Electricity providers and other utilities are taking full advantage of wireless technology advancements to better serve customers. Smart grids, which allow energy companies to better track usage and boost efficiency, are continually getting upgrades, such as AT&T's new smart meters, according to a company release.
The company's SmartSynch products are giving electricity providers the ability to utilize AT&T's wireless technology and data transfer. The services are lumped into a single bill, and companies can even pre-pay for up to 10 years of data usage on smart meters.
AT&T's entire suite of services for electricity providers includes two-way wireless connections throughout the smart grid that links electric meters to a utility office, smart meters that monitor power usage day-to-day and wirelessly send data back to the utility, a grid router that connects any device to the network and complementary software. The technology can work for small utility companies or large electricity providers, as millions of meters can be integrated into a single system.
One company that has tried the smart meter approach is Texas-New Mexico Power. The electricity provider has worked to replace 240,000 electric meters with smart meters on a wireless network. So far, TNMP has been pleased with the results.
"Outdated power systems can slow down both utilities and their customers," Neal Walker, president of Texas-New Mexico Power, said in a statement. "We chose to work with AT&T and SmartSynch so that we could launch a smart grid strategy quickly and cost-effectively. Instead of laying out a significant investment to build our own communication network, we've connected our smart meters to AT&T's highly secure and reliable wireless network."
As companies switch over to smart grid and smart meter wireless connections, customers can reap the benefits. Electricity rates often reflect the increased efficiency, as companies save on operating costs and pass those savings on to their consumers.
Pacific Gas and Electric also utilizes smart meter technology. According to the company, the new grid setup allows it to supply safer, more reliable and more efficient electricity. The two-way communication between customers' buildings and the electricity grid collects usage data from residential customers hourly and from commercial customers in 15 minute increments.
One of the top benefits for customers aside from the improved electricity rates, according to PC&E, is the reduction of the company's carbon footprint. Also, customers are more empowered to make choices as they can access up-to-the-minute data about their energy consumption and thus have greater control over their monthly costs.