15 July 2020

Case Study - NICIGAS

CASE STUDY
Case Study - NICIGAS

Nicigas connects 850,000 Gas Meters with UnaBiz and SORACOM

The Japanese energy market was deregulated more than 20 years ago. However, corporate protectionism has hindered full liberalisation, restricting access to accurate and timely data. Led by UnaBiz and SORACOM, the Smart Gas Meter makeover allows the collection of real-time data without the need for a costly and time-consuming network overhaul. The project marks one of the largest deployments of smart utility solutions to date.

 

Challenges
To digitalise gas consumption management in a cost fitting manner on a global scale.

Solution
A retrofitted Network Controlling Unit that enables smart features and lasts at least 10 years.

Results
Data precision, lower operational cost, better service offering and new revenue streams.

 

NIPPON GAS CO. (NICIGAS) is an energy company engaged in the business of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), City Gas and Electricity. Since deregulation, the company has steadily grown to become one of the fastest-growing LPG retailers in the country.

Thanks to its high service quality and competitive pricing, NICIGAS currently supplies gas and electricity to more than 1.67 million customers in the Kanto region, Yamanashi prefecture and Shizuoka prefecture.

 

DIGITALISATION

As a strong proponent of market deregulation and how it will benefit the end customer and society as a whole, NICIGAS wants to create a platform to provide new players with access to operational systems and compliance services at a reasonable cost.

Currently, these meters are being read manually by gas company agents monthly. This method is costly, prone to errors and dependent on a large workforce. To change that, NICIGAS has to digitise the data collection of gas consumptions.

However, unlike Japan’s 62 million smart residential electricity meters, over 50 million residential LPG and city gas meters are currently offline.

 

A PRACTICAL INNOVATION

Before working with customised IoT hardware maker UnaBiz and Japanese IoT connectivity and data management platform supplier SORACOM, NICIGAS tested several off-the-shelf and custom-built solutions from reputable companies. None of those solutions met their technical requirements within their expected return of investment.

To answer the problem, SORACOM teamed up with UnaBiz to create the “Space Hotaru" - a Network Controlling Unit (NCU) that transmits gas consumption data to "NICIGAS Stream", the company’s central IoT data platform.

This is done via Sigfox's 0G wireless network operated by Kyocera Communication Systems (KCCS) in Japan.

"We currently offer a similar service over 3G and 4G networks. However, when we narrowed down the functions to a minimum, the amount of data transmitted is, in fact, tiny. This made Sigfox's low power consumption, small payload and inexpensive connectivity the obvious answer." - Yuki Matsuda, Executive Officer of Information Technology Division, Energy Business Headquarters NICIGAS.

 

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