SMOCs - The Future of Smart Meters
Imagine having to pay for petrol at the end of the month at a flat rate based on the distance travelled by your vehicle. Now imagine that you knew exactly when petrol charges are at their peak or when they drop during a day – knowledge that can be leveraged to maximize your savings.
Such is the concept of a smart meter. An electronic device that captures data pertaining to the consumption of utilities like electricity, water, or gas and enables remote meter reading. Eliminating the need for analog meters and manual reads, smart meters ensure accurate billing, and facilitate remote connect/disconnect as well as troubleshooting of equipment.
In the age of digital disruption, the utilities are coming under intense pressure to evolve their traditional business models and guarantee efficiency by adopting enhanced digital and outsourcing solutions. Smart meters are the flag bearers of this utility transformation journey into the ‘Future of Digital Utility’, and the smart meter operations center (SMOC) is the next milestone in this journey.
Paving the way for a smarter tomorrow
As the world wakes up to the need for rationing the consumption of our limited energy resources, the Energy and Utilities sector is boosting its efforts to promote conservation. Smart Meters aid in this endeavor by issuing information on the real-time usage of resources and enabling two-way communication between a meter and central service providers. By informing users of peak usage hours and dynamic pricing models, smart meters encourage cost savings, the drawing force that make the implementation of these devices so lucrative to the general masses. Additionally, they assist in detecting abnormalities in equipment, or capture any instance of theft or other anomalies, thereby amplifying system awareness and fortifying the general infrastructure.
However, installing a smart meter is merely the first step to what can be an end-to-end SMOC solution. To discover and harness the true potential of smart meters, the three key pillars of utilities - People, Process, and Technology need to come together and work in collaboration. A SMOC can ensure this convergence.
The SMOCs Solution
SMOCs clear the way for centralized accountability with efficient planning, monitoring, and operations of the smart meters. SMOCs provide a bird's eye view of day-to-day operations enabling efficient liaising with field teams and other departments to ensure the highest quality of services to customers.
Moreover, SMOCs can create a true value proposition and competitive advantage for utilities through several avenues. Firstly, SMOCs perform the necessary feasibility studies and market assessments that assist in the consolidation of an operating model, location strategy, and implementation roadmap along with KPIs & critical success factors for the Smart Metering program. They also support the demand management of the overall program by forecasting demand; monitoring the supply chain; controlling Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) inventory management; supervising quotes and order management; and leading claim and dispute management.
SMOCs also govern customer and asset data management through data quality assessment and cleansing; GIS mapping and consumer indexing; data governance; continuous audit and reporting. Another benefit is their support with field deployment including vendor coordination and deployment planning, field force management, field installation quality check, exception management, resource scheduling, field replacement document management, etc.
Furthermore, SMOCs empower customer operations through multiple channels such as program marketing; customer help desk; customer profile and loyalty management; IVR and call analytics; and social media management and analytics. Finally, they secure revenue protection by settlement quality check and ascertaining meter data submission; billing reconciliation and estimation; managing meter disputes; bill validation; and customer bill support.
The backbone of utility operations, SMOCs efficiently execute the planning, forecasting, data management, field operations, and customer operations tasks during the rollout of smart meters. It is this amalgamation of People, Process, and Technology that accelerates coordination between the disparate systems across the utility value chain warranting continuous improvement and operations delivery to achieve service level goals in line with customer requirements.