Of the approximately 147 million electrical meters installed in the United States, only slightly more than 50 million of them are “smart meters,” and even fewer are real-time meters with two-way communication. Most utility companies’ existing technology only allows them to identify when large blocks of customers are without power and rely on customers calling in to report individual outages. That means if your power goes out after an isolated event that leaves the rest of your block unaffected, odds are the power company has no idea, and that last ice cream bar you were hiding from the kids in the back of freezer may well melt. So why don’t all utility companies invest in smart meters to bridge the gap between the consumer and the utilities? Well, modernizing America’s power grid is not as simple as it sounds. Utility companies operate in a regulatory environment that makes it difficult for them to upgrade technology quickly. Often Public Utilities Commissions (PUCs) must approve rate increases before any necessary capital spending can happen, meaning that utilities tend to be a decade or more behind, technologically speaking.
That’s why Verizon has designed a new system, Grid Wide Utility Solutions, to enable utility companies to enter the age of the “Internet of Things” without requiring a large capital investment.
Grid Wide uses smart meter technology, but it is far more than just remote meter management. Verizon’s Grid Wide system allows companies to consume services as they need them by offering energy management solutions as-a-service. Certified smart meters installed at the customer’s home report individual power outages by sending a notice to the Grid Wide platform over Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Utilities then know exactly where the outage occurred, if it affects more than one person, how many crews they need to send out, and where to send them. Grid Wide also has the ability to remotely connect and disconnect services, so utilities no longer have to send out a truck and a crew to manually switch off electricity at a house if someone is moving - they can kill the service in ten seconds remotely. Better and more specific energy insights from smart meters can also help customers track and reduce their energy usage.
In the past, utility companies that wanted to integrate communications and information technology had to procure their own data centers, network equipment, and software. Grid Wide is offered “as-a-service,” enabling utilities to take advantage of the latest IoT tech without having to make significant capital expenditures.
By having all this information and abilities at their fingertips, utility companies will be positioned to reduce waste, increase operational efficiency, and restore services faster, saving the utilities time and money which in turn saves the consumer time, money and ice cream.
Updating the nation’s infrastructure for the next century’s innovators is no small job, but advanced communications technology can unlock new capabilities that save time and resources for providers and consumers alike.