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‘Smart Grid is not a single purpose network so it is important to build a grid that is open’

AUW business face big new 2

Goran Naslund 2

Exclusive interview with Göran Näslund, Global Business Development Manager Metering, Vodafone. Göran will address African Utility Week’s T&D/Smart Grids track on “M2M communications and an enabled grid”.

How does the Vodafone M2M technology work?
At the core of our Global M2M Service is a powerful, dedicated platform which allows our customers to self-manage connected M2M devices such as smart meters. Our Global M2M Platform – a centrally hosted, secure self-service platform – delivers authentication and access control, and near real-time usage and management of any Global SIM, on any Vodafone and Vodafone M2M Partner mobile network anywhere in the world.

Underpinned by patented technology, our Global M2M Services remove many of the traditional barriers for M2M applications such as country-specific SIMs, multiple individual contractual agreements or complex service integration and operation.

The easy-to-use web ‘self-service’ interface  allows authorised users to log in and access the vital management information they need  to effectively reduce the complexity and cost of the M2M solution deployment.

The key benefits fall into three categories:

  1. Simple development, manufacturing and distribution of devices and assets
    1. Single bill with one SIM in a range of forms
    2. It works regardless of radio network technology and country as 2G, 3G and LTE are supported
    3. Devices work out-of-the-box as services are pre-provisioned
  2. Self-service functionality with full control over service set-up and operations
    1. Simplified set up and operation of M2M services
    2. Flexible SIM policy management with full control of one, many or all connections
    3. Tools to control, alert and report in near real-time
    4. Full integration with business processes based on operating and management APIs
  3. Dedicated M2M platform with high service availability, capacity and innovation.

Which industries is this technology applied in?
Many industries can benefit from this technology.  M2M, machine-to-machine communication has for many years improved business operations and created new revenues for companies. Although the technology itself is interesting, its real value is in the business benefits it offers.

This is a fast growing area and the potential number of connections is actually far greater than today’s four billion users of mobile services. Smart logistics, building automation, various applications in vehicles or smart manufacturing are a few areas where M2M plays a key and expanding role.

While a driver of many M2M projects might be to meet regulatory requirements, achieve cost reductions or create new revenue streams, an additional benefit of M2M is that it contributes to a greener world and makes energy savings. Tackling climate change and managing energy demand is a huge challenge for the world, and one where the mobile telecommunications industry can make a great contribution.  Vodafone is always looking for areas where our services can help address sustainability challenges effectively.

How can this change the way utilities work?  Improve their customer interaction?  Maintenance? Etc.
While the main driver for building a Smart Grid at the moment is regulatory directives, there are also very compelling business benefits for the utilities. Implementations of Smart Meters that reflect each final customer’s consumption and provide management information about actual use are a first important step towards building a Smart Grid.   Providing customers with meters enables them to see their real usage. This leads to a closer customer relationship and less churn as a result.  The services can also be used as a platform for more advanced services and new revenues. Smart Home solutions, integration of micro generation and infrastructure for electric cars are some more examples.

It goes without saying that end-to-end billing processes can also be improved. 

Furthermore a Smart Grid can reduce operational costs using automated operations and condition based maintenance.  Capacity extensions can be avoided through greater control of load patterns and real-time monitoring of actual free capacity results in better matching of demand and supply.

What is your vision for this technology and what it can achieve?
So far the focus has been on solutions for frequent meter readings but that has now turned into the creation of an intelligent grid with a palette of applications that will support the goal of a sustainable society.  For this vision to be delivered there has to be the capacity to meet the growing number of applications as well as the millions of devices that will be deployed.

So Smart Metering has essentially become the  first step towards a Smart Grid where an electricity, information and communication network integrates all the users connected to it – producers, retailers, distributors and consumers – so that electricity can be delivered in a sustainable, economic and secure way.

A major component in the Smart Grid is the communication network.  Several lessons can be learned from the telecom sector where open standards like GSM have been a major enabler for the runaway success of mobile services. In order to support the development of the Grid a flexible and open communication infrastructure is fundamental. Open standards attract new players and create competiveness, effectiveness and encourage inventions that all can benefit from.

M2M communication is of course another essential component and to allow the system to develop over time Smart Grid investments need to be based on flexible and open systems ready for future known – and unknown – needs. The applications are business critical and demands on communication technologies are naturally high, in terms of security, availability and operational qualities. And requirements will grow further as new applications and a growing need for immediate access to information emerges.

What will be your message to African Utility Week?
Investing in Smart Grid must be done with a medium-to-long term perspective. Even if your initial objective is to introduce Smart Metering or another specific application you must allow for how your business needs might evolve in future – whether or not you are certain what they will be. Smart Grid is not a single purpose network so it is important to build a grid that is open, scalable and flexible; that can attract a community of suppliers; and be ready for future demands. Of course requirements for security and integrity must be met. Depending on the market situation and local regulations, the appropriate tools will help to minimize customer churn and build other service revenues. With the right tools and insights you can give your customers real insight into their energy usage which will not only help them to control their consumption but help us all to manage the climate challenge.

Contact details:
Göran Näslund

Ralf Ammon
M2M Regional Manager EE/SA
Sales Central Europe Region
Mobile: +491722968233
Email: ralf.ammon@vodafone.com

South Africa:
Simon Churches