Open protocol cloud metering for heat networks

A project to develop novel flexible metering and billing systems for heat network operators, based on open protocol approaches and interconnected devices.

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Summary: impacts and findings

Through this project, Sycous developed a cloud-based ‘pay as you go’ (PAYG) system for heat networks that works entirely with open-protocol hardware and ‘internet of things’ (IOT) solutions. The system, called Orbit, enables heat network operators to roll out PAYG for customers whilst maintaining full flexibility for future operation of installed hardware with no vendor lock-in or lifetime fees.

Project aims and approach

The idea for this project came from discussions with operators of heat networks. Their dilemma was that they knew the benefits that open-protocol systems gave them in the long run, but worried about the ongoing manufacturer lifetime costs and vendor lock-in for the PAYG systems they needed to reduce their large risks around revenue collection.

Through the project, Sycous aimed to develop open-protocol systems for billing and metering technology which would future-proof heat networks and provide new flexibility. This approach means that suppliers’ equipment can operate without the need for a proprietary interface or gateway. Enabled by greater data transparency, customers can avoid being locked into a single service provider for operation, support and maintenance.

The system used IoT devices and infrastructure, together with blockchain technology, to produce a cloud-based logic model allowing customers to use heat on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. This can work in conjunction with entirely open-protocol metering equipment.

The system uses encrypted and secure two-way communication with devices across an entire energy network, and can collect data from a wide range of compatible devices, opening up new opportunities beyond the world of conventional metering and billing.

In developing the Orbit system, the team engaged with end users/consumers to ensure that the final product incorporated a focus on customer service and ease of use.




May 2020 to January 2022 

Achievements and barriers

The project succeeded in developing an open-protocol cloud-based system for heat networks that enables ‘pay as you go’ billing.

As well as providing heat network operators with the means to improve customer service and develop their operations while maintaining revenues, the system brings significant environmental and cost benefits, as it removes the need to install hardware hubs which PAYG systems normally require.

By the end of the project the system was rolled out to its first test site, with L&Q Energy.


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