Highly reliable, secure broadband network connectivity and automated machine-to-machine communications (M2M) – aka Internet of Things (IoT) – lie at the core of the growing number of Smart City initiatives that have been cropping up in the U.S. and around the world in recent years. That’s opening up wide new vistas for companies throughout the telecoms and Internet industry value chains.
Ericsson is one of a growing number of leading multinational telecoms and network engineering companies that’s making development and deployment of Smart City technology a strategic priority. Enabling smart grid technology, such as providing core network services and data management for smart meters and automated metering infrastructure (AMI), are focal points.
On January 6, Ericsson announced the launch of what’s billed as an automated, end-to-end Smart Metering as a Service (SMaaS) platform. SMaaS removes the main obstacles – high upfront cost, complexity and assuring security prominent among them – that have been preventing utilities and city governments from carrying out Smart City plans, management elaborates in a press release.
Helping Build Smart Cities
Building ¨intelligence¨ into power and water meters, as well as all kinds of urban infrastructure, holds out the promise of more efficient, effective and lower cost public goods and services. Such initiatives are also key to improving environmental health, safety and enhancing the quality of urban life.
Ericsson has been acquiring a lot in the way of expertise and experience in the broad and deep Smart City technology market space. The company, for instance, enables more than 42 million smart utility meters worldwide, management points out.
Development of the SMaaS platform builds on that expertise and experience, as well its track record in ICT innovation and experience delivering business process outsourcing (BPO) services worldwide.
In addition to collecting data from geographically extensive smart meter deployments, Ericsson’s SMaaS platform comes with data management capabilities that enable utilities to organize, store, access and analyze the flood of incoming data that results. Furthermore, it simplifies a complicated billing process that extends across numerous and varied service-level agreements, Ericsson highlights.
The fact that the platform is already being used by utilities in northern Europe works strongly in Ericsson’s favor. So does the sheer number and extent of Ericsson’s global organizational resources. In terms of human resources, Ericsson employs some 65,000 service professionals in 180 countries. For utilities, that translates into achieving economies of scale that they wouldn’t be able to achieve on their own. Equally important, SMaaS clients maintain control over governance and change management processes.
Benefits of ¨As a Service¨ Solutions
Typically ¨as a service¨ solutions such as SMaaS enable businesses to enter new markets much more quickly and at lower cost than would be the case if they were to develop system platforms in-house. All in all, Ericsson says SMaaS can typically be deployed without significant upfront investments and realize cost savings of more than 20 percent as a result of improved operational efficiency.
Particularly noteworthy is the potential new smart grid offerings such as Ericsson’s SMaaS have to serve as catalysts for community solar projects and local, low-emissions microgrids, the value of which is rising given new clean energy and emissions policies, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan and the Obama administration’s National Climate Action Plan.
Depending on how the economics, as well as capabilities, actually work out, Ericsson SMaaS could provide a much quicker, as well as cost-effective, means of seeing such initiative through to fruition.
“Increased focus on emission reductions, new business models and operational efficiency is changing the nature of the utilities business and increasing the attractiveness of outsourcing. We can use our expertise acquired in the telecom and IT industries to help utilities cope with a wide variety of challenges,¨ Ericsson Head of Utilities’ Marie Fossum Stannegård was quoted as saying.
“On behalf of utilities, we coordinate the provision of IT services, field services and connectivity, acting as a single point of contact. Our managed Smart Metering as a Service offering has been proven in collaboration with several utilities in northern Europe, and we are now ready to make it available globally using our extensive service delivery organization.”
Ericsson is showcasing SMaaS at CES 2016 under way in Las Vegas this week. Those interested can watch a short introductory on-demand video by registering on Ericsson’s website.
Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.