Would you believe that smart metering projects are essentially managed services? It is not a project that can simply be installed, commissioned, and then left to run on its own. Having a clear strategy based on this concept will ensure your success, states Conlog’s solutions architect, Selvan Govender.
The question of what makes a smart metering project successful is a dynamic one. From Conlog’s experience, we have realised that some of the major success factors of a smart metering site that centres on services at its core are:
- System uptime
- Reliable communications
- Effective data integration solutions
- Data management
- Support services
- Robust high quality products
- Continuous management
These services contribute toward the success of a smart metering project.
To get the most out of an investment of such projects, the system, including all its necessary components, must be effectively managed by day-to-day operations. A vast amount of data is gathered daily, and must be managed in terms of collection and storage. Using this data effectively via data analytics can give a utility much needed insights into the business overall, and be used to make informed decisions. Integrating the smarter metering solution into the ERP system upstream, and further, enhances the capability of the smart solution. Effective continuous management of the site through monitoring and system maintenance is a must, and will ensure the longevity and robustness of the deployed solutions.
How do you achieve success?
Conlog’s approach to services for a smart metering project is to provide the necessary service and support functions to ensure utilities reap the benefits of their investment.
This includes, from the onset of the project, a full diagnosis of the current state of the grid and recommendations to resolve issues prior to a meter rollout. The projects are managed by Conlog’s dedicated Project Management Office, experienced in handling turnkey smart meter projects. The management process follows a carefully laid out plan, which includes managing meter installation projects and the related services. It requires careful management of the necessary infrastructure along with the essential hardware, software and communications.
The project plan is devised to minimise the risk to the utility by tracking and reporting every step in the installation and commissioning of the site. This includes liaising with and managing any partners required to deliver the complete proposed solution. Once the project is completed, the site is handed over to the services team to manage and support the solution according to the agreed upon service levels.
Services value proposition
Utilities around the world are faced with the extreme challenge of maintaining profitability and sustainability whilst ensuring they can actively improve electrification rates and provide access to energy for all citizens. The commissioning of new infrastructure development and network rehabilitation projects can come at a very high cost to the utility. It is therefore paramount that the investment and expenditure on metering projects be done with a keen focus on solutions that are fit for purpose, reliable, robust and suitable to the operating environment.
The revenue collection generated by these installations must be efficiently and effectively managed to realise a return on investment and allow for future sustainability. As such it is imperative that the selection criteria consider metering products that utilise best in industry research and design practices – and are manufactured using the highestgrade materials, components, assembly techniques, and quality control processes.
Conlog understands these challenges and offers tailor-made solutions as required by our customers, with the potential to grow as and when required.
Conlog values its customers, and to ensure business continuity and premium support, our customers have access to experienced and dedicated team members who provide the necessary scoping, planning, implementation, and support services as follows:
• The dedicated business manager is the responsible person to ensure our customers’ needs are met, and will liaise with the internal teams to ensure maximum customer satisfaction levels.
• On acceptance of one of our solutions, a dedicated project manager is assigned to the project to ensure a smooth rollout from inception to completion and handover.
• A dedicated project engineer or team of engineers, depending on the project, handles all on-site implementations, upgrades and other services requiring necessary attention. These are our experts who will commission the project and provide insight and recommendations on the next steps required to guarantee the client’s investment reaps the maximum benefit.
• Post implementation, the project is handed to our services support team with remote engineers who know and understand the solutions deployed and is available to resolve most technical issues when they happen. Issues that cannot be resolved immediately, will be escalated to higher order engineers who will make the necessary system changes via a change management process.
Conlog’s specific smart metering services include, but are not limited to:
• Service desk: Our qualified service personnel are available seven days a week, 365 days a year with first-line technical support. Accessible through telephone, internet and email, the service desk is also the hub for critical support deployment. Some key functionality includes technical support for meter hardware, registration of customers and accounts, and the generation of engineering tokens. The service desk provides first-line support, and escalation to second-line and third-line support when required.
• Disaster recovery planning: Life is unpredictable and even the most well equipped organisation can fall victim to disasters, either natural or man-made. When this occurs, data safety and security is of the utmost importance.
Data loss to a utility can be potentially crippling and must be avoided at all costs. Conlog utilises state of the art technology to implement tailor-made disaster recovery solutions.
• Cyber security: Today, more than ever, cybercrime affects not only the business itself, but has a knock-on effect on the end consumers. Conlog, with its trusted partners, understands that it is crucial to your business that you protect your customers’ personal information. Most utilities have some form of security for their networks, but is it robust enough and does it cater for the latest threats such as ransomware? Conlog will identify potential breach points within the network and provide the necessary solutions to mitigate these risks.
• Metering services: Conlog has built up immense knowledge of how a metering site should best be managed, in both prepayment and conventional meters. AMI and smart meter rollouts are also offered as part of the services provided and Conlog will ensure our customers get the most out of their investment in metering assets.
• Data management: An important aspect of implementing a metering project is ensuring that consumer data is accurate. Conlog will ensure that customer data is well managed, and the data is cleaned up prior to a new implementation. Managing the data involves both the Conlog vending system and the utility’s billing system through a process of data integration.
Specific data from the billing system is imported into the vending system and ultimately enables the utility to enjoy the convenience of prepaid and postpaid purchases through a single pay point.
• Data analytics: A key measure of a vending system is the associated reporting service. Access to quality reports is crucial to utilities that use the information presented to make fundamental decisions. Conlog’s web-based reporting service is highly customisable, easily accessible and easy to interpret, offering customers a range of reports based on their specific requirements. The enhanced Business Analytics dashboard provides an instant overview of the metering site, with drill downs to granular levels when required.
• Grid management: A key success factor for the successful implementation of a metering project is to ensure that the grid is properly managed. This is especially so for PLC implementations where grid harmonics must be optimised to ensure proper communication between a meter in the customer interface, and upstream to network gateway devices or concentrators.
In addition to the services required to sustain a successful and well managed metering services solution, Conlog provides the following professional services to ensure the project is geared for success from the onset.
Project management and consulting
Conlog’s experience in the prepayment and energy industry allows us to provide expert consultancy services. Some of the projects we consult on include business intelligence, workflow, data analytics, and smart metering and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions. Conlog’s certified project managers ensure that the customers’ solutions are delivered within the specified timelines and budgets prior to the closing of the project and handing over to the customer and the Conlog services team.
Project execution and support
Highly skilled and experienced IT professionals focus on the installation, commissioning and upgrading of smart metering and prepayment systems around the world. Through our vast knowledge of systems and configurations, Conlog is able to tailor the solution to our customers’ specific requirements and needs. In addition, maintenance and support of the system is provided by our proficient service and support engineers ensuring the upkeep of the systems.
Infrastructure design and maintenance
The infrastructure team brings an unrivalled depth of experience in database administration, IT systems, and smart metering and prepayment system solutions. This team is responsible for the design and maintenance of Conlog’s hosted systems, along with specialist customer solutions, and has the responsibility to ensure the associated business continuity and accessibility for such products. In addition, the infrastructure division provides additional consulting and IT services, such as the design of infrastructure projects, and guidance on hardware solutions to ensure customers utilise the best available techniques and products in their smart metering projects. ESI
This article first appeared in ESI-Africa Edition 1, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.
About the author
Conlog’s solutions architect, Selvan Govender, has over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry. This experience is in marketing, services, project management and execution, with a current focus on product innovation, strategic planning and international business relations.
Conlog – Your Smart Meter Partner, Ready to help you implement a successful SMART METERING Project.