SmartReach rolls out smart meter comms trial in Ipswich


Technology coalition SmartReach has launched a smart meter trial in Ipswich to test the viability of using long-range radio networks to enable communication between utility meters.

The coalition counts communications and infrastructure providers Arqiva, BT and Sensus as members, along with cyber security specialists BAE Systems Detica.

The companies will be assisted during the trial by electricity supplier ScottishPower and Siemens, who will be responsible for the installation of the smart meters in participating homes.

Every component has been tested and designed to meet stringent cyber security standards.

A thousand Ipswich households will take part in the 18 month trial, as the Government pushes ahead with its plans to deploy smart energy meters in all homes by 2019.

The organisation plans to use the trial's findings to support its bid to become the sole supplier of smart meter communication services to households across the country.

Speaking to IT Pro, David Green, business development director for SmartReach, said the firm is battling it out with other coalitions and single companies.

"The Government has split the country into three regions...and we're bidding for all three because we believe there are a lot of benefits to be derived from having a single solution across the whole country," said Green.

"Energy retailers work across the whole country, so it would make sense for them to have the same technology wherever they operate and there are economies of scale considerations that also work in our favour."

The trial should also help smooth out any kinks in the deployment process, which according to SmartReach's calculations could end up costing the "big six" energy retailers up to 700 million in re-installation and site visiting costs.

"When you say it quickly, installing 50 million meters doesn't sound too bad, but when you think about the practicalities of getting into every single home it is a huge challenge," said Green.

"From a comms perspective, you've got to know that the system is going to work first time...and, more importantly, that the consumer is going to get a good experience of smart metering."

Despite growing concerns from EU privacy campaigners about the use of smart meter appliances in homes, Green stressed that its technology will not fall foul of data protection laws.

"Concerns [about snooping] are still there, but our solution has been designed from day one with the highest levels of security in mind," said Green.

"Every component has been tested and designed to meet stringent cyber security ensure we will meet those requirements."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.