with Arson Metering for both the smart metering solution with embedded valve and safety detection of gas leak.

Indeed, smart gas utilities not only use LoRa to improve efficiency in automated meter reading operations but also to protect installation, workers and end customer lives. eLichens, the designer of avolta-CH4, created a connected gas leak detector running on the LoRaWAN standard that is able to detect natural gas (methane) leaks and alert workers immediately without the need for recalibration. Many other safety sensors for gas detection use cases exist such as with Fidegas in Spain, who are enabling detection of methane and monoxide of carbon, or CNI Guard in U.S. amongst many more.

Water metering

Water metering networks provide vital insights into operations including the identification of leaks. Birdz, a subsidiary of Veolia and a global leader in optimized resource management, implemented a LoRaWAN solution that helps manage utility operations more efficiently. For example in Lyon, France, Birdz operates over 400,000 end devices that have identified over 1,200 leaks and saved around 1 million cubic meters of water annually.

Electricity Metering

Smart electricity meters are a strong alternative to other connectivity options for both IoT networks and smart grid applications. For example, Cloud Energy developed a network running on the LoRaWAN standard for a wireless solar power system installed on temple and building rooftops across Vietnam. The solar power system provides comprehensive, accurate and independent data management from inverters, electricity meters and sensors to inform site owners of meter operations. This smart sensor solution has saved Cloud Energy customers 30% on initial investments.

Conclusion

As we continue to look for ways to leverage resources more efficiently, the IoT will be even more pervasive in the smart utility market. LoRa devices and LoRaWAN’s ease of deployment, scalability and cost-savings capabilities make it the go to platform connectivity choice for smart metering applications.

As more cities choose to utilize IoT solutions to improve and protect the lives of their citizens, they are showing the power of IoT technologies to create a smarter and ultimately safer planet.

remi demerle semtech
Remi Demerle

Helping companies connect things with wireless connectivity and enjoy the benefits of digital transformation have been continuous focuses of Rémi Demerlé throughout his 23 years in the ICT industry. Today, as director, developer ecosystem, WSP LoRa Alliance and Community at Semtech, Rémi continues to evangelize and promote LoRa® devices and the LoRaWAN® standard for the benefit of the global community. Rémi drives the promotion of LoRa devices to sustain its development in the utility vertical, and leads the utilities workgroup of the LoRa Alliance®. Prior to joining Semtech, Mr. Demerlé held various business development, executive and consulting positions for Telenor, Renesas, Sierra Wireless, Hewlett Packard, and Wavestone, accumulating experience leading marketing and business development initiatives for the Internet of Things in fleet logistics, smart metering and car telematics applications. Rémi Demerlé has a Master of Science degree in Electronics, Networks and Telecommunications from the National Institute of Polytechnique from Grenoble (INPG) in France.

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