SmartReach, a collaboration of Arqiva, BT, BAE Systems, Detica, Sensus, and ScottishPower have announced a new Smart Metering trial to 5,000 smart electricity meters in Scotland, including in ‘hard to reach’ locations. It covers both a rural area around Lochwinnoch and the dense urban area of central Glasgow.

The SmartReach solution will be used to demonstrate the suitability of a single, long range radio-based communications network for communicating with electricity meters, wherever they are located. Lochwinnoch is only 20 miles from Glasgow but is the type of rural location that alternative communications networks find hard to reach. Densely populated Glasgow presents a different kind of communications challenge, with meters located deep inside buildings, including basements.

Andrew Ward, ScottishPower’s operations director, commented, “We are committed to delivering the same high quality smart metering services to our customers, whether they live in city centres or rural areas. It is therefore essential that the supporting communications technology is easy to install, reliable and always available. This trial of long range radio with SmartReach will build on the positive experience of our trial in Ipswich to help us to understand how ‘hard to reach’ locations can be accessed.”

Reaching meters GB wide with a single communications technology means that the installation process can be simpler and less expensive, with far fewer repeat visits required. It also means that costly, alternative communications solutions can be avoided. For the trial, SmartReach is using Arqiva’s existing tower infrastructure, Sensus’ FlexNet smart metering communications solution and smart meters from EDMI. SmartReach has also been running trials with other UK utility companies to demonstrate the suitability of long range radio for dedicated smart meter communications, for energy as well as for water networks.

Sean Weir, programme director for SmartReach, said, “Connecting to smart meters in homes all across Great Britain is essential to realise the anticipated benefits. Some communications networks have gaps in coverage for remote areas and can also find it hard to reach meters in cities when they are sited indoors in basements and cupboards under stairs. This trial will demonstrate the strengths of SmartReach’s long range radio solution to reach meters in locations that some other networks find difficult to cover.”

The technology behind SmartReach is widely deployed in the US, where more than ten million smart meter and grid end points are connected to long range radio based networks from Sensus. It has been proven to be suitable for meters situated in conventional locations as well as those located in hard to reach places such as meter pits, cellars and basements.