How can you shape the future of Utility power management?

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LoRa based PrePaid Energy Meters: Shaping the future of Utility Management

Technology can only be utilized and most importantly, revolutionized. When you are in the utility sector, it is the responsibility of each and everybody serving to provide ‘Vikaas’. In common words, Vikaas translates to development and it can be anything. For the time being, let’s consider a power cut. Power cuts annoy everybody. People start blaming the government, the discoms and each and everyone except themselves. But what if the mistake is on your side? What if you haven’t paid your bills? What if, you pay and use electricity? Something similar to a prepaid sim?

For complete strangers to this technology, “the standard business model of electricity retailing involves the electricity company billing the customer for the amount of energy used in the previous month or quarter. In some countries, if the retailer believes that the customer may not pay the bill, a prepayment meter may be installed. This requires the customer to make an advance payment before electricity can be used” is how Wikipedia describes it. 

Pay As You Go

For those living under the rocks, this concept of prepaid electricity metering isn’t new. Landlords in the UK have used prepaid electricity meters for rented accommodation. The South African company Eskom started using a prepayment system under their ‘Electricity For All’ scheme which was highly successful. Even the Indian government has decided to replace all the existing meters with smart prepaid meter ones. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi have all started replacing the meters and Uttar Pradesh has also followed suit. Now talk about Vikaas!

The discoms are facing a host of problems. Payment dues, power theft are just the tip of the iceberg. The government has settled upon that prepayment of electricity could be the answer. And, they might have actually hit the bullseye. There might not be a significant decrease in operating cost, but it will be a considerable one. And, not to mention the profit discoms might start making with people actually paying for what they use.  Meters will be able to measure most of the data like the voltage, frequency and also display the balance left. By using Smart Prepaid meters, users will be able to monitor parameters by connecting them to the meters. But, how is the connection between the user and device achieved is the next big question that needs to be answered.   

The Liaison

Most of the smart meters use various connectivity methods such as  cellular communication, WiFi, ethernet,Zigbee, but LPWAN is proving to be the one to watch out for. With several advantages such as lower power consumption,longer range, low operating cost, lesser number of gateways required and free radio spectrum, LPWAN can do what bluetooth(longer range) and cellular(low power) could not achieve. 

LPWAN was created for IOT based M2M applications . It transmits data in packets to avoid packet loss, thus increasing efficiency. A wide variety of applications such as metering, location monitoring, home automation, fleet monitoring, traffic management can use this method.

With a handful of vendors offering this technology, Sigfox and LoRa are the pioneers. Sigfox uses a well-known modulation technique, but transmits slowly in a very narrow band of spectrum to maximize signal penetration. LoRa radios use a modulation technique that can find signals well below the noise floor. Having developed their own signal processing methods, LoRa has been able to achieve even longer ranges, significantly better than the standard 10 km range in comparison to other vendors. With its free to use operation and ‘build-your-network’ method of operating, LoRa has taken the lead in the race. Within the sub-GHz spectrum, LoRa chips use a spread-spectrum strategy to transmit at a variety of frequencies and data rates. That allows the gateway to adapt to changing conditions and optimize the way it exchanges data with each device.

Metering Gets Smarter with LoRa

When electricity meters are used with LoRa, metering tends to be smarter. Each meter shall have a separate QR code and can be scanned by the user and can be quickly installed. A single gateway can connect up to 256 energy meters ( to one gateway with programmable data log interval, meters can be scaled up to 1000) and data is transmitted from the meters to the central server through this gateway. Important data can be sent, so fewer operating cost and losses occur. In places where source changeovers are used, a wireless communication module is used to send the data to the user as well as the server where all the data is stored. Using a mobile app, the meter data can be monitored by the user.

Key Features of LoRa based Elmeasure Prepaid Meter

  1. Long Range 
  2. Low Cost
  3. Secure
  4. High Reliability
  1. Long Range – Connects devices up to 1 Km  apart in rural areas and penetrates  dense urban or deep indoor environments
  2. Low Cost – Reduces infrastructure investment, and ultimately operating expenses
  3. Secure – Features end-to-end encryption, mutual authentication, integrity protection, and confidentiality
  4. High Reliability – Designed to operate across a wide temperature range in unforgiving environments, these devices are ideal for Aerospace, Industrial and Military applications.

LoRa enabled prepayment meters can be used in residential complexes where energy supply and source can be controlled and data of each household can be monitored. Since their operation does not rely upon network providers, it can be accessed any time of the day. In case of commercial establishments, energy can be monitored such that the load is operated in an efficient manner. With the increase in power theft, payment dues and meter manipulation, these set of meters stand a great chance in reducing utility losses coupled with their large communication range. The app can also be used to recharge the account. 

With a smattering of manufacturers coupling LoRa with prepaid energy measurement, companies like Elmeasure India Pvt Ltd. are setting standards in the energy sector. It’s only a matter of time before we hear their success stories!

To view the press release of Elmeasure India Pvt Ltd and ClodPi regarding the use case of LoRaWAN® prepaid and postpaid electric meters: Click Here

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