May 22, 2017

Japan Using Cellular IoT to Lead Way for Mass Smart Metering Deployment

Last modified on August 25, 2021

As the Internet of Things continues to advance, the smart metering market is expected to explode. Influenced by rising energy prices, increases of energy theft, demand for more accurate billing and a heightened awareness of energy conservation, the global market is expected to reach $28.6 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 6.7%.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Japan where, following the 2011 Fukushima crisis and subsequent move from nuclear power, the government’s Energy-Environment Council set an 85% nationwide target smart electrical meter adoption by 2020. At the same time, the government ordered the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to invite offers from both domestic and foreign firms to install 17 million smart meters by 2019.

Smart gas metering in Japan began in 1983, with the introduction of gas meters that had built-in microcomputers. The Japanese market has continued to evolve, with the rollout of communication interfaces in 1988, and the 2005 introduction of residential ultrasonic gas meters. Currently, the Japan smart electric meter market is growing at a CAGR of approximately 11.7% 

Aggressive smart metering rollout is very much a global phenomenon. However, what sets Japan apart is the top-down nature of this initiative. The Japanese government is significantly driving the deployment of smart utilities, having mandated that up to 100 million buildings and households be connected within the next three years.

Government-led Initiative

While the rollout in Japan is government-led, individual companies have been granted the freedom to select the technologies they will use. With Cellular IoT solutions having matured sufficiently to enable mass-market deployments, LTE is fast becoming the technology of choice for Japanese providers; it provides the extended battery life, low power consumption, cost efficiency, and reduced size essential to smart utility metering. While initial observations suggest that deployments will begin with CAT-M1 networks, both CAT-M and NB-IoT are already being targeted. Thus, Sony’s Altair integrated dual-mode LTE CAT-M/NB-IoT chipset has won the tender for all of Japan’s Smart Meters thanks to it’s low power consumption, small size, and large capabilities. Sony’s Altair cellular IoT chipsets were chosen as they were consistently proven capable of meeting the requirements of 10-plus years of battery life for gas meters in Japan. Additionally, only Sony’s Altair chipsets possessed the necessary reliability and maturity.

Practical Rollout

The result for Japan will be a uniform – even harmonious – rollout with individual gas, water and electricity vendors having received clear targets in terms of deployments schedules and new technology trials. This means that the mass adoption will happen much faster than in other countries. In comparison, European and American utility companies are having to drive smart meter implementation themselves, resulting in a slower and far more sporadic deployment.

For the future of efficient and high-volume smart metering deployment, Japan is a market to watch.