Internet of Things is a driver optimizing huge manufacturing processes,” Alexander Fedienko, a Chairman at the Ukrainian Internet Association, believes. In a special interview with AI Conference Kyiv, the expert talks about the prospects of IoT integration in Ukraine and remote reading modems, as well as explains why he does not believe in LoRaWAN national networks.
Alexander Fedienko worked as an engineer at a state enterprise Global Ukraine and the Head of Global Ukraine Radio. He took part in the project aimed at the establishment of a single information network of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.
In 2005, the expert took over a position of the Head of IMC, a leader in the sphere of implementation of cutting-edge wireless technologies in Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast. Currently, he is a Chairman at the Ukrainian Internet Association.
Interviewer: AI Conference (AC)
Speaker: Alexander Fedienko (AF)
AC: In your opinion, what changes should occur in the regulatory environment so that the market of LoRaWAN solutions starts operating efficiently in Ukraine?
AF: Initially, one should monitor legislatively that all consumer service meters are equipped with remote reading modems. Now, to digitalize data from common meters, you should take readings manually. Thus, elderly women and men go door to door, look at this information, write it down, and transfer it somewhere… In general, it’s a long process. I have even heard that inspectors bring binoculars (as they have no right to enter a stranger’s territory), look through them at a gas meter, and note reading on paper. It is indeed nonsense.
In accordance with the law, Ukrainian energy, water, and gas companies, as well as consumers, are not obliged to deal with these issues. If all resource recording meters are equipped with remote reading devices, companies will manage to read meters quite rapidly. Consequently, obtained information will be processed faster, without extra labor and financial expenses.
It is possible to implement this idea in Ukraine, but it requires two components. The first one is a driver devoting time to this issue, and the second one is the will of our Parliament members who will put this technology through the law amendment system.
This aspect is still unessential for commercial and distributing metering units, but one should work on it in the future. For example, if one of these units is mounted, they should be included in the recording system and equipped with remote information metering devices.
Exploring experience of my Kazakh colleagues, who have been already following such an approach to public service accounting for more than a year and a half, I would like to mention that housing and public utilities have supported them. Remote reading modems make payment for services transparent and clear to all participants. By the way, it is almost impossible to steal in this system.
AC: How much time do you think will be required to integrate technologies into public utility operations if one adopts amendments to the law?
AF: After adopting amendments to the law, one should introduce the so-called final provisions. It is a legislative procedure, whereby a certain period is given to elaborate the law. Within this period, one should develop the whole government program including local self-administration budgets and energy company budgets. This stuff should not be passed on to final consumers.
In fact, it is energy companies that have to replace electric meters at their own expense, according to the law. However, our consumers pay for both meters and their replacement. I have recently passed this procedure and paid to Kyivenergo (Kyiv heat and energy company). When I said by phone that they had to do this for free, they answered that their representatives would not come to me and got off the phone. Therefore, the absence of strict regulatory mechanism forms a gap in the system where consumers suffer.
If we integrate regulatory principles applied in Kazakhstan, users will be able to pay for their services in just a few minutes. In this system, reading goes to electric meters automatically, while the program puts it into the report that can be found in users’ online accounts connected to the banking system.
When all the information is loaded and processed, users have to perform a single task: to press button “Pay”. In this case, people won’t have to leave their home, fill out receipts, go to subscriber service centers of energy companies, and stand in queues there.
AC: How will the integration of the Internet of Things change public utility operations?
AF: The Internet of Things is a driver optimizing huge manufacturing processes. It should lead to increase of decision speed, economy growth, and reduction of human errors, etc. I think that the integration of the Internet of Things will improve public utility operations.
First off, IoT will result in transparency. If one builds a resource accounting system on blockchain, energy companies, housing and public utilities, as well as consumers will be within the single information and financial space. Thus, consumers will see that their money is transferred to housing and public utilities, and the energy company will see that consumers pay for provided services.
The second advantage of IoT application is transaction speed and decrease of expenditures on these operations. Besides, blockchain will allow to eliminate human faults.
AC: What are the barriers of IoT integration in Ukraine?
AF: There are no barriers. IoT can be integrated in Ukraine. It is the demand that matters. But we don’t have it yet. It is highly likely that neither our businesses nor enterprises are ready for this step. They know that such a phenomenon exists and that it is interesting, but they fail to realize how to apply it and what growth and economic effect this technology will bring.
Sometimes serious oil companies address us. A sum required to integrate the Internet of Things is not substantial for them. Nevertheless, they think a lot and sail along. And the reason is pretty obvious. When IoT is integrated into company operations, they will have to reduce the large staff, and people are not ready for this.
Not only do we face such a problem. The Internet of Things is a new trend in general for both Ukraine and the majority of the world.
AC: Can the LoRaWAN protocol be considered a competitor for mobile operators?
AF: It cannot be treated as a competitor. I know some case studies, for instance, Orange (a French telecommunication company, one of the world’s leading telecommunication operators — Ed.): they apply so-called NB-IoT technology and LoRaWAN at the same time. The key difference between them is that LoRaWAN can be used without a radio-frequency spectrum license, which significantly simplifies an access to the market.
This technology definitely has its disadvantages, as well as NB-IoT does. Therefore, a lot of operators use both technologies. The NB-IoT mobile app is applied when one requires more or less guaranteed services, while LoRaWAN is used when a lowest cost solution is needed.
AC: How can you assess Ukraine’s IoT market in general? What industries are already applying technology? How has IoT managed to change their operations?
AF: From the theoretical perspective, the market exists, but it is still in its infancy. For some reason, all case studies that I know are implemented secretly. Previous year, Odesagas Energy Company installed several thousands of reading modems on gas meters in detached houses. Can it be described as the development of Ukraine’s IoT market? Surely. But this case is not revealed; nobody knows about it. I have heard this piece of news accidentally from my colleagues.
I don’t believe in LoRaWAN national networks. We have somebody to build them, but I am not certain about the success of this concept. I think that LoRaWAN is a solution that will be in-demand at local enterprises, in the manufacturing industry, and in towns.
However, that’s just my opinion. Some countries (South Korea and Holland — Ed.) are already applying this solution at the national level. I know one Ukrainian company able to build the LoRaWAN national network. I have no idea when it will happen.
AC: What will your presentation at AI Conference Kyiv be dedicated to?
AF: My presentation is dedicated to the Internet of Things: technologies it is based on, how Ukraine will benefit from these technologies, and where it can be efficiently applied.
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