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The promise of M2M

Du's Hatem Bamatraf looks into the promise of M2M communications.

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Hatem Bamatraf, executive VP, du.
Hatem Bamatraf, executive VP, du.

Hatem Bamatraf, executive VP, enterprise, du, looks into the promise of M2M communications.

With global energy demand set to double by 2050, concern about climate change, carbon emissions and security of supply is driving new pressures in the utilities industry. Current legislation requires utilities to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, lower energy consumption and introduce alternative fuels.

Driving operational efficiency is also a top priority amidst ageing infrastructures, a shortage of labour and squeezed margins. And increasing customer expectations mean utilities need to find ways to deliver better customer service. Smart metering and energy analytics, a key area within the M2M space, play a great role in addressing these challenges and are fast becoming a must adopt strategy to resolve the energy challenge for a better future.

After triple-play and quad-play, all the talk in telco sectors is about the next big idea of tera-play and the development of a worldwide network of a trillion connected devices hooked up using machine-to-machine telco communication networks. In M2M comms, a device such as a sensor or meter is used to capture an event, such as a change in temperature or shift in inventory level, which is relayed through the telco wireless or wired network to an application or software programme.

This effectively translates the captured event into meaningful and actionable information - for example, revision of a weather warning, or refresh of goods held in stock. This is accomplished through the use of telemetry, the language machines use when in communication with each other.

In the UAE, Minister of Environment and Water Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd has said a project that uses M2M to monitor and reduce energy use in citizen’s homes and offices could reduce domestic carbon footprints by 30%. It’s estimated that over 70% of all the power consumed in the UAE is used to cool and light buildings. M2M systems can be programmed to automatically turn down air conditioners and turn off lights when people are asleep or away.

Interestingly, M2M has been around for many years and to date has been one of the slowest-burning markets in the industry. It is hot again today because of the confluence of three key drivers. The impact of scale has finally made the economics of M2M practicable. There is a rising importance given to connectivity across a full spectrum of consumer electronics devices. And finally, we have seen the advent of device management software, which makes it possible for solutions to be deployed on an industrial scale.

A smart meter is usually an electrical meter that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information at least daily back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system.

Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting. Such an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) differs from traditional automatic meter reading (AMR) in that it enables two-way communications with the meter. Smart energy/smart grid, which continues to build momentum, has become one of the most popular M2M applications over the last year, and many countries, including the UAE, have smart energy or smart grid programmes in place today.

Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority is about to complete its smart metering programme, which allows for a fully automatic meter reading along with a meter intelligence monitoring and data capturing system. Of Adwea’s 500,000 customers in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain, around 80% have been wired up to the smart grid. M2M communication is starting to have a radical and far-reaching impact on consumers, lifestyle and business, as it plays out across every type of scenario.

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