Smart meters necessitate IT infrastructure design changes for utilities


As power companies across Canada implement smart meters, these organizations will need to upgrade their IT infrastructure design in order to best utilize the emerging technology.


For decades, utilities leveraged manual processes to collect detailed usage data from businesses and homes. On a semi-frequent basis, power company employees would arrive at a location to record by hand the data logged by the meter. This information would then form the basis of what was consumers were charged for electricity.


Such a configuration, however, presents numerous problems for customers and utilities alike. Not only did power companies have to devote many man-hours to the data collection process, but the speed and frequency at which such tasks could be completed ensured that the amount of electricity consumed by the household or organization was not necessarily what they were being charged for.


How smart meters benefit utilities and customers
To address this concern, many power companies across Canada are beginning to implement smart meters. This equipment differs from legacy data collection efforts in that these state-of-the-art meters come equipped with wireless technology, typically a radio frequency device but sometimes Wi-Fi enabled. This way, electricity usage data is automatically transmitted to the power company in real time, eliminating the many problems presented by manual data collection.


Furthermore, advocates of the technology say that smart meters are eco-friendly technology. Part of the problem with existing systems is that it forces utilities to play a guessing game, potentially burning more fossil fuels than is necessary to be completely certain that consumer electricity needs are met. With smart meters in place, utilities will be more certain that they are distributing the exact amount of electricity that is needed at any one time, and customers will have more data upon which to make smarter energy-related decisions.


“The benefits of smart meters are substantial,” Jim Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund wrote in The Wall Street Journal in April. “With smart implementation, informed by the best research, technological innovation in the nation’s grid will deliver cleaner air, better health, more reliable electricity and greater consumer control over electric power and costs.”


Dealing with new IT infrastructure design demands
While smart meters provide utilities with innumerable benefits, the technology also presents electricity providers with new challenges regarding their enterprise storage and IT infrastructure design. In particular, as more smart meters are installed, power companies are starting to collect more data than ever before. For example, The Toronto Star reported in March that hydroelectric utilities have already installed 4.3 million of these data collection devices in Ontario, and this figure is only likely to increase in the future. As such, these organizations can expect to collect even more data on home and business electricity use in the months and years ahead.


Utility companies now needing to store more rising volumes of customer data due to smart meters will likely need to update their IT infrastructure design to get more enterprise storage space. To accomplish such a feat, power companies should enlist the help of a managed services provider like FlexITy. As one of Canada’s largest IT consulting services firms, FlexITy can help make sure that utilities have the tools and systems needed to shift their operations into the future.