Data is the new oil of the energy business. It’s at the heart of the EV smart metering sector, where consumers want lots of information but with a light touch. SmartElectri develops the metering platforms and integrations that help companies give their customers the quick, accessible information they need. Hitaltech has helped them develop the enclosures to house their electronics.
Making ‘smart’ smarter
Collectively, Chris Fitzer and Andrew Smith have over 50 years’ combined experience in the electrical metering space. Two years ago, they launched SmartElectri, a project management and technical consultancy that has quickly become an established name in the design and development of software and hardware for the smart metering, smart energy, smart spaces and electric vehicle (EV) charging market.
“We are involved at an international and national level with the development of the protocols between meters, EV charging stations and other equipment,” explains Chris, giving an example of the company’s capabilities. “We might have a client who wants to use smart metering to leverage a position in electric vehicle charging that enables EV bills to be transferred to home electricity bills – or integrate smart metering in some other way. We make that happen.”
Unlocking the power of data
Data (and the ability to wield it) sit at the heart of the business. “In many ways data has become the new oil of the energy industry because that’s what drives what you do next to save energy, save money, and get accurate bills. It’s the same with the EV sector,” Andrew explains. “Technology has got to make that data available, convenient, accurate and reliable, and then help you pay for it.
“Consumers want a very light touch experience. But they also want lots of information: how much energy are they using? When are they consuming? What is it costing? We develop the metering platforms and integrations that help companies answer those questions, which helps them do more for their customers and stay ahead of the competition. We help them understand how to get data from point A to point B, and we help them do it in a compliant way, which is really important because the standards are constantly changing.”
Finding the right enclosure with Hitaltech
“The metering industry is at the leading edge for smart technologies,” says Chris. “When smart metering became a mass rollout it was the one of the first to use a dedicated communication network in the North Region, with traditional Cellular technologies in the South. However, there are many thousands of metering devices that are not eligible to connect to those networks for various reasons. In order to fill this gap, we have developed our own Smart 4G LTE Modem, IoTenix, which when coupled with our cloud platform, provides a low cost means for any metering or industrial device that requires a secure and robust data connection. . There are many challenges to developing a product and one of these has been finding the right enclosure for our electronics.”
Chris and Andrew already knew what sort of enclosure they needed, how it would be used and where it would be installed. But they needed help in choosing the specific product.
“We were looking for a company to provide us with the right enclosures for a smart metering modem,” says Andrew, “but we also needed the enclosure printing services and the industry contacts to solve technical challenges like PCB assembly. Hitaltech’s broad range of technical, manufacturing and logistics disciplines have proved really valuable.”
Chris adds: “[Hitaltech MD] Andy always says enclosures should be the first thing you think about, not the last. We worked with Hitaltech from the outset to develop an enclosure for our Modem. They’ve been with us through each stage of product development, from prototype to production and market release. That’s enabled us to package the unit in such a way that there’s been no need for bespoke tooling, so we’ve stayed in tight control of costs. We’re using the Modulbox XTS B enclosure.”
The Hitaltech difference
“We have a potential world market for our modem of more than two million devices,” says Andrew. “Right now, though, we’re only at launch, so while the potential is there for high volume, it’s currently still niche. Most of the major components manufacturers are only interested when you hit really high volumes. Hitaltech is willing to build a relationship with you early, helping you develop a product for the mass market, rather than only getting interested once you’ve done it. That personal service was important to us.
“Whether from an enclosures or connectors perspective, their personal service and responsiveness is what new market entrants need,” says Chris. “It’s that ability that will help us stay agile and keep pace with technology development. It’s what helps you survive.”