One of the biggest national infrastructure projects is underway across Great Britain as we try to improve our energy supply whilst at the same time meeting EU climate change targets. Some may argue that the latter could already be a moot point if we leave the EU, but nonetheless the British government has signalled its intent, challenging energy suppliers, big and small around the country, to install smart meters in every home and business by 2020. To put that in perspective, it is over 30 million premises across England, Scotland and Wales. With only about 5 million installed to date, and only three years to go to reach the target, this is no mean feat! And this is just the beginning as customers want and expect omni-channel energy solutions that give them complete control over their usage and bills with the click of a button.
Smart meters is just the start, as energy companies already have a primed audience of businesses and households to cross-sell this and any number of other smart products to (many offering remote control, monitoring and sensing), that will make their premise more efficient and connected, not to mention saving them money on bills. With predictions that utility organisations will account for two-thirds of the 30 billion smart, wirelessly connected devices in homes and utilities worldwide by 2020, there is a huge amount to play for.
However, with these escalating revenue opportunities of smart metering or smartphone controlled computerised thermostats come responsibility and a number of less talked about technological and regulatory challenges that customers will face - what of spectrum allocation, reliability and security to name just a few - not to mention the practical task of installing that volume of smart meters in a relatively small period of time, and ensuring the technology remains upgraded and current?
Key to the success of this huge scale project will be robust and rigorous quality end to end testing that can maximise performance, ensure security and meet the stringent - yet required - regulatory compliance standards. Every interface and backend system will need to undergo regular end to end (process) quality assurance to ensure it can manage the extra load of all the data. Complex integration and operation acceptance testing will be important and will need constant quality management.
More specifically, the devices will all need to be compliance tested to ensure each and every one can meet the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications and are interoperable with the Data and Communications Company and interchangeable with other compliant devices - whoever the supplier and even more so during changes to supplier. Failure to comply could have legal implications.
The Internet of Things has transformed energy consumption as we know it and certainly brings plenty of exciting opportunities for customers and energy companies alike. Who would have thought ten years ago we would be able to control our energy usage or heating settings remotely in seconds? That said, they also bring huge pressures and pitfalls for utility companies whose reputation is staked on customers having reliable around the clock access to their electricity, gas, heating or any other appliance. The role and importance of robust and rigorous quality driven end to end testing will be key to the success or failure of utility companies. Without the right technology systems and platforms in place, the biggest infrastructure of our time is an impending disaster which could affect this and future generations across the UK. With it, it could be an exciting energy revolution.