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IDIS Association: Fluvius – a new IDIS’ experience - part 2  

For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic

The second season of Smart Talks is dedicated to utilities and massive rollout.

This is the sequel of the interview with Mr. Joren Moelans, who is the technical lead for the smart meter roll-out projects at Fluvius. You can read the first part of the interview here.

In the second part, Mr. Moelans talked about outsourcing the cleanup process and data collection, as well as the importance of certification for the user-specific functionalities, and the necessity of competition.

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Do you think that it is important, or do you recommend, that utilities must also standardize custom user-specific functionalities by defining the specification and providing a certification program for them?

 

Yes, I would say it is important. What we did is, we bought the IDIS meters because they gave us a good base, but we needed some fine-tuning, development and testing. IDIS is very helpful for us. An excellent solution for small and medium utilities. We have been communicating with the Association since 2017, with success.

 

With the help of IDIS association, Fluvius defined all needed functionalities. Some of those functionalities became part of Package 3 IDIS specification and will be included in the IDIS certification process. The country-specific functionalities are not part of the IDIS certification program. But in my personal opinion, it is always better to have all functionalities certified, even specific ones. On the other hand, it means that more resources are needed for testing - but I think it is worth it. We are working closely with external consultants and tested everything thoroughly, as I believe every deviation from the specification should be examined. Our first experiences gained from the field only confirmed that it is necessary to check all functionalities through the certification process.

 

Which one of these technologies requires a cleanup process? What is the best way to organize a cleanup during a massive rollout? How does this fit into organizing the entire massive rollout? What is Fluvius’ experience on this topic?

 

We have a service provider that does the cleanup process ((the process of maintaining the communication). But if they need an intervention, they need to ask us to do it. When this happens, the service provider has to pay us for our team to go to the metering point. We need to do the interventions, but that is why we keep it simple (i.e., by putting up the antenna). In PLC you have mesh networks concentrators, so with PLC you have more maintenance, and with mobile we can handle it.

 

10 years ago, we used PLC and it requires more work because the cleanup is more unpredictable. And generally, we had more problems with it than we have now, with mobile. It is questionable whether it would even be possible to outsource the PLC cleanup process. It depends on who bears the risk of maintenance. Mobile is also a winner thanks to lower overall costs. I’m sure that with the improvement of mobile technology, transferring to 4G and later possibly to 5G, mobile will for sure have the advantage. The risk is smaller, and the price is ok as you don’t have a maintenance cost.

 

Our HES software and data collection are also outsourced, but we keep MDM software in our hands. So, when it comes to security and privacy we are in control and we monitor and audit everything. The task of the company that perform external services and which we call Fluvius’ meter operator is to maintain proper communication and to collect data. We have access to that data and manage it.

 

Do you see the potential for merging different organizations, alliances or associations, which deal with the standardization of different or similar technologies? Would it make life easier for utilities?

 

Having one centralized organization would of course be easier. But with regard to communication technologies, I personally,  believe that some level of competition isn’t bad.  They can challenge each other, often resulting in more progress and better results. But if we are talking about functionalities, it would be great if they were standardized at the level of the entire European Union! Everything would be easier, cheaper and simpler.

 

What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your career?

 

Keep your eyes open. Don’t make choices that are too difficult. Always consider the business side. A lot of engineers are so focused on technology that they sometimes forget to look at the business requirements. I also made this mistake at the beginning of my career. Technology as such is not a goal, but what you do with it. So always take into account the other factors. The best technology may not always be the best choice for your company. Keep the vision wide enough.

 

Conclusion:

Everything, even the country-specific functionalities, should be tested, analyzed, studied in great detail, always keeping costs in mind. To make a decision, you need to analyze everything: both the reliability of the technology as well as the cost-effectiveness.

Utilities don’t always have to do the cleanup process and data collection themselves. This is something that can be outsourced.

 

Depending on what should the utilities choose to outsource the cleanup process and data collection? What are the advantages of either solution?