Building on its synergy with Schneider Electric, prepaid electricity meter manufacturer Conlog is focusing on aggressive growth in the African market. “We understand the African context and our products are well matched to the needs of the continent,” says marketing manager, Viven Perumal. Founded in 1965, Conlog has been part of the Schneider family since 2000, and now has a dynamic new management team headed by general manager, Dudley Miller.
A world leader in prepaid meter technology, the company has a global footprint amongst utility companies and municipalities. With more than 100 utilities worldwide using Conlog solutions, it has the world’s largest installed base, an impressive 8 million prepaid meters. Conlog is especially strong in Africa and is also dominant in the local market, with 50% of its business being local and 50% international. The high-tech factory based in Overport, Durban, has a capacity of 100 000 units a month. It has a staff of 285, with 170 being in manufacturing, backed up by highly skilled engineers, services and R&D teams.
Far more than a meter manufacturer
The concept of prepayment is well-entrenched in South Africa but Conlog is far more than just a meter manufacturer. “We offer a basket of holistic solutions for data management,” continues Perumal. “These include project management, infrastructure design and business intelligence. Often, customers only want to work with one company and we are very strong in execution services and project management,” he adds. HR manager, Ahmed Ashruf explains how Conlog has matched its product offering with the evolving market demand for smart metering. “We are now looking at the entire supply chain of the utility, including asset management, workflow management and software applications,” he says.
The result is three offerings: the Platform, the Enabled and the Premium. The Platform offer is a standard offer, with traditional metering set up on a site. The Enabled offer is a wireless solution which enables smart metering functionality through standard prepaid meters. This allows Conlog to facilitate a solution quickly in any market and it is starting to take off strongly in Africa. The Premium offer makes smart city software solutions available through a collaboration with Schneider Spain. Conlog envisions this leading to a wealth of opportunities in cloud-based energy management solutions in home area networks (HANs).
A range of meters
The robust meters, which can withstand temperatures up to 70°C, come in single and three-phase versions. The Combo range has keypad and display integrated in the same enclosure. The Split Meter range is designed to counteract tampering, with the meter and display being separated. The new wireless range includes a model which can handle up to 250 A instead of the usual 100 A. Auxiliary products include a data concentrator unit (DCU), which collects data from the wireless meters and can be reconfigured if the utility needs any changes, and a wireless range extender.
Into the cloud
Conlog’s core business is switching, token generation and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), together with backup services, and the company can react very quickly to customer needs. “Our strategy is to build on base prepaid systems and enable them to go smart to fit the needs of the customer,” says application engineering manager, Warren Dixon. Smart systems are developed entirely in-house and involve partnering with strategic third party providers and retail networks for the purchase of electricity, provision of hardware and infrastructure, development of the facilitating software and support. Traditionally this was all done at the customer site but the entire system has been moved into the cloud and sites can be rolled out without ever leaving the office.
Mass customisation is the business
“Mass customisation is our business,” says Miller. He adds that synergy with Schneider Electric’s technology is a key focus for Conlog and the company aims to use Schneider’s commercial presence to develop new markets, especially in East Africa. “A tsunami of data and intelligence is on the way and we need to be ready. We are on the brink of something massive and the next revolution will be handling the data,” he concludes.
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