Enablers’ Utilities Sensor with Multi-Shaped Connectors for Retrofitting Natural Gas Meters
Many areas of opportunities in IoT are well known but yet are still overlooked or underserviced, especially when benefits for business cases are not made clear. This is not the case, however, for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that has undoubtedly already proved its value. AMI is an integrated system of smart meters, network, and data management systems that enables a two-way communication between utilities and consumers. AMI has also become an essential aspect of service restoration activities, as smart meters are now able to detect outages and send notifications automatically, all while also getting more precise information about the source of the issue. AMI can unquestionably improve customer services and reduce operation costs.
These solutions and results might be already occurring right before our eyes, as the market now offers a great number of sensors. Big tech companies that were already providing Enterprise resource planning (ERP) services, data mining and data analysis now offer new additional functionalities including IoT capabilities in their service line and product offerings. But how exactly can people use IoT to enhance their service, improve quality, boost frequency and thus, in turn, create a profit, without handing it to big tech companies and paying them large amounts of money for consulting fees?
Enablers was created as a clean-cut, lean company focused on solving clients’ problems with engineered-to-order IoT solutions, all in an environment where off-the-shelf products and software can add additional costs while still lacking the desired functionality, especially when connecting to legacy systems that are ERP driven.
This philosophy was met with the obstacle of having to update manual readings in a large natural gas company operating in a highly developed area in Southeast Brazil. Their goal was to find an inexpensive, reliable and sturdy solution that does manual gas meter readings, and is able to retrofit and be installed to operate with a life expectancy of 10 years, all while still being competitive enough with the low cost of unskilled labor. Added to this issue was the need to rush this implementation, as the current COVID-19 pandemic environment has greatly interrupted the interaction of readings performed through human labor and the end customer at home.
The challenge that had to be addressed was how to deliver an automated IoT solution to read gas meters competitively enough with the very low rate of manual readings performed by low skilled labor. The product to be delivered is not only the (1) device with sensors that will perform the readings and automatically transmit data wirelessly, but also the (2) wireless communication structure to support the devices, (3) the middleware to concentrate the data and perform the analytics, and a (4) team to install the devices.
All of those added costs had to be lower than the current fees charged for those readings, but the benefits here were largely in part the fact that the quality of the automated readings are without human errors. Important to note here is that the augmented frequency of the readings was all given in an automated solution.
Enablers chose TagoIO as their partner to handle the metering data, its storage, and the analyses based on analytics on-the-go. Since its creation, Enablers has teamed up with TagoIO to provide its clients a reliable, well-built solution with easy access to data, alarms, action messages, and data backup procedures for the large amount of data generated by devices used by Enabler’s clients.
The company has designed the device by optimizing the project in every aspect; from production and assembly characteristics, to battery life and even the energy consumption of the firmware, it’s all been heavily optimized. The device includes a reed sensor for the magnetic pulses of the gas meter, an internal fraud sensor to prevent opening and tampering with the device, and a battery sensor to track battery voltage.
Enablers has also designed a communication LoRaWanTM module to meet cost targets for the project. As well, the magnetic reed sensor is available in several shapes to allow for its use in a wide range of gas meters models. Additionally, apart from the magnetic reed sensor, Enablers has developed an induction sensor for induction type gas meter models. The expertise gathered in this project allows them to apply the project to other gas meter models, including built-in sensors in new meters if the meter manufacturer so wish. The flexibility of the solution also allows the device to be positioned and placed for optimum communication and transmission.
Enablers and TagoIO have a fruitful relationship since Enablers’ early beginnings, and TagoIO has provided a large variety of benefits for them that other companies can also take advantage of; those benefits include, but are not limited to:
- TagoIO is extremely easy to use and maintain.
- Dashboards provide an excellent visual interface to easily access devices that need attention.
- Developing and deploying solutions using TagoIO such as analyses, or even mobile apps, are made easy with TagoIO’s SDKs.
- TagoIO’s pricing model is simple and clear to understand, and makes it easy to forecast for growth.
- Developing devices and connections using TagoIO is hassle-free; TagoIO was created with hardware projects in mind.
- Built-in functions like alarms, messages, and actions make managing by exception an easy task to do.
- Built-in parameters allow back-ups, data retention and data purges to be handled automatically.
As expected, data accuracy and frequency were both improved, but the quality of the data collected by Enabler’s devices exceeded expectations; one month into the analyses, and it was already possible to determine gas leaks that were confirmed by maintenance teams sent to the location. A quick response from Enablers to the implementation team, with the support of TagoIO, was also praised as one of highlights of the project. The most regarded benefits of the solution are as follows:
- Reading frequency increased from once a month to once every hour.
- Data frequency allowed the construction of an all-new customer profile.
- Eradication of human error with data accuracy improved with automated readings.
- Data Analyses allowed for the detection of patterns and irregularities, such as leaks.
- Elimination of human contact in a COVID-19 environment.
- Reading fees being at the same low level as it was with unskilled manual readings, but with the advantages of automation such as boosted data accuracy and improved data frequency.
Enablers is a Brazilian hardware and solution provider focused on the design and manufacturing of smart devices that makes IoT easier.
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