The use of smart meters – normally employed within a system known as an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) – is pioneering a new approach to energy provision and consumption.
AMI solution providers enable the power consumption of households and factories to be controlled and monitored far more efficiently than in traditional systems, where meters are only read by utility providers at relatively long intervals, typically several months.
Human meter-readers are faced with the practical difficulty that they are often unable to gain access to the premises, and so an estimated reading must be submitted. AMI solution providers and smart meters solve this problem, and many other problems arising from the traditional use of human meter-readers. Smart meters record consumption of energy at much shorter intervals than would otherwise be possible – as often as every hour – and then relay the information back to the utility company for billing purposes.
Smart meters mean that there can be interactive communication between the utility’s central monitoring system and the meter itself. The provision of the smart meters and the system within which they operate is the business of the AMI solution provider.
A crucial element in the implementation of smart meters is communication. The smart meters need to be able to communicate central information securely, reliably and with whatever level of regularity is required to the metering information that has been gathered. The advantages smart meters offer in terms of interactive connection between utility suppliers and consumers are significant, at least when delivered by a highly capable, effective and technologically sophisticated AMI solution provider.
Smart meters used within an AMI offer exciting opportunities to continually measure utility consumption. The benefits are enormous in terms of consumers and utility companies enjoying a much more accurate, and far more timely, knowledge of the consumption of utilities whose provision requires enormous investments in infrastructure.
As a consequence, utilities providers in the developed world are looking at the potential of smart meters deployed by AMI solution providers, as well as the implications of this for themselves and for customers.
At present, the list of nations where smart meter initiatives are being carried out include Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Nordic countries, Spain, the UK and the US.
Numerous major electronics and high-tech organisations are working on developing AMI systems, smart meters and associated peripherals, or are already far advanced with developing these systems.
It might well be asked why smart meters have not already become widespread. There is even something anachronistic and old-fashioned, in this age of instantaneous and global information, of multi-billion-dollar utility corporations having to rely on a consumer being visited by a person who comes to read the meter – and with this reading carried out intermittently. For this reason, utility suppliers have factored in AMI solution providers in their long-term strategies.
It is likely that smart meters, as an integral part of an AMI, will eventually become the main method by which utility metering is carried out throughout the industrialised world. The global AMI industry is only likely to increase in size.
One of the world’s leading AMI solution providers and one of the largest suppliers of smart meters is the Tatung Company, a public company founded in 1918 and headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan.
Tatung is a multinational corporation and a major global manufacturer of home appliances, LCD televisions, personal computers and a wide range of other electronic devices including smart meters.
Tatung has offices in Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, US, Mexico, Czech Republic, Thailand and Vietnam.
Overall, the devices Tatung supplies as an AMI solution provider include ANSI/IEC smart meters, communication modules, meter interface units, mechanical meters, multi-function electronic meters, pre-payment meters, card readers and data concentrators.
The New Energy Business Unit (NEBU) is the major AMI solution provider and developer in Taiwan that supports the development of smart meters and the establishment of AMI systems. NEBU is also heavily involved in some leading edge technologies relating to the energy industry, including micro inverters, large-capacity inverters and power electronic technologies.
Tatung has within its system solutions group an ICT and energy solutions business unit, which contributes to its overall role as an AMI solution provider. ICT is responsible for developing, manufacturing and marketing a wide range of state-of-the-art communication technology including wireless transmission systems, security solutions, networking equipment, information system integration, application software systems, cloud computing solutions, computer peripherals and PC/servers.
ICT and energy solutions are also involved in extensive energy-related initiatives, including designing and implementing grid-connected applications, establishing and maintaining solar farms, selling wind power generators in the 1.5kW to 15kW range, and energy-saving equipment such as LED lighting systems, heat pumps, central control energy management systems and smart grid related products and systems including smart meters. Tatung received the IEC international certification for its smart meters in 2012, highlighting its success as an AMI solution provider.
As the take-up of smart meters around the world continues to develop, Tatung will be bringing its innovative flair and advanced technological knowledge to a worldwide audience. The AMI solution provider will also be looking towards the future development of the exciting and important smart meter technology.
Tatung organises its activities into two separate business groups: power and energy, consumer and system solutions. Within the power and energy business group, the company designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of transformers, underground 2-way/4-way switchgears, other types of switchgears and extensive system engineering solutions. Tatung is also heavily involved in advanced energy development. The power and energy unit is additionally involved with designing, manufacturing and selling a wide range of power systems for the automotive industry, as well as manufacturing and marketing a wide range of wires, cables, optical fibre cables and bus duct distribution systems.
