Remote meter reading often costs the utility companies a lot of money because the companies generally use their own private communication network. The fourth-largest U.S. carrier has introduced an embedded SIM that is about the size of a head of a pin, and this will be used in Echelon electricity meters to communicate with the utility company over T-Mobile's mobile date network.
These embedded SIMs are built from silicon and can withstand environmental factors like wind, extreme temperatures, and rain. They also can be used for more than just electricity meters, as T-Mobile said it will work for other machine-to-machine needs in industries like agriculture, health care, manufacturing, and fleet management.
"While the investment in coverage, reliability, and security of carriers such as T-Mobile is unmatched by what a utility could do on their own, the operating costs of public networks have traditionally limited their use in the North American market," Echelon VP Jim Andrus said in a statement. "In contrast, aggressive pricing plans have made the use of the public cellular networks as the backhaul of smart grid systems the norm in Europe. We believe the programs we have put in place with T-Mobile can have the same impact on the North American market."
The move comes as there is increased focus on improving the speed and efficiencies of power grids. The federal stimulus bill will potentially give utilities up to $11 billion to shift their energy supply networks to digital technologies, but there are numerous concerns that these smart grids could be vulnerable to hackers unless sufficient security measures are in place.
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