16 August 2022 Innovation, Metering, Smart Meter Rollout

Interoperability testing gets underway for innovative new smart meter solution

SMS visit Alt Han site
Our partnership with Alt HAN Co is testing the use of hybrid wired and wireless radio technologies in order to unlock the benefits of smart metering for previously inaccessible properties

Last month, our innovation partners at Alternative Home Network Area Company (Alt HAN Co) enjoyed a visit to our facility in Bolton where interoperability testing has now started on a solution that could help hundreds of thousands of UK households to access the benefits of smart metering.

Back in December, we announced our partnership with Alt HAN Co – the not-for-profit collective of energy suppliers – to test the use of wireless radio technology solutions in order to provide connectivity for premises currently located in smart meter ‘blackspots’.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of British households are currently hindered by connectivity issues (mainly apartment blocks and large or thick walled properties) whereby the components of the Home Area Network (HAN) – the energy meters, in-home device, and communications hub that make up a standard smart meter installation – are too far apart to communicate.

To overcome this challenge, Alt HAN Co has developed a set of solutions, including powerline networking, that enable the communication of smart metering devices across a greater distance. Powerline networking is a hybrid of wired and wireless technology which uses existing electrical wiring in a building in tandem with plug-in adapters and is commonly used in homes to boost WiFi range.

Alt HAN visits SMS test lab

Since being appointed by Alt HAN Co the test the solution late last year, our expert team in Bolton has designed and built a bespoke testing facility to support the Alt HAN concept across multiple meter types and variations. The facility replicates a building of 46 individual apartments with gas and electricity supplies.

The site visit, led by Alt HAN’s Managing Director, Paul Cooper, was to formally launch the testing services provided by SMS following build completion and proof of concept testing. This initial phase of the project will see SMS and Alt HAN analyse the solutions to ensure interoperability with the smart meter HAN. Once interoperability is demonstrated, SMS will provide Alt HAN Co with enduring support for the scaled adoption of the solution, providing energy suppliers with a significant new tool in their armoury to meet mandated rollout obligations and unlock access to new smart meter customers.

The supporting package of services, which SMS already offers individually to energy suppliers through its portfolio optimisation solution, Smart Meter Health, includes ongoing testing of device combinations, compatibility with any new meter models and firmware upgrades, and installation and commissioning best practice of the adopted technology.

Simon Chester, Smart Meter Health Programme Manager, said:

“It was brilliant to be able to welcome our partners from Alt HAN to our newly designed and competed test facility, which will provide a vital testing solution for this potentially gamechanging new smart meter solution. Our teams have worked extremely hard to get the testing site up and running, and Alt HAN have been impressed with the level of service and metering expertise we’ve been able to provide so early on in the project.

“Working together, we anticipate that this solution could unlock access to hundreds of thousands of GB premises that cannot currently have a smart meter installed due to connectivity challenges, bringing these consumers the full benefits of smart meters and assisting energy suppliers with their mandated rollout targets.”

Paul Cooper, Managing Director of Alt HAN Co, added:

“SMS are able to offer an excellent test lab for Alt HAN equipment at their facility in Bolton due to the size, construction, and layout of the building as well as their experience in providing smart meter testing services to a number of Energy Suppliers. We are looking forward to continuing to work with SMS to complete our programme of interoperability testing.”

Discover our Meter Testing solutions

Our smart meter lab facility in Bolton, Lancashire, provides a bank of 200+ live meters for energy suppliers and other industry partners, providing assurance, device combination proving, and over-the-air (OTA) testing in a range of mock real-life scenarios and environments.