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Factories of the Future

How 5G Enables Advanced Metering Infrastructure for Smarter Utilities
07/11/2019 00:00:00

The integrated system of smart meters, communications networks, and data management systems known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is a dream for forward-facing utility companies. AMI architecture can reduce power outages and electrical spikes, help consumers lower their monthly energy bills, and give access to gas, electric and water readouts through remote mobile devices.  

Across Europe and the U.S., smart grids and a vast network of power-reading sensors are paving the way for an easier, cost-effective, eco-friendly future. While smart metering currently features cross-network connection capability for 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE, the coming impact of 5G for IoT solutions in enabling new applications across AMI and smart utility functionality will be felt across the globe. Building an AMI framework now for 5G capabilities will revolutionize the way the world connects us to the world around us.  

How Does Smart Metering Work?
Smart metering enables smart grids to connect to water, gas, oil and electric utilities. Power companies, consumers and first responders will gain real-time wireless control with a 5G-enabled AMI network. This is done through an infrastructure of sensors monitoring variables including water quality, temperature, pressure, rate of consumption and more. These sensors send these readouts directly to utility companies, where their data is analyzed and reformatted into diagnostics that help users better understand their averages and monthly use comparisons.  

Home users will save money on more accurate bills and will no longer have to suffer through utility companies sending someone to read the meter on their property.  

Other metering capabilities for industrial use includes using sensors to regulate oil industry pipelines and equipment, sensing gas leaks and toxins in mining operations, and other practical metering applications where safety is essential to daily operations.  

Capabilities of Advanced Metering Infrastructure
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability released a report outlining several important AMI functions that were not possible until now. Utilizing smart sensor technology, AMI has a multitude of uses including: 

The ability to automatically and remotely measure electricity usage 
Connecting or disconnecting service 
Detecting energy theft 
Identifying and isolating outages 
Creating time-based rate programs and incentives from power companies
The report details a $3.4 billion investment in the modernization of existing electric grids, strengthening cybersecurity, improving interoperability and collecting smart grid impact data. More than two-thirds of the investment has gone towards AMI deployment strategies and communications restructuring. Along with hundreds of thousands of smart meters, direct load control (DLC) devices, in-home displays (IHDs) and web portal services, consumers and power distribution centers are seeing faster results.  

The faster the communication between device and server, the quicker the action.

How Will 5G Change How We Implement Smart Metering Solutions?
Many current infrastructures are being upgraded with 4G LTE solutions, but as more devices stretch bandwidth to peak capacity, what advantages will 5G have over 4G networks? 

With 5G speeds and access already reaching the consumer market on a limited basis, we will see better performance, faster power reconnection after outages, and more cost-effective measures across AMI-equipped homes and facilities. 

ABI Research stresses the importance of technology and connections able to support longer battery life and optimized data flow: “Long battery life of more than ten years and signal propagation to reach meters that are often underground in pavements or driveways are critical to connect meters.” AMI frameworks like pipe sensors and smart thermostats would be difficult to access, and costly to perform maintenance on if they needed to be upgraded or repaired every year or two. 5G low-power wide-area (LPWA) connectivity facilitates this need with a longer battery life of devices using 5G enabled modules and expanded geographic coverage for connected devices.   

Technologies are being developed that are more adept at connecting multiple devices for longer durations than the current 2G to 4G thresholds. 5G will support over 1,000 more devices per meter than 4G. 5G’s network slicing, compared to the present-day LTE, will allow smart energy use cases to be handled by a single network. 5G will also use shorter wavelengths, so smaller antennas can provide the same amount of precision and control as bulkier, more expensive units.  

According to Tim Fisher with Lifewire, the fundamental difference between 4G and 5G is that 5G operates through unique radio frequencies that are unencumbered by the billions of devices already connected. 

Direct Consumer Benefits of 5G AMI
What this means for smart metering is an uninterrupted stream of data that safely transmits data despite “interference, obstacles, and network congestion,” according to Business Insider. 

A fine-tuned AMI operation on a 5G network can bring the following benefits to both consumers and utilities, including: 

Reduced billing costs 
Reduced metering costs 
Reduced customer disputes 
Operational efficiency improvements 
Personalized control over electricity consumption 
Real-time customer tools  
Lower utility capital expenditures 
Lower outage costs 
Fewer inconveniences across the board 

The Future of Smart Metering with Telit’s 5G Solutions
Are you ready to reach your 5G potential? 

With over 15 years of experience in IoT technology and solutions, Telit experts have a proven track record in smart metering solutions around the world. Upgrade your infrastructure simply and cost effectively. Telit makes it easy to get started. Our IoT experts will help you find the right LPWA modules and custom IoT data plan for your needs.  

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