Kenyan operator Safaricom has invited bids for firms to install anti-theft systems and smart electricity meters for Kenya Power consumers, in a deal aimed at curbing power theft and leakages and fixing weaknesses on the utility firm’s transmission network, according to a news report. This is part of a KES 31 billion (US $273 million) intelligent system that will connect 330,300 electricity meters to a central location and track electricity use, power outages and load on transformers, as well as reading meters remotely.
Safaricom seeks to identify reputable and qualified vendors who will provide a transformer vandalism monitoring system. Vandalism of electricity distribution equipment is a leading cause of power cuts in the country. The Safaricom-backed system is expected to help Kenya Power bring down the share of electricity bought from generators that does not reach homes and businesses—technically known as system losses—from 23.93 percent to 8 percent, which would earn Kenya Power additional revenues of KES 71 billion (US $626 million) in eight years.
Safaricom said the high-tech system will be able to give the location of a transformer on demand and send alerts if it is being moved from its current location. The systems will be equipped with CCTV cameras with infrared capabilities to help in theft and vandalism prevention.
Under the deal, Safaricom is set to earn 75 percent of the additional sales or KES 53 billion (US $467 million), with Kenya Power taking the remaining KES 17.9 billion (US $158 million).
This is an innovative and potentially very valuable deployment of the IoT to accomplish several goals at once—to safeguard a critically important public utility, to demonstrate the capabilities of IoT systems and to drive significant revenue to Safaricom.
Remote monitoring and control are hallmarks of IoT and have been widely used in industrial applications in large enterprises as well as SMEs. In this case, rather than monitoring, say, corporate inventory and movement of delivery vehicles, it is intended by Safaricom to be used to detect and disrupt vandalism of power infrastructure, theft of electricity and leakages of electricity (although it will also have the more conventional application of remote meter reading and load monitoring). The technology is not currently in place; the Kenya-based operator is only at the stage of requesting specialized firms to make bids to create and install the technology. However, it is a bold plan, and Safaricom has the financial means to make it happen.
If it does come to fruition, the operator stands to benefit greatly, as the deal is being structured in a way very much to Safaricom’s advantage—it will take 75 percent of the money saved, compared with Kenya Power’s 25 percent.