As utilities become more digitized and deploy more and more time sensitive applications that require real-time (or near real-time) data, the connectivity requirements become critical.
But despite the best efforts of telco companies, networks such as cellular networks do go down, either due to extreme weather events or technological failure. For example, in January in UK the mobile operators EE and O2 reported technical problems that resulted in their networks going down for a couple of days – and not for the first time, according to Twitter users.
The solution to avoid breaks in connectivity during such occasions, according to Paul Bullock, head of M2M at JT Group, is the open network SIM, which can be inserted in for example, smart meters.
“With an open SIM you gain true multi-network open roaming,” explains Bullock in an interview with Engerati. “The SIM can provide access seamlessly and non-preferentially switching between any network in the vicinity according to its availability so the user doesn’t need to worry about not having connectivity.”
Platform for smart meter operators
JT (Jersey Telecom), which had its origin in Jersey at the end of the 19th century, has grown from its tiny island base to become a global operator providing services and solutions to major banks and international companies.
The development of the open roaming SIM and the accompanying Nomad management platform was a response to provide a managed mobile wide area network (WAN) solution to the fast evolving M2M and Internet of Things markets.
“A network failure could have a significant financial impact on a utility,” says Bullock, commenting that with the Nomad platform a utility or meter operator could for example avoid truckrolls to a possibly faulty meter.
“If a meter isn’t reporting regularly it is possible to check the status of the network it is attached to and if necessary to take that network out of coverage either temporarily or permanently. It’s also possible to remotely reboot the SIM in the meter to see if that solves the problem. In this way these become important first line diagnostics that in many cases can avoid a truckroll and save that expense.”
Users of this solution include among others First Utility and the meter technology provider Orsis in the UK. Currently JT provides connectivity, both directly and through the reseller Stream Technologies, to approximately 200,000 smart meters in that country.
“In the case of network failure, the switching to another network occurs in under 3 seconds,” Bullock adds.
The Nomad advantage
Bullock says that the approach with the open roaming SIM, which is also software free, is to “make the Internet of Things more like the internet with the fewest points of failure.” Globally to date JT has 565 network roaming agreements in place.
The Nomad platform – which is under constant development – includes a comprehensive user dashboard which provides an overview of devices “in a single pane of glass” and the granular control down to the SIM layer on the individual devices.
In terms of USPs, Bullock says that JT provides geo-redundancy in the network architecture, and that the company is uniquely able to provide end to end visibility of the network and to diagnose problems at the top layer as well as in the lowest layer,” says Bullock.
Cost and support are other features he highlights, mentioning prepaid and post-paid or other customized packages and guaranteed 24/7/365 support. “We believe JT is in the sweet spot of support providing a level that neither the smaller networks nor the large operators are able to provide. We have invested heavily in providing this level of support to the some of the biggest banks and we want to extend it to the energy sector.”