When it comes to resource consumption, smart metering is a way for businesses to not only keep track of how much energy they're using, but to collect data to make in-depth analyses of usage. Smart meters are devices for measuring usage of certain utilities and other consumable resources. They also record a variety of data points on consumption, including when a resource is being used, how much at a time and where it's being directed. Through an internet or wireless connection, the data is relayed to a console where you can see a breakdown of the data.
Electric, gas, water and other utility companies have embraced smart metering as an efficient method of tracking usage across their grids to better determine costs and infrastructure needs. It can give both them and their customers better ideas of how usage affects their bills and help them determine new strategies to save money on utilities.
While smart metering is still new, makers are already coming up with many unique applications for the technology. The internet of things (IoT) field has taken advantage of smart metering to further create a network of interconnected devices producing a massive amount of data.
Since smart metering is still an emerging way of tracking energy usage, in many markets it's an optional installation for businesses from their utility providers – for an additional fee in many cases. However, the extra cost may be worth it for businesses to switch from a manual meter to a smart meter.
How it can help your business
The direct benefit of smart metering is having a precise knowledge of your business's energy and other utility usage. Most smart meters tie directly in to an interface that gives you an exact readout on current usage, breaking it down by time of day, day of the week and month. Having this information at your fingertips can help you make better decisions on usage and keep up-to-date records on your resource usage. Having better records can lead to fewer errors in accounting.
Getting a better idea of just how much you're consuming at any given time can inspire you to set forth initiatives to reduce consumption. Some interfaces correlate usage with a monetary measurement, like a rating of watts per hour, allowing you to see how much electricity is costing you by the minute.
Neil Maldeis, engineering leader with HVAC system maker Trane, described a recent project with an Illinois school district to set up an interactive smart metering interface for students to monitor their own school's energy consumption.
"The upgrades implemented by the district helped increase energy efficiency, provide comfort to enhance learning conditions and improve environmental literacy," Maldeis said. "As a result, energy and maintenance costs have been reduced, nearly 20 hours of weekly staff labor have been eliminated, and the district has qualified for nearly $64,000 in rebates. District officials expect to save $500,000 over the course of the project, which was one of their strategic plan objectives."
The future of smart metering
Smart metering is improved by new and better connectivity innovations, especially IoT. With meters tied to the mechanisms that control the resources they're measuring, we can turn some of our decisions over to automation backed by machine learning. An IBM blog suggests that a smart meter tied to a thermostat can help it determine times to change the heat, based on fluctuating energy costs. Smart meters can be applied to numerous devices and machinery, allowing businesses to manage their power usage per machine.
Another potential application is for devices that use up consumable resources that need to be refilled. Smart meters that detect a resource is about to run out can prompt an IoT device to automatically order a refill.
For utility companies, the more smart meters connected to their infrastructure, the more data on customer usage they can acquire to run their grid more efficiently. They can detect irregularities live in sections and go onsite to make preventative repairs on certain areas before an outage occurs.