Smart meter gateways: connectivity and control via mobile communications

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5 minutes Reading time
5 minutes Reading time

Digitization and the energy transition are changing the conditions in energy supply: With the “Act on the Digitization of the Energy Transition” (GDEW), legislators in Germany are obliging energy suppliers to initially connect electricity consumers with over 10,000 kilowatt hours to the grid via “smart metering systems”. A smart metering system consists of a modern metering device and a smart meter gateway. In contrast to conventional analog electricity meters, modern metering devices are able to process meter readings and other data digitally. By using a smart meter gateway, this data can be sent via a communication network – for example, to the electricity provider for consumption billing. The smart meter gateway is a communication unit with an integrated security module that is also mounted in the meter cabinet.

co.met GmbH is a service provider for municipal utilities that introduces such smart metering systems and is active in the field of metering point operation and metering services. The company provides data, system and process services along the entire metering value chain at around four million metering points.

The challenge: Constant availability and different user roles

To ensure the best possible mobile connectivity, data communication is ideally wanted independent of a specific telecommunications company. In addition, the handling of smart meter gateways with the associated one-to-one assignment of the communication unit should be as simple as possible. Last but not least, administration and analysis of the SIM cards used must be flexible and powerful: both co.met as a metering point service provider and its customers should have access and monitoring options in their different roles.

The solution: Optimized SIM card for smart M2M communication

Telefónica’s Global SIM is a wireless card optimized for machine-to-machine communications applications. It also enables national and international roaming: this means fully automated switching between available mobile networks as required. The Global SIM can therefore also provide connectivity via a network other than the Telefónica mobile network, thus establishing a connection from the smart meter gateway to the smart meter gateway administrator. It does not matter whether a German mobile network or one of the neighboring country is available – the gateways can always establish a connection via the Global SIM, and without roaming charges.

Telefónica Kite Platform - Source: iot.telefonica.de

Manufacturers already use Telefónica’s Global SIM at the factory. The operation of smart meter gateways in particular is demanding if you want to administer many systems efficiently and reliably. Telefónica’s Smart Center, a multi-tenant management platform, has proven to be particularly powerful and flexible. It allows not only unlocking and blocking SIM cards and controlling the used mobile data volume. Rather, it also facilitates management by storing rules so that, for example, the user is automatically notified when specified events occur. In addition, the Telefónica Kite platform allows settings to be changed simultaneously across many SIM cards – making it easier to work with many SIM cards to make tariff changes, for example. Last but not least, it was important to co.met that the IoT management platform could not only be used via the web, but could also be integrated into its own programs via a software interface (API). Security requirements must be met when transferring personal data. The gateway encrypts the data, which is not routed to a cloud, but to a security-certified data center and from there to the co.met data center in Saarbrücken via its own direct site connection. There, co.met operates the gateway administration system, which executes the certificate exchange, i.e. controls the gateways and also unpacks and transmits the data to the various market participants. In this way, all required safety standards can also be met. 

The result: Satisfied customers and a new business model

The optimized Global SIM card for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication enables national and international roaming for reliable mobile connectivity. Different form factors of the Global SIM are possible – as a classic, micro and nano SIM as well as a chip for soldering in. Billing transparency is ensured by a data tariff with data pool across multiple SIM cards used. Convenient administration of the SIM cards used is made possible by the multi-client-capable Kite platform, which is used not only to manage and analyze the SIM cards used itself, but also to enable administration and analysis functions for customer companies. The roll-out is carried out via a coordinated integration process without media discontinuity between the gateway manufacturer and the provider, in compliance with the security-relevant specifications including the associated digital delivery documents and the resulting unambiguous assignment of the SIM card identification. Telefónica thus became an enabler for co.met, which can offer a new service with its SEN (Smart Energy Network) solution. The offering includes the software-as-a-service solution for mapping processes related to smart metering systems and process services for gateway administration to meet legal requirements.

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