What Are Smart Meters Information Technology Essay

The aim of this research project is to give a critical review of the smart metering system. Climate change needs to be tackled and one of the possible solutions is the smart metering system, as it allows users to monitor and reduce their energy usage.

This report will look at the past metering systems and their problems, the present metering systems and how they can be improved for future metering systems. The project will try to analyse the current issues like costs and how these can be reduced.


Over The last decade, businesses have been increasingly talking about “smart technology”. Mercedes, for example, developed the “Smart Car”; there is the concept of “Smart Money”, and nowadays almost everybody is carrying the latest technology with “Smart Phones”. The utility industry is also taking part in this wave of “Smart” concepts, with the development of “Smart Meters”, which is fast becoming a topic which promotes various discussions on “Smart Grids”.

Smart metering is a topic which has been getting a lot of coverage in the media and amongst many of the Engineering institutes. It is a topic which promises many benefits, both to customers, utility companies and the environment.

Global warming and climate change are topics that, at the present date, we are seeing regularly on the news and in newspapers. It is a topic which has become the norm for discussions and debates. Global warming is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses resulting from human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. There are a number of ways we can fight climate change as individuals. One of the best ways is to reduce the unnecessary consumption of energy from goods and services in all aspects of life. This could be anything from driving on short trips to the shops, to taking several holidays a year on aeroplanes. There are alternative methods to these actions for example, walking or cycling to the shops.

Concerns about the greenhouse effect, global warming, air pollution and energy security has resulted in increased public and government interest in the development of renewable energy sources. Many people are unaware of the amount of energy that they are using unnecessarily around the house or at work, and are unaware of the consequences it is having on the environment. The present financial economy is also posing a problem and more people are realising how important it is to save money. People are trying to save money in all aspects of life including on their energy bills but are unaware of how much energy they are consuming. Allowing customers to be aware of the amount of energy they are using makes a very big difference to our overall energy consumption. If we are aware of how much energy we are using, basic changes in our lifestyle will help to reduce this level of consumption, for example, ensuring all lights are switched off when leaving a room, switching off electrical devices over night rather than leaving them on standby.

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A solution is needed that will allow us to minimize the amount of energy we use in our day to day activities without changing our lifestyles dramatically. This is where the smart metering system comes in.

Brief Overview of Smart Meters and Smart Metering

2.01 What are Smart Meters?

“Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters. They collect information about your energy use electronically.”[1]

[1] http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk (visit date: 18/11/09)

Smart meters are digital meters which collect, store, and display information with regards to the energy usage. The digital meter can communicate between utilities to control the energy usage in a house or a business. This information is available to both the supplier of energy and the customer. It displays real-time information of not only the energy usage but also the tariffs. The smart meter will allow customers to control the amount of energy they use.

2.02 What is Smart metering?

“Smart Metering – electronic remote, real time monitoring or collection of usage data – is achieved by the use of communications enabled utilities meters.”[2]

[2] http://www.beamaenergy.org.uk (visit date: 18/11/09)

BEAMAEnergy, the UK trade association group for the controls, metering and energy related communications industries, define smart metering as the statement shown above. From this statement we can determine that the term “smart metering” is given to a metering system which communicates wirelessly between utilities and a Smart meter, to determine the amount of energy being used.

Figure 1: Smart Metering System

Figure 1 above shows a smart metering system. It consists of a sensor which is connected to the meter. Figure 1 shows an electricity meter, but this could be a gas meter or even a water meter. The sensor picks up the usage data and sends this information to the portable display unit, or the smart meter, via a transmitter.

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There are three concepts relating to the collection of the data in the smart metering system, AMR, AMM and AMI.

Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) is a remote reading system based on advanced technologies which allow utilities to read electronic meters over long distances. Through AMR, the energy consumption can be read on an annual, monthly, weekly, daily or on an hourly basis.

Consumption and status data, such as time stamps, are through various connection media being transmitted to a central system for billing and analysis. The automatic data collection enables billing based on real time consumption as opposed to an estimated consumption.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) refers to systems that measure, read and analyse energy consumption. These systems are also able to read electricity, gas, heat and water meters remotely. AMI systems can be defined as an extension of the simpler AMR-system. The AMI always communicates two-way and comprises the whole range of metering devices, software, communication media, and data management systems.

Automated Meter Management (AMM) or Smart Metering is another expansion of a remote reading system that includes the possibility of performing technical measurements and functions and carrying out customer-orientated services via the system. [3]

[3] http://www.thegreendifference.info/12792/AMR%2C-AMM%2C-AMI

(Visit date: 21/11/09)

In order to fully understand the smart metering systems and its benefits, we were required to investigate the energy management systems of the past, identify its problems and what properties does smart metering have that overcome these problems.

Past Energy Management Systems – Mechanical

What was it?




How has it developed over the years?

4.0 Present Energy Management Systems – Digital

The current system in place, or which is currently being implemented is the Smart Metering system. It involves the installation of a digital meter at both residential and business customers, and the reading, processing and feedback of energy consumption data to the customer. The smart meter has the following capabilities:

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Real-time or near-time registration of energy usage and locally generated energy

Smart meter -how does it work?


4.1 Delivery Models

There are three “delivery models” that are being considered for the arrangement of responsibilities for smart metering and related communications services. These options were given a full analysis for the Government by Baringa Partners. On the basis of the analysis, the Government’s preferred method is a model which:

Gas and electricity supply companies will have responsibility for the provision of smart meters; and

A single provider will be appointed centrally to provide communications services to and from meters.

4.11 Competitive Model

The competitive model is based on the existing metering market model, where electricity and gas suppliers are free to determine their own deployment strategy, choose the metering services they require and have the ability to contract the management of such services. Suppliers would remain responsible for all other metering services.

4.12 Central Communications Model

This option would introduce a new market function to implement and manage communication infrastructure and data carriage, whilst maintaining metering competition. The communications provider would be organised on a national basis. All suppliers would be obliged to use the central communication function via licence conditions. Suppliers would also remain responsible for all other metering services.

4.13 Fully Centralised Model

This option would introduce regional franchises to manage meter asset selection, ownership, deployment and maintenance, via a time based competitive franchise or licence awarded under competition. Communications services would be managed centrally as under the previous option.

Predicted Costs for Each Model

Current Projects around the world – (what have the results shown in each project, their standards etc)

Advantages of smart metering

Disadvantages of smart metering

Security (General security, i.e. environmental effects, wireless vs wired; cyber security)

Case Study?

UK Energy company’s analysis on implementing smart metering

5.0 Future Prospects?

Intelligent home

Intelligent Meter

6.0 Conclusion

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Type of Paper
Number of Pages
(275 words)