Smart Utilities

Harnessing the power of secure hardware components

The term ‘smart meter’ covers a variety of residential, commercial and industrial solutions monitoring a full range of utilities, including electricity, water and gas. The global expansion of smart meter deployments has been driven in part by governmental regulation, due to a requirement for real-time consumption data to better manage supplies.

According to the GSMA, in the future, smart metering deployment will be a key enabler of smart cities and industry 4.0, delivering the data required to ensure services are efficient and sustainable. Smart metering will also make it possible to harness the huge power of the sharing economy to manage and meet increasing demand for utilities, through the real-time diversion of resources to where they are needed most. 

Smart metering is just one of many use cases within the utilities sector which can benefit from the eSIM. Other examples include demand response, utility data management and distributed utility resource management. 

Those involved in advancing smart meter deployment must consider multiple logistical and security requirements:

Flexible connectivity – cellular and mobile IoT connectivity offer advantages for utility companies, including broad reach across inhabited areas, low infrastructure and installation costs and quick implementation times.

Post-issuance personalisation and remote management – smart meters are widely distributed, often inaccessible in hostile environments and can remain in the field for 10-15-years. The ability to effectively manage functional and security updates and upgrades is key to avoiding costly site visits. 

Theft and tampering – smart meters with inadequate security are vulnerable to tampering and theft, resulting in financial losses for users and utility companies. Services are also impacted, as data is used to manage and regulate supplies. It is critical to ensure the integrity and accuracy of user data that is stored and transmitted.

Privacy –consumption data stored on or transmitted by smart meters could make it possible for unauthorised entities to identify or anticipate the behaviours of individual households or organisations. Protecting the data stored on the device and over the network must be a priority.

Threat to critical infrastructure – disruption of critical infrastructure can have a significant political, economic and social impact. With the increasing connectivity of utility networks presenting an expanded threat-landscape, smart meters are high-value targets for cyber-attackers and must be protected.

Unauthorised network access – poorly protected smart meters could allow attackers to access the wider network. This could cause major disruption to utility supplies and / or the underlying connectivity network.

The eSIM is already widely deployed across various M2M and IoT use cases and its role in enhancing security and reducing complexity is widely recognised. It is based on the proven, established and secure UICC platform, and is certified and specified by the GSMA to deliver secure mobile connectivity.

When combined with the considerable benefits of remote management and a more compact design, the eSIM is well positioned to effectively address the challenges posed by smart metering deployments which require mobile connectivity. 

For device makers and utility companies who do not initially require mobile connectivity, an embedded secure element (eSE) is an alternative option to effectively address key security challenges.    

In summary, eSIM /eSE technology can help by providing:

  • Authenticated and flexible connectivity to mobile networks (eSIM). 
  • Immediately available solutions with an established and security-certifiable supporting infrastructure.
  • Optimisation for low power consumption
  • Ruggedisation / safety in hazardous environments
  • Proven remote profile provisioning and management capabilities.
  • Advanced remote security and cryptographic services to prevent devices and services from attacks and to promote user privacy.
  • Soldered form factor.
  • Miniaturisation.

Why Trusted Connectivity Alliance

The importance of security and simplicity within smart metering deployments, and the increasing reliance of this use case on cellular and mobile IoT technologies, means that the following assets of the SE industry are now more relevant than ever within this ecosystem:

  • An established IT infrastructure capable of remotely managing the lifecycle of global SIM / eSIM deployments;
  • Developed trust relationships with MNOs;
  • An advanced understanding of cellular connectivity / mobile network operator (MNO) requirements;
  • A long established and secure process landscape.

Secure element (SE) vendors have the most extensive and proven experience in providing secure operating systems for UICC / eUICC, secure subscription and data management services, remote provisioning capabilities and a comprehensive understanding of MNO requirements, built over many decades and founded on a trusted relationship.  

These core competencies can be transferred and tailored to various IoT and M2M use cases, such as smart metering, leaving the SE industry best placed to deliver the strongest available device security, and reduced complexity to the utility sector.

Read TCA's latest paper to learn about integrated SIMs, current industry standardisation efforts, use cases and the benefits of integration for device security. Download here.