Construction work has commenced on what is billed as the first plant in the Sultanate dedicated to the manufacturing of smart meters based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
The project is being spearheaded by the National Energy Center (NEC), an Omani company jointly owned by public sector organisations and private investors, and well-regarded as a pioneer in the introduction of smart metering services in the Sultanate.
Efforts to build domestic smart-meter manufacturing capacity in the Sultanate come against a backdrop of an intensifying drive by various stakeholder ministries and institutions in support of IoT based connectivity. Besides enabling connected devices to communicate via the Internet, IoT is also seen as an important in the realisation of Smart Cities in the Sultanate, heralding the roll-out of smart transportation and driverless mobility, and enhancing energy efficiency, among other objectives envisioned by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
In the Sultanate, a fledgling effort by a number of electricity, water and gas distribution utilities to introduce smart meters is rapidly gaining traction. Smart meters not only provide timely and accurate meter readings, but they also generate warnings in the event of any leakages or outages. More importantly, they enable customers to monitor their consumption patterns and thereby keep a tab on their monthly bills.
Having been tapped by the government to pilot the introduction of smart meters in Musandam Governorate, the National Energy Center (NEC) has since embarked on plans to establish a factory for the manufacturing of a range of smart meters. But as an industry that is subject to strict standards and specifications, the project encountered initial challenges during the implementation phase – challenges that the government’s one-stop approvals facilitation agency, the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit (ISFU), took upon itself to resolve. ISFU, operating under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court, is tasked with fast-tracking approvals for projects and initiations seen as key to aiding Oman’s economic diversification.
In lending its backing for the project, ISFU said it saw the initiative contributing to more than the establishment of a domestic production facility for smart meters. Local manufacturing of such devices, it noted in its recent Annual Report, will also contribute to “localising technical knowledge, building local skills, increasing imports, and contributing to Oman’s GDP”.
To this end, the Unit coordinated the Ministry of Technology and Communications (MTC), Authority for Electricity Regulation (AER) and Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) to “accelerate the issuance” of technical standards for metering systems. At the same time, the National Energy Center signed a consultant for the design of the first stage of the project, construction of which has since commenced.
Shareholders in NEC include the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (Madayn), Shumookh Investment and Services, a number of state pension funds, and an independent investor.