Successful Heat Meter read-out via narrowband IoT

Monday, May 14, 2018

Energy metering is one of the areas in Danfoss with a high focus on engineering innovative solutions for the future. The team responsible for development, production and sales of Heat Meters and Automatic Meter Reading solutions, is proud to announce a successful test with narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) wireless data communication.

Read-out of energy consumption

With the global ambitions to reduce energy consumption within heating, cooling and hot water systems, the amount of energy meters installed in residential as well as non-residential buildings increases annually. To collect data about the consumption measured by each meter, nowadays a good but slightly complicated process is used. The wish for improvement has existed for years. The Heat Meters such as the SonoSelect™ store the data. The data of all meters installed in the same building or system is collected by data collectors such as Danfoss SonoCollect™. This data is then send for processing to an energy management system such as SonoEnergy™ via the internet.

Future read-out of energy consumption

A technology that will be available for data communication in the near future is the so-called narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) - a wireless technology to efficiently exchange data among many devices that is simply established via a mobile network (4G and 5G). This technology, sometimes also identified as LTE-NB, works virtually anywhere, especially inside buildings, and is designed for reliable and secure Mobile IoT applications. The technology offers a range of benefits:

  • Very low power consumption
  • Excellent extended range in buildings and underground
  • Easy deployment into existing cellular network architecture
  • Network security & reliability
  • Lower component cost

NB-IoT communication relies on the already existing mobile phone communication network (4G/5G) and infrastructure. The mobile phone operators need to open up for the use for devices as energy meters. This is already technically possible but the mobile phone operators’ business model needs to be established before it can turn into reality.

Improved meter read-out

With narrowband technology in our heat meters, we significantly simplify the read-out of energy consumption. It offers long distance communication with low power consumption. As a result, the Automatic Meter Reading is faster, has better communication, is customer friendly and easy to maintain.

Testing heat meters with NB-IoT

Although the NB-IoT technology is not yet practically available for commercial use, the technology has been utilized and tested. We have specially developed SonoSelect™ heat meters with a built-in NB-IoT module to conduct a test. The meters were installed in different locations at various distances to the base station (telecommunication antenna). After that the signal receival via the wireless communication was tested.

Long communication distance and very low battery consumption

The test results show the NB-IoT module has a wide distance coverage. We could also calculate that the important battery life-time value remains to be long. Based on the test, we can conclude it is possible to establish a continuous data communication once every hour for at least ten years, all on just one single AA-type battery. This brings many benefits to the users of the meter read-out such as energy utilities, housing associations and residents.

The maximum distance is quite far and with the large amount of antenna’s present in urban areas no signal issues will arise. Even at 12,5-kilometer distance, no data from the heat meter was lost.

The test results give us the confidence we can exploit the full potential of NB-IoT once it becomes available for commercial use. Till then we continue development of our existing Automatic Meter Reading solutions.

Find out more about Danfoss Energy Meters and Automatic Meter Reading solutions here.