Australian communications firm BAI has partnered with US smart meter company Sensus to propel local utilities into the internet-of-things age.
Sensus and BAI will design, supply and install digital infrastructure that will allow utilities to remotely and continuously monitor their networks for problems and pre-emptively manage maintenance issues.
Data from sensors built into Sensus’s meters is transmitted over radio connections to help utilities better manage their resources.
“The Sensus-BAI partnership can help water utilities (meet) the growing demand by supporting data that helps conserve resources,” Sensus Australia’s director of smart metering Mary Wilson told The Australian.
BAI and Sensus have made bids with utilities across Australia, and expect a decision within months. BAI’s other contracts include running the NSW government radio network, and the New York subway 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi emergency communications system.
BAI director of critical communications Malcolm Keys said while Victoria had already mandated the use of smart sensors, utilities elsewhere were now taking the plunge without a legislative push.
Sensus and BAI are hoping their partnership will mirror a similar deal in Britain in 2013, when Sensus joined forces with Arqiva to connect 10.2 million homes.
Mr Keys said a generic home hub could also connect utilities to the internet is but it was not an ideal solution.
“With a hub there are just too many parts and too many stakeholders,” he said.
“Trying to get NBN to provide a home hub, for example, or getting the telcos to deliver it to a house — that’s not happening, and you can’t ask people to go out to JB Hi-Fi and buy one. So while the technologies will roll out in a mixed-bag way, it’s not an effective way for a utility to manage its resources.”
Sensus will supply a long-range radio solution based on its FlexNet communication network for any deployments in Australia. The Sensus FlexNet communications system uses dedicated, licensed spectrum in a private and secure network that supports multiple applications and is flexible for future growth.
Mr Keys called for the government to allocate more spectrum to critical infrastructure such as utilities.