What Are Smart Meters?

Smart meters are electronic devices that record the utility consumption of a building and transmit the data to the energy supplier at regular intervals. Property managers have the option of installing smart meters and are extensively deploying smart grid technology and advanced metering infrastructure to track energy usage accurately, draw load-balancing strategies and forecast future energy demand.

Smart electricity and gas meters are also helping users track their power usage over time, identify energy leakages and implement appropriate strategies to improve energy efficiency. With their two-way communication functionality, smart meters work effectively to bridge the communication gaps between tenants and property managers of commercial buildings.

How do you establish this smart meter communication functionality?

This article explains several connectivity solutions that facilitate smart meter communication and the cybersecurity risks you may need to consider while establishing these connections.

How Do Smart Meters Communicate?

There are three approaches to establishing smart meter communication systems.

1. Smart Meter to Gateway Communication

This communication approach emphasizes your smart electricity, gas and water meters connecting to the gateway, rather than directly to the cloud. 

Gateways are referring to a unit of communication that connects two networks using different protocols together, acting as a gate between the two networks.

It is a simple and cost-effective solution that allows smart meters to run on batteries.

  • Wired Protocols: Wired protocols, such as Ethernet and Power Line Communication (PLC) ensure smart meters connect to the gateway through a cable. Deploying the wire can be a significant initial investment in this approach. Smart meters, connected through wired protocols, will use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate with the gateway. Bottom line, property managers have the option of using wired protocols that connect to the gateway through a cable.
  • Wireless Protocols: Commercial properties can use a range of wireless communication protocols, including Wi-Fi, Wireless Meter-Bus, LoRaWAN, MIOTY and Zigbee to connect smart meters with the gateway. Wireless protocols use Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) that use low radio frequencies to transmit the data and consume less power. Not all of these wireless protocols are suitable for all types of smart meter requirements. For instance, Wi-Fi protocol is ubiquitous but it uses an unlicensed 24GHz band that increases security risks. Bottom line, property managers and security administrators should thoroughly evaluate their security needs, the scale of operations and the capability of existing IT infrastructure before choosing a suitable wireless protocol.

2. Gateway to Cloud Communication

The role of the gateway is to receive real-time data from the connected smart meters and then transmit it to the cloud. The gateway to cloud communication can also be established through wired, Wi-Fi, and cellular protocols.

  • Wired protocols: You can connect gateways to the cloud through Ethernet or a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Since Ethernet makes use of the local area network (LAN) to establish the connection between the gateway and the cloud, it may leave the customer data vulnerable to external threats.
  • Wi-FI: Though Wi-Fi is technically a feasible option, it may not be suitable for large-scale operations due to issues such as poor penetration and short range.
  • Cellular: Cellular networks are widely available across the globe. All you need to do is to purchase a SIM card for your gateway and connect it to the cloud. Since cellular networks provide extensive indoor coverage, you can use them regardless of how large and complex your smart meter infrastructure is. 

3. Smart Meter to Cloud Communication

Why spend money on the gateway when you can directly connect smart meters to the cloud? You can establish a connection between the smart meter and the cloud through Sigfox and cellular protocols.

  • Sigfox: You can use Sigfox wireless network if it is available. However, the major drawback of Sigfox is that it allows the smart meter to transmit only 12 bytes of data at a time. 
  • Cellular: Cellular networks such as LTE-M and NB-IoT will help you establish a direct connection between your smart meter and the cloud.

Alternatively, you may implement a cloud-based submeter billing solution that connects your networked and non-networked meters to streamline the submeter reading and billing processes. Genea offers a submeter billing platform that connects your submeters directly to the cloud and eliminates the practice of manual record-keeping on clipboards and spreadsheets.

Genea Submeter Billing is Compatible with Smart Meters

Commercial properties are replacing analog meters with smart meters to gain better insights into tenant energy consumption and to reduce carbon emissions.

Genea offers cutting-edge submeter billing software that can be integrated with your smart meters to eliminate costly mistakes of meter readers and send accurate electricity bills to tenants on their mobile phones. It also comprises an energy dashboard where property managers can compile and analyze gas or electricity usage data and draw real-time insights for informed decision-making. This data helps property managers accurately forecast energy consumption, identify leakages and pinpoint the reason for unplanned spikes in electricity use during both non-peak and peak times.

Whether you are using traditional meters or smart electric meters, Genea’s software helps you set up your metering system within a matter of days and ensure you never miss a billing cycle.

Book a demo of Genea Submeter Billing Software to learn how it can streamline your meter reading and billing processes.