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What is an open access heat network?

Posted by Ian Allan

What is an open access heat network?

Posted by Ian Allan

Open or closed protocol systems for heat networks, what is the difference and what's best for you and your residents?


If you have been or are involved in procuring a PAYG or smart metering system of a heat network you will have no doubt come across the terms “open protocol” and “open access” but what do they mean?


Set up costs

The first thing to say is that this is all about the ability to separate the capital cost of the metering equipment with the ongoing operational cost and the choice of billing and customer services provider.

To explain this clearly it is probably a good idea to start with identifying the individual pieces of the chain involved:


  1. Heat meter
  2. Display/PAYG/Smart device
  3. Data communication
  4. Data centre
  5. Billing and CRM

The first two being capital items and the last three being OPEX.


For many years if you purchased a PAYG system then you only had one choice, the hardware vendor would do everything for the life of the metering system.  

However as the industry grows things are changing and you may want to mix and match your hardware with your billing and CRM provider. This is where open access comes in.

Open access means the delivery of chain one to five being split between chain four, the data centre and chain five, the Billing and CRM. The Data Centre provides an open access that allows more the one billing and CRM system to be used.

open API graphic

 

But, there’s more to it

The metering company will still need to be paid to provide the communications (chain three) and the Data Centre (chain four) but there will be a choice of provider for billing and CRM. Indeed some clients with larger portfolios may wish to take this in house.

So what is open protocol then? Well this would put a breakpoint between chain two and three. This however would require a high degree of technical and operational expertise and is not something the a billing or CRM provider would normally take on.


Key takeaways

  • Open access allows the ability for heat networks to change billing provider
  • Open access for heat networks means splitting the original billing supply chain method

  Vocabulary for open access heat networks

  What is open access?

  Open access noun

  ‘Availability to all’

  AKA, open sesame! 

     

via GIPHY

  What is open protocol?

  Open protocol allows suppliers’ equipment to operate without the need for a proprietary interface or gateway. Generally 
  speaking, it is similar to open access, and is freely available.


  What is closed protocol?

  On heat networks refers to the installation of equipment that can be operated by different suppliers. This may be through a
  shared system, or a custom built system.


  What are the benefits of open access?

  • Ability to change supplier easier
  • Without the need to replace equipment
  • Hold more responsibility on your supplier to deliver against KPIs
  • Provide a better service to residents

  What should I be asking my providers when installing PAYG or smart metering equipment to a heat
  network?


  1. Can I change billing providers with the equipment once installed?
  2. What the process to do this?

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Ian Allan

Head of R&D at Switch2

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