I recently had the opportunity to review the “Electric Grid Managed Services Report – 2018” published by IHS Markit. In their report, IHS Markit describes the key steps of AMI evolution, which inspired me to discuss the steps from the service business perspective.
According to the report, AMI evolves through three phases:
- The first step, AMI 1.0, simply means the rollout of smart meters and supporting software, mainly driven by legislation. The focus is on meter installation and data collection for billing.
- In the second step, AMI 1.5, the focus expands to utilizing the AMI data also for purposes other than billing. Utilities start developing and offering new services that build on analyzing the AMI data. For example, outage management and monitoring the power quality are given more attention.
- The third step, AMI 2.0, is described as a phase where AMI data is commonly used in a wide variety of business and operational applications. Some utilities are already taking concrete actions in this area
There is always the risk of over-simplification and neglecting details when creating steps like those mentioned above. But looking at the market and the customer cases I have worked on recently, the steps suggested in the report work well. What I see is quite obvious: the demand and offering of AMI services also seem to follow the same steps!
Step 1: Services to operate AMI
Landis+Gyr has offered solutions and services for AMI step 1.0 for years, even for decades. Smart meters, communications and software are concrete examples of our product offering. On the Services side, we naturally cover a range of operating support services as an integral part of our Portfolio. Many of our customers want to operate AMI internally, but instead of investing in their own IT infrastructure and applications, they prefer to choose Software as a Service, which is also available in our portfolio. And today we are seeing even more companies throughout the EMEA considering Metering as a Service as their choice for operating AMI, meaning that we assume responsibility for the entire meter-reading process, collecting and validating the metering data. Here, we have gained our extensive experience mainly in US and Nordic markets.
Step 1.5: Services to start utilizing AMI data
AMI 1.5 is an interim step towards AMI 2.0. With AMI 1.5, utilities start implementing solutions like power quality monitoring and advanced reporting to support decision-making. They may also consider outsourcing additional services beyond meter reading. I can honestly say that designing the service offering in this area is an exciting task! We develop a truly modular offering so that utilities can flexibly choose what they prefer to do in-house versus what they want to buy as a service.
Step 2.0 and beyond: Services to realize the potential of AMI
There is a lot of buzz around AMI 2.0, particularly in countries where utilities are preparing for the 2nd round of smart metering installations. To simplify a bit, in these cases there is little discussion about the basic metering data collection for billing – it is considered a given and must simply work smoothly. The focus has instead shifted to getting the most out of the data in the network with tools like data analytics and visualization. The volume and variety of data available from smart meters, sensors and other grid components is amazing and rapidly changing the way utilities plan and operate the network. Efficient procedures and tools are now needed; it is simply no longer possible to gather and analyze the data without automated processes, machine learning and artificial intelligence. No doubt, utility experts and expertise are still in a crucial position to make sense of all the data and to make related, informed business decisions.
At Landis+Gyr, we want to be a strong partner to utilities also in this phase of AMI evolution. In my opinion, joint development projects and close collaboration in customer projects are the most efficient and rewarding ways to take the next steps. For example, we have launched an Advanced Grid Analytics (AGA) solution that provides tools for optimizing Smart Grid Investments, and our Meter Asset Management (MAM) solution gives visibility to the meter park throughout its life cycle. Both solutions have software at their core, but they include strong service components, too. And as with AMI 1.5 above, our driving principle is that utilities have the freedom to choose the extent to which they want to run solutions in-house versus buying selected or all operations as a service.
Here, I have described one way to match the service offering with AMI evolution, following the steps in IHS Markit’s report. The report also includes other ways to group and categorize Managed Services. This is welcome, as at least I have not yet seen any established terminology in the industry, although the services are becoming more and more popular.