Second to none in prepaid solutions
Second to none in prepaid solutions Editorial: Tim Hands Production: Chris Bolderstone With its extensive range of services enabling consumers to pay for their electricity service in advance of consumption, Conlog has, for more than 20 years, been leading the prepayment industry, working to ensure that energy consumption remains expertly measured and regulated. Through its three core aspects of revenue management, metering, and the associated support services, Conlog now looks to continue its heritage of innovation by working within the everevolving ‘Smart’ technology industry, and offering services which cater to those with this technology at their fingertips.
A world leader in the electrical prepayment industry, Conlog’s services are today sold worldwide, throughout Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe, with its revenue management systems implemented within over 70 utilities. The company boasts the world’s largest product range, offering everything from meters and vending through to training and support. Now employing some 300 personnel from its headquarters on the South African east coast, it is able to operate 24 hours each day, seven days per week, in order to continuously enable payment for electricity supply, one of the most significant challenges faced by the majority of utilities around the world. Conlog was founded in 1965 as an electronics design company, with a history of continuously providing innovative solutions to challenges
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experienced by millions each day. With its beginnings predominantly in the industrial sector, the 1980s saw Conlog’s move into the field of electrical prepayment, which is where it places its principal focus today. The shareholding structure now comprises 40% ownership by Parmtro Investments, and 60% by the global Schneider Electric group, which maintains the day-to-day management of the company. Through this shareholding Conlog is able to access a network of offices in over 100 countries, as well as reap all the benefits of a global conglomerate. General Manager, Dudley Miller explains the company’s involvement with Conlog; “This company was acquired by Schneider Electric in 2000, and prior to 2000 it was a very diverse company, offering services from industrial process control through to water and electricity metering. “In July of 2000, we took ownership of the
electrical metering side of the business, and since then we’ve been mainly issuing the prepaid metering – that has the most synergy with Schneider Electric, a major player in the energy management field globally.” The holistic service provided by Conlog addresses a fundamental sustainability issue faced by many utilities. Clearly, if consumers do not pay for their electricity, the utility is financially crippled and unable either to maintain the existing infrastructure, or perhaps more critically, to expand the network. As a consequence, these devices have come a long way from the very basic forms seen at their initial launch in the late 1980s, states Miller: “These meters just continue to become smarter and smarter as they evolve. They are becoming more than a prepayment method: it’s now possible to produce data both ways – from the consumer to the utility and also vice-versa.
This is obviously where we find the strongest link with Schneider in terms of energy management, and thus why we can look to develop these yet further in conjunction. Conlog has a lot of potential to exploit further synergies with Schneider, particularly as cities get smarter and homes become more and more well connected. Our meter can become part of that infrastructure of connectivity, with much more rapid evolution to come to build on that of the past 14 years.” The “rapid evolution” of which Miller speaks could just as easily be applied to that of the smart technology within today’s society, with these devices growing both more prominent and complex seemingly every day. “What we are going to try and do is stay in step with the evolution of these so-called ‘smart cities’, as well as the smart devices used within the smart homes of the near future, and therefore
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company profile look to integrate with all the connectivity between these various devices. Even Google is showing huge interest in this concept of the smart home, given its recent and well-publicised acquisition of Nest. It has been an express trip to get us to where we are today
“Our evolution will definitely be towards smartness” from our humble beginnings, and it’s certainly going to continue to be.”
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Testament to the rapidity with which Conlog continues to grow is the statistic showing that, each day; almost 3000 households have a Conlog prepaid electricity meter installed in their home. This gives the company the world’s largest installed base of over eight million prepaid meters, and is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, as Miller describes the potential still to be tapped within South Africa. “Particularly in places the size of Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Pretoria, for example, clearly these are cities which are becoming more and more well-connected – everyone is walking around with a smart-phone and people are getting used to having the web at their fingertips,” he says. “This, clearly, is helping to see a rise in the use of easy pay facilities – nobody goes to a bank any more – and so this large scale development is giving citizens the devices that will facilitate the usage of
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services like ours. We’ve seen a very definite move by the bigger and more advanced utilities towards smarter devices within the home, to allow these citizens to pay online, to have information available, and to be able to manage their usage and energy consumption a lot more effectively.” This embracing of new technologies, and exploiting the possibilities this presents, forms the basis of Conlog’s future development plans. “Our evolution will definitely be towards smartness,” states Miller, “and within the next two or three years I feel that we need to be able to offer an attractive solution, which fits in with the group’s strategy, which is focussed on the smart home idea. There will be many needs which arise from this concept, and we can certainly profit with a huge expertise in measurement, and a long history within the industry.” With more and more of these devices now becoming wireless, Conlog is perfectly placed to capitalise on the evolution of this technology and assure its places as world leader in the field for the foreseeable future, as Miller explains. “In previous years, you would fit everything associated
Conlog’s BEC22 single phase prepayment meter © Conlog
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company profile with a smart home system via hard-wiring. It is unimaginable today to destroy a whole infrastructure when this can all be done wirelessly. “Once again, here we can use our deep competency in order to become a major player in supplying the components which will run these homes of the future, particularly in terms of measurement and everything related to energy consumption and management. “We picture ourselves supplying the hardware and all those associated devices necessary for controlling the energy in this wireless fashion.” The possibility of this is very much in existence - much more than a mere idealistic vision. “We see ourselves, one day soon, offering the market a comprehensive wireless smart system. We will work in collaboration with other experts in those areas where even more expertise is required than just our own, and develop the solutions this new technology requires.”
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“…here we can use our deep competency in order to become a major player in supplying the components which will run these homes of the future”
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