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SmartMetering
the supermarket were introduced as method of stock control new device every 18 months. Smart metering functionality
but became a CRM tool, smart meters have the potential to that is aimed at consumers needs to tune into this kind of
fundamentally alter the relationship between utility and expectation,evenifthefeaturesaimedatutilitieshaveamuch
customer in ways that we do not, as yet, fully understand. longerlife-cycle.Thein-homedisplayandhomeareanetwork
Meters are already capable of spotting faulty appliances or interfacewillhavetobeupdatedfarmoreregularlytherefore,
personalising energy efficiency advice. It’s not a great leap of thanthemeterandAMI.
imagination to see them taking a far more active role in Most utilities have yet to make the psychological shift
householdenergymanagement. necessarytotakeonboardthefactthatsmartmeteringreally
Nor is it unreasonable to assume that the communications istheendofbusinessasusual.Buttheyneedto,otherwisethey
infrastructure will be subject to new technological will be locked into a continual pattern of expensive
developments. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that sending replacements, and will fail to secure the competitive
photos via wireless networks was the exclusive preserve of differentiation they initially sought. Evidence from existing
NASAorJamesBond.Nowwe’reallatit. deployments in Europe and North America is there for all to
Thesimplefactisthatsmartmeteringcannotbetreatedas see.Asweplanforthenextgenerationofsmartmetering,we
aoneoffimplementationthatwillsurvive20yearsbeforeold wouldbewisetolearnfromlessonsabroad.

age takes its toll. Advanced meters have a much shorter
innovation cycle. What’s more, smart metering, and
Tom Fryers isCommercialDirectorwithSentec,aleading
particularly energy displays, are set to enter the fast paced
developerofproductsolutionsforthemeteringmarket.
worldofconsumerelectronics,whereiPodusersexpectabrand
www.sentec.co.uk
TimeforSomeSmartThinking
By Jim Hayward
T
heprospectofeveryhomeandbusinessintheUKhaving utilitiestokeepcustomersincredit.
asmartmeteroverthenext12yearsisexhilarating.So Not true, of course, but in the world of customer relations,
much so that it is tempting to get carried away by perceptioniseverything.Thisiswhysmartmeteringwillgive
thoughts of a complete re-engineering of the relationship suppliersauniqueopportunitytostartfosteringabetter,even
between consumers, energy providers and the grid and to mutuallysupportive,relationshipwiththeircustomers.
imaginethateveryone,(andtheenvironment)willbeawinner. But never mind the thorny issue of estimates, the new
On paper the benefits for suppliers are considerable. The technologywillalsonegatetheneedforon-sitemeterreading
intelligence generated by smart metering will give them much entirelywhichwillremoveamajorcost.Addtothattheback
more information about their customers and how they use office savings and the opportunity to refocus call centres on
energy. It will enable them to segment the market in a more productivebusinessrelationshipactivitiesratherthanreactive,
sophisticatedwayandoffertailoredpropositionstocustomersfor customer management tasks such as bill enquiries, and
additionalenergyproductsandservices.Furthermore,itwillalso utilitiescanplanforaverydifferentfuture.
give suppliers much more flexibility to forecast and manage They will also be able to make a much more positive
their customers’ energy usage more accurately, which has contributiontoemissionreductions,whichwillfeedthroughto
significantpotentialbenefitsforsuppliers,theircustomersand their public image and investor relations. For water
the environment. By helping customers to help themselves companies, the benefits of smart metering – if and when it
achieve lower bills with smaller carbon footprints, suppliers happensintheirsector–areslightlydifferentbecause,unlike
will be able to lay the groundwork for a much better the case with electricity, water can be stored. Therefore, the
relationshipthanhasbeenpossibletodate. challenges of aligning demand and supply and managing
Smartmeteringwillalsoremoveoneofthemajorcausesof peaksislessofadrivingforce.
friction between suppliers and customers, one that has However, like the electricity and gas sectors, these utilities
constrainedsuppliers’effortstobuildcustomerrelationships:At wouldalsobeabletoditchconventionalmeteringandtheytoo
last,meterreadingestimateswillbeathingofthepast. could look forward to an era of much improved customer
It’s hard to undervalue the damage that the system of relations based on better information about how and when
estimatedmeterreadingshasdonetocustomerrelationsover waterisbeingused.Smartmeteringshouldallowthemtotrack
the years. Many people feel that the system of estimating leakages and customer usage much more effectively.
usagealwaysworksinfavourofthecompany.Thefeelinghas Interestingly,thechallengeinthewatersectoristoensurethat
been that the lack of visibility and precise intelligence about thevalueofsmartmetersistrulyunderstoodandtheincentives
exactlyhowmuchpoweryouareusingisdeliberatelyusedby are set to ensure that the UK water sector does not invest
worldPower2009 95
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