Posted on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 by Jacob Hansen

Communication technologies for smart heat/cooling metering

Learn more about smart communication technology and how NB-IoT compare to 4G technology
Intelligent metering solutions and frequent data provide insights and tools needed to improve the energy efficiency in homes, work-places, schools, hospitals and other public buildings. In the last article we took a closer look at the NB-IoT technology, as one of the interesting IoT new commers within the intelligent metering segment. But is NB-IoT the only cellular solution? How does NB-IoT compare to other more mature technologies on the market, e.g. the well-known and well-proven 4G technology?

NB-IoT and 4G

The 2 technologies share many features, that are very interesting seen from an intelligent metering perspective.

  • Both technologies are cellular technologies that offers excellent coverage using the already installed mobile network infrastructure, meaning that utilities that do not want to invest in, or own, communication infrastructure, can do data collection without any infrastructure responsibilities.
  • Both technologies are perfect for remote reading of smart heat/cooling meters that are located in rural and other hard-to-reach places where other types of communication technology may fall short.
  • Both technologies have the possibility to transfer a sufficient amount of data from Heat/Cooling meters to be used for billing and analyzing purposes.
  • Both technologies are part of the mobile operators long-term 5G strategy.

NB-IoT vs 4G

There are some significant differences between the 2 technologies, and this is where your needs/requirements will have the final decision in the choice of technology.

  • The supply of the meter is important, as the NB-IoT technology is the only one being able to use a battery supply with an adequate battery lifetime, whereas the 4G technology is more power consuming, and requires main supply.
  • The NB in NB-IoT stands for Narrow Band due to the bandwidth on 200 kHz, whereas the bandwidth for 4G often are measured in several MHz and thereby can transfer a greater data amount than NB-IoT.
  • The 4G technology is designed to handle different data applications, such as streaming music and video, and this makes the 4G mobile infrastructure able to deliver data from your meters in “near real” time. Typically data is transmitted via 4G every 5/15/60 minute.
  • For NB-IoT, data is typically transmitted once every 60 minute in a main supplied meter and once every day in a battery operated meter.

Conclusion

There is a huge demand for increasing the energy efficiency, and a fully optimized heat/cooling solution is necessary to support the “green transition wave washing across the world “and frequently delivered data from the network will help ensuring that district heating/cooling will stay more sustainable, more efficient and more profitable, competitive and relevant in the future.

  • Although 4G communication has been around for a long time compared to NB-IoT, it is still valued in smart metering area for delivering a lot of data in near real time, and the technology is fully rolled out in most countries in the world. 4G is the best solution for the 20% of the meters, that measures the 80% of the distributed energy and where frequent data is important to improve the efficiency.
  • NB-IoT is the new comer within the cellular world with focus on massive IoT roll-out and long battery lifetime, and this makes it very interesting in the Heat/Cooling smart metering world. NB-IoT is the best solution for household meters – the 80% of your meters, that measures 20% of the distributed energy, and data is still valuable to maintain the overall efficiency in your grid.

It is worth mentioning that both of them will comply to the existing national and European laws and regulation, such as MID, RED and EED. But it is equally important that the chosen technology also comply to your current and future business needs.


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