If you, as a municipality, want insight into the consumption of your buildings, you may need to establish your own remote reading setup. In some cases, the utility companies do not offer data collection and in other cases the data provided by the utility companies is not sufficiently detailed.
However, before you start setting up remote reading equipment, there are some considerations you should make. It is not just about selecting and installing equipment, but just as much to find out how to get data out of the utility companies' meters, the choice of communication technology and integration into a database.
When establishing your own remote reading setup it is a necessity to investigate the possibilities for data extraction from the meters of the utility companies. Here, a thorough knowledge of the technical possibilities can be valuable.
Some utility companies allow insertion of a module into the meter or readout of data through the meter's optical port where data can be collected through a logger. Other utility companies do not allow any data extraction for cost or security reasons. In these cases, you may need to set up a submeter.
Once you have mapped the opportunities for data extraction it is time to choose the right equipment. Here it is important to stay focused as navigating the range of remote reading equipment can be a bit of a jungle.
The IoT market is evolving rapidly and new players are entering the market almost every day. Therefore, it can be difficult to know which equipment to choose for which solution, and there are many questions you need to address. Is the solution durable? How do we connect the equipment to the meter? How should the equipment be powered? How future proof is the solution? and so on.
When choosing equipment, it is important to consider, what communication technology you will use to send data from equipment to the platform that will visualize your data. Many people experience it as a challenge if you do not already know the available communication technologies in detail. What radio frequency does the communication technology transmit? Is there 100% coverage everywhere, including through concrete, masonry and soil? What is the range of the communication technology? How much data can we send at a time? Is the solution future-proof, or do we suddenly have to change from one technology to another in all equipment?
There are several communication technologies available such as LoRaWan, Sigfox, NBIoT, Wi-Fi, GSM, Zigbee and more, all of which have different characteristics for different needs. Therefore, it is important that you make it clear what the current and future purpose of the setup is, since the different communication technologies have different advantages and limitations.
Equipment speaks different languages, so integration into a database can be a bit of a challenge. When you receive data from the various equipment, the data must be decoded and "extracted" so that data becomes understandable and adapted to your database. Not all database systems can integrate with all types of equipment, and often the choice of energy management or facility management system influences which equipment you can use.
You should therefore pay attention to configuring equipment and database so that they are compatible.
Once you have established the entire data chain - from meter to database to visualization - the next consideration is how will you operate and maintain it? To do this, resources must be devoted as the data chain requires continuous monitoring of equipment and communications in relation to crashes and failures to ensure valid, complete datasets you can rely on. Valuable data can be lost if you do not detect, locate and handle a crash.
If you connect equipment to the meters of the utility companies, you must pay attention when the utility companies exchange meters. In some cases, they will remove the connection to your remote reading equipment without reestablishing it after the meter exchange. This means that you no longer receive data. If you do not continuously monitor the data flow from your meters, such an outcome can have serious implications.