My journey from ”Metering and Billing” in 2009 to ENLIT 2022
When I started diving into smart metering and smart grid as a passion and profession sometime in 2006/7, IoT was still called M2M, and smart metering was a means to collect cash better or enable flexible tariffs. Therefore, the major event in Europe was called "Metering and Billing." My first attendance was with Tieto back in 2009 in Amsterdam. The main driver for the complexity, cost, and delays of metering deployments around the globe was the availability of a cost-effective, reliable, and secure "connectivity" at scale. While building the business for the energy segment in Gemalto from 2011 onwards, #M2M was renamed #IoT, and “Metering and Billing“ events became "European Utility Week" - the concepts of smart grid evolved, the number of use cases to be served by Smart Metering infrastructures increased and the security requirements developed (thanks to ESMIG we were able to create an EU wide CENCENELEC standard here). Only the challenges with connectivity, as mentioned above, remained in one or the other way.
A first glimpse of what the vision of the impact a decentralized communication and data handling can have in a decentralized energy system we brought up in the EU Smart Grid Task Force Expert Group 2 on “market design,” which was issuing a report back in 2014. A tiny fraction of this group – which strong incumbent organizations dominated - invented the concept of a “data access point manager,” where data monopolies on top of copper monopolies were at least questioned. We have received huge resistance as the paradigm was to run a European Copper Plate and central databases as the backbone for the physical integration of Renewables. This was before blockchain and decentralized ledger became en vogue – where I was engaged in making the Energy Web Foundation (EWF), which is on its way to enable revenue streams to owners of Distributed Energy Assets. Today it seems common sense that integrating the demand side into the energy system also requires a transformation of the governance of data - also being a trusted underlying to small-scale financial transactions.
In 2017 I met Jussi Numminen, and we shared our visions and ideas about the connectivity challenges in smart metering and beyond. The paradigm that "a decentralized energy system" also requires "decentralized connectivity" was our common ground – and Wirepas at the time, together with Aidon, has proven in Oslo (Hafslund) that this is possible. The first metering project I was aware of that did not engage a communication or infrastructure operator – results are impressive: cleaning rates are negligible, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and timing were as expected. Today there are 1mio+ meters deployed in one single, self-managing network of devices delivering the needed Service Level Agreement (SLA).
I was so impressed by this solution that I wanted to work for Wirepas and help make this connectivity the de facto standard for metering and smart grid, as it had nearly all the ingredients needed to tackle the shortcomings of many other connectivity solutions deployed in metering.
With "nearly," there were mainly two topics hindering us from offering this on a global scale: spectrum and standard.
Wirepas was still a startup providing proprietary protocol, and the proof we had in the Nordics was that implementation was in the only locally available radio spectrum. Utilities and regulators around the globe were interested in talking. Still, they were only ready to commit once we either port our stack to another local spectrum or standardized our technology's main parts. A classic chicken and egg problem...
Now, five years later (which is nothing in terms of building a standard and bringing the first implementation to market), we have done both: our incredible team around Jussi Numminen and Juho Pirskanen have been turning the successful ingredients of the mesh connectivity into the standard at ETSI, defined it into a dedicated but license-free spectrum of 1,9 GHz and even managed to obtain the holy grail for a radio interface standard - being recognized an IMT2020 (better known as 5G) technology by International Telecommunication Union. And our R&D team, with our CTO Ville Kaseva and the teams around Jouni Mikkonen and Sebastien Pellorce, have been working hard on implementing the first release of the DECT NR+ standard with the Wirepas Connectivity Suite.
This is the time to overcome the challenges and draw a concrete picture of how future energy systems and governments can be transformed. In 2022, European Utility Week has become Enlit Europe, acknowledging sector coupling and data-driven decentralized energy systems nurtured with a hell load of innovation (just compare the exhibitor lists 2009 and 2022). We are proud to now be able to integrate our software-defined, fully decentralized, very low infrastructure, high-reliability RF mesh solution as an Implementation of a standard in a globally available spectrum.
Come and see Wirepas and benefit from the world's first globally available radio standard and Spectrum, which appeared to be tailor-made for smart metering at large scale and beyond.
Talk to us (Jani Vehkalahti, Ashish Sahay, Eden Suire, and Alan Sillito). We will all be onsite open for sparring.
Sometimes it takes a decade of consistency, patience, and grit to get to the point where visions come one step closer to reality. No matter what ENLIT is called in 2026 – we are convinced that we’ll talk more about real energy transition thanks to data obtained from DER assets using the connectivity platform that does not require middlemen. Devices form the network like people form a democracy.