Tatung’s consumer unit focuses on developing, manufacturing and marketing a wide range of digital consumer products, home appliances, medical equipment and compression systems. The business unit, known as NEBU within the system solutions business group, is responsible for developing and manufacturing the widest range of smart-grid related products and systems. It is a cutting-edge AMI solution provider, setting the pace for delivery of AMI and associated devices such as meters and creating a global reputation for excellence in the area. Other products and systems supplied by NEBU are advanced distribution automation systems (ADAS); feeder terminal unit/feeder remote terminal unit (FTU/FTRU) and smart supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) platforms. In addition, NEBU is involved with the establishment of an ingot-growing centre relating to the solar poly-silicon foundry business.
As a major global AMI solution provider, Tatung has a clear vision for the role which smart meters will play in new types of cost-effective, high-quality, interactive smart home solutions.
Tatung sees smart home solutions giving homeowners access, often by remote means to devices that can run applications managing a wide range of processes used in the home such as security, heating and lighting, washing machines, devices capable of monitoring health and assisted living conditions, e-commerce devices and smart metering in general.
One example of Tatung’s dedication as an AMI solution provider in this exciting and growing industry, is its forging of a link with Shaspa, which devotes itself to providing customers with innovative solutions to optimise, manage, monitor and visualise their environments. This can improve quality of life, reduce the impact of environmental factors on the home environment and also reduce energy costs.
However, if the maximum benefits of smart meters are to be achieved, it seems clear that as well as the technology in the meter itself and in the communications system working with maximum efficiency, there has to be a genuine sharing of information and objectives between the utility supplier and the consumer.
In the US there have been calls both from within the energy industry itself and from consumer groups for some kind of nationwide campaign or marketing drive to raise awareness of what smart metering is and how it works. It is also seen as important for customers to get the support and guidance they need to make the most of opportunities offered by smart meters to increase energy efficiency.
Smart meters are not yet widely deployed in the developed world and their use in developing countries, as might be expected, is significantly less. But the future importance of smart meters is clear and while at present their use has mainly been proposed for electricity, they are also being used increasingly for water and gas consumption.
Tatung is wholeheartedly committed to playing a major role as an AMI solution provider, both in the calibre and breadth of the technology it develops for the market and in developing partnerships to continue its policy of offering comprehensive and highly effective AMI solutions to a fast-growing marketplace.
As a major multinational operating at the pioneering edge of technology, the company clearly has a commercial objective in all its activities as an AMI solution provider. However, the mindset it brings to these activities is more than simply focused on making money and enhancing shareholder value – important though that is.
Tatung never forgets that no matter how technologically sophisticated its products and systems are, these products and systems will be ultimately be used to improve the quality of life of tens of thousands of people around the world. The best AMI solution providers have overall corporate goals that are intimately linked with a sense of corporate social responsibility and Tatung is no exception.
Adopting a positive, resourceful and energetic approach to the twin goals of sustainable development and social responsibility is the very commitment Tatung enshrined in its objectives as far back as its founding in 1918. Tatung seeks to achieve stable growth within financial markets that are not always as stable as businesses would like.
Ever since 2009, Tatung has set itself the job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions within its factories and subsidiaries, while maintaining its excellence as an AMI solution provider. Its designers have the brief of expanding the energy-saving aspects of design of all Tatung products and to develop greener energy products and services. Tatung is confident that it is applying itself to this crucial goal of reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and consequently the impact these have on the environment.
As the company moves into the future, the organisation aims to continue its founder’s operational ideas of ‘integrity, honesty and frugality’ in providing high-quality products and services. Tatung implements CSR at the heart of its operation and is fully geared internationally to achieve the goal of sustainability in the near future.
CSR, of course, not only requires ambitious ideals but also the organisation’s willingness to seek out opportunities to implement these ideals in real-life situations and then implement them.
In Taiwan, Tatung carries out – alongside its role as an AMI solution provider – a wide range of industrial education projects with Tatung University and Tatung Senior High School. Tatung University is a private university in Zhongshan district of Taipei. The university has close connections with the Tatung company. These educational projects in Taiwan are a model of how the company plans to work with educational institutions around the world to nurture relevant social responsibility initiatives. Tatung aims to cultivate a culture of energy saving, reduction of their carbon footprint, and encourages environmentally friendly and healthy living.