Unlocking powerful data insights with innovative IoT smart monitoring

14 Jun 2023

About Jemena

As an organisation that is building a reputation as a utilities innovator, Jemena enlisted Telstra Purple and domain experts Nucleus3 to build an IoT platform for its gas network. Powered by Cumulocity, the three teams worked collaboratively to develop an end-to-end IoT capability, from the development of bespoke meter-reading devices, right down to powerful data insights and analytics.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to drastically transform the way millions of Australians interact with their utilities providers. Many utilities organisations have already started investing in technologies like smart metering for their electricity grid, although there is a considerable opportunity to extend robust IoT strategies to cover more of their highly valuable assets monitoring and performance.

As an organisation that owns and operates a diverse portfolio of energy assets across the east coast of Australia, Jemena is always looking for innovative opportunities to add value for customers. With over $12.4 billion worth of major utility infrastructure, Jemena provides millions of households and businesses with essential energy services. That includes an extensive gas and electricity network, which services over 1.84 million customers across the country.

Having already invested in remote metering technology for electricity, Jemena saw an opportunity to transform the way it takes gas readings. It partnered with Telstra Purple – Telstra's technology services arm - and utilities technology services experts Nucleus3 to implement a future proof IoT-powered metering strategy across its high-rise customer segment, powered by the Cumulocity connected device platform.

Bringing a robust network together

Jemena has a robust network of gas metering technologies across three business units; residential housing, commercial and industrial gas, and high-rise buildings. While the organisation had some existing smart meters, many of these were powered by older 3G and 2G network paradigms and were no longer fit for purpose.

The meter reading and data transfer technologies and processes are soon aging and infrastructure is coming to obsolescence. This results in high number of estimated reads, billing inaccuracies and failed disconnections resulting in compliance, operational and reputational impacts.

“Only in the recent years, the cost parameters for Digital Metering Solutions are lowering and technology is maturing rapidly,” says Jemena General Manager of Market Platforms Pratham Bhandari. “That was a good trigger point for us to start thinking more holistically and set ourselves for the future by building a comprehensive roadmap for transitioning from traditional manual meter reading methods to an Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that will deploy applications that monitor, manage, and control variety of connected devices.”

It also had some legacy gas meters with no smart capabilities. This presented a challenge, as meters had to be read manually, requiring crews to go to physically check readings at least once per year. The infrequency of these reads meant Jemena needed to provide more estimates to customers, as opposed to actual reading data.

“We have some customers that we can’t access for multiple reasons, whether it’s locked doors, animals on site, or meters that are inside apartments or difficult to access.” Pratham says. “We have to spend time working with customers to find the best times or identify other ways of getting meter reads, whilst prioritising the health and safety of our staff.”

Jemena wanted to address these issues with one cohesive smart capability, without having to make a significant upfront investment in digital meter technology. While customer service was a priority, Jemena also wanted to streamline its processes and use data more effectively to set an innovative, interoperable, scalable and device agnostic platform for the future.

“We wanted a standardised data acquisitional platform that was integrated with our backend systems and could incorporate multiple vendors and different pieces of kit,” says Jemena General Manager of Gas Networks Peter Harcus. “We see that as the future of the industry.”

Building a complete solution that extends beyond connectivity

As a long-time trusted partner, Jemena engaged Telstra Purple to investigate how it could better connect its metering resources with more modern network infrastructure. After identifying Jemena’s core pain points, Telstra Purple – in collaboration with Nucleus3 – developed a cost-effective end-to-end IoT solution to bring all of Jemena’s assets together under one platform.

Jemena’s high-rise use case was a challenge, as these buildings often had multiple legacy metering systems in one room to a master modem. Telstra Purple worked with local IoT device manufacturer Eden Worth to develop a range of bespoke IoT sensors that plug into multiple master modems. These devices effectively take the reading data from these legacy meters and – using Telstra’s Narrowband IoT network – transmit it back to a centralised Cumulocity IoT platform.

The team began with an initial proof-of-concept, starting with the deployment of 50 Eden Worth modems in high-rise settings, including locations with poor network. The trial was a complete success, with all reading data received and working well. Working with Nucleus3 and Telstra Purple, Jemena then extended the rollout to 600 units across its network, with the goal of eventually completing a full cutover for approximately 5,000 units that should give Jemena accurate and remote visibility of 200,000 customer’s billing data.

The Cumulocity platform captures all data from the new Eden Worth devices as well as Jemena’s innovating smart gas meter trial for their chronic no-access customers. That provides the organisation with an intelligent ‘single source of truth’, with dashboards, tools and data feeds that enable device management, data visualisation, application development and analytics capabilities.

“Telstra Purple and Nucleus3 really showed a willingness to provide and execute a complete end-to-end capability, rather than just helping us with comms,” Peter adds. “Most telcos would just try and sell you a connectivity package, but they came into things with a more strategic lens, which really helped.”

A real impact for utilities customers

With Cumulocity, Jemena is set to achieve full visibility of meter readings across its gas network. It gives them the capability to read gas meters in near real-time, which gives crews time back to work on other valuable initiatives whilst maintaining worker safety.

It also allows Jemena to take customer service to the next level. Not only are readings more accurate, but Jemena can provide useful information about customer gas usage, including insights into peak times and advice on how to manage their gas costs.

Cumulocity also unlocks other use cases for Jemena to get near real-time information about the health of their gas network, with sensors that can pick up things like temperature, and even pipe corrosion levels. This critical information sets a platform for future innovation, allowing Jemena to build additional data-driven capabilities and move closer to developing digital twin technology.

“Cumulocity opens up a lot of opportunities,” Pratham says. “It’s seamlessly integrated with our digital stack and allows us to look at many new innovations such as pressure monitoring and identifying gas leakages. There are many other pathways that we could now take to make us more future proof. Exciting times ahead!”

As the organisation pushes closer to full deployment and more data becomes available, it will have access to even more network insights. That’s set to help Jemena unlock a raft of incredible opportunities for the future, providing an innovative point of differentiation.

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