Preparing for a mass rollout of smart metering in Lithuania, JSC Energijos Skirstymo Operatorius (ESO) has started the active testing of NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) technology. The pilot project aims to evaluate if meter data collection is possible by employing this technology and if its penetration in practice is higher compared to that of traditional communications technologies and sufficient to satisfy the needs of ESO’s business. Attempts are being made to identify whether this technology is sufficient for equipment control, maintenance, replacement and updating of software.
Smart meters with integrated NB-IoT technology transmit data on energy consumption, energy production and the quality of energy, provided via mobile communications networks, to the ESO systems.
The opportunities this technology can offer have been tested under a wide range of conditions. The certified and metrologically validated gas meters have been installed in the homes of company employee volunteers, and electricity meters have been fitted in the basements and underground parking spaces of newly built apartment buildings or have been tested in ESO’s laboratory as well as brought to potentially problematic points.
“The results so far have been pleasantly surprising – we see that the first installed meters in the region of Vilnius send information even from areas where other communications technologies (e.g. LTE Cat 1, 2G/3G) cannot ensure the collection of meter data,” says Mindaugas Vyšniauskas, Smart Grid Architect at ESO.
“Applying GPRS technologies, the data cannot be collected when the strength of the signal is lower than 105 dBm, whereas NB-IoT modems transmit data even if the signal strength equals 115 dBm. The prediction that metal metering cabinets may screen the radiation of electromagnetic waves and so disable the transmission of information has been proved to be unfounded.”
Although a screening effect is observed, it is not as strong as has been predicted and does not have any significant influence on data transmission. There have been some concerns regarding the functioning of the technology in the country’s border zones, but no cases of malfunctioning have been identified so far.
NB-IoT is LTE technology that belongs to the 4G family, but specialists tend to ascribe it to 4.5G or LTE Advanced. The latter communications technology is seen as a basis for 5G communications that aim at the so-called Internet of Things.
According to Vyšniauskas, some of the most progressive technological solutions, which are still in their early stages around the world, are being tested in Lithuania. Next to the ESO team, two communications operators, Telia and Bitė, have taken part in the piloting project, whereas as many as three suppliers have provi