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UK smart meter data traffic set to grow five-fold in coming years

After 8.5 million devices were added to the DCC network in 2021-22, UK’s smart metering network will see massive growth in data traffic over the coming years, with the 7.6 billion messages carried in 2021 likely to double this year

Smart meters have become a fixture of UK utility networks and as their growth continues across the nation, so does the data traffic carried on them. Research from the Data Communications Company (DCC), the organisation that built and maintains the nation’s smart metering network, predicts that after a billion messages were sent over the national smart meter network in July 2022 alone, the UK’s smart meter data traffic is set to grow five-fold over the next four years.

In the 2022 Business and development plan, a five-year look into the future, the DCC highlighted the past year of progress and set out how it plans to improve its services while working to reduce costs.

The analyst noted that currently, many meters package up meter-reading data and send it once a day. Increasingly, meters are providing these readings more frequently, so the grid can take advantage of these insights sooner. Over the past financial year, the network grew by 8.5 million meters, and currently there are more than 21 million meters connected.

The DCC said the network’s rapid growth is compounded by new changes that will increase the number of meter readings being sent, so data volumes will increase significantly.

Also, in future, every meter will have the capability to send readings on a half-hourly basis if required – dubbed Market-wide Half-Hourly Settlement (MHHS). These more frequent readings are said to be giving consumers access to new smart tariffs, which have been shown to provide savings if used in conjunction with other smart technologies, such as smart heating or electric vehicle charging.

The DCC believes that as an increasing number of messages sent allows the grid to see energy usage sooner and in more granularity, this deeper data will accelerate the UK’s moves to replace carbon-producing energy generation with green alternatives.

The smart meter data analysis showed that the beginning of the 2021-22 financial year, 427 million messages were being sent securely each month, and by the end of the year this had doubled to 870 million a month. More than 7.6 billion messages have been sent in the past year, the bulk of this data being meter readings.

Data being sent over the network also includes changes of supplier requests, firmware updates, prepayment credit top-ups and tariff updates. These messages vary in size between tens of bytes to about a megabyte.

“The DCC network now relays in a single day the amount of data it was carrying in a whole month two years ago,” said DCC CEO Angus Flett. “That’s a great thing for Britain, which needs this data for the insights we require to transition away from fossil fuels.

“We have now surpassed one billion messages sent across our network in a month. We expect a further 500% increase in traffic over the next few years, as the network more than doubles in size, accommodating extra demand, like half-hourly meter readings. The DCC network was designed for these traffic increases, and our five-year roadmap shows how we’ll be working with our customers and service providers to ensure we are ready for this high-energy data future. Our mission is to make Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”

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