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4 MIN READ | Service Assurance

Automated Assurance: behind Italgas IoT smart meters’ success


In the bustling landscape of IoT, where smart meters and connected devices weave the fabric of our connected future, one story stands out—the digital transformative tale of Italgas. As the leading Italian distributor of gas and water, Italgas faced the challenge of managing over 8 million connected smart meters across the country. The solution to what could have turned into an intricate network puzzle came in the form of a unique automated assurance approach.

Italgas and Ativa™: a symbiotic success

The deployment of Ativa is for sure a milestone in Italgas' digital transformation journey. This next-gen automated assurance solution played a multifaceted role, providing real-time visibility and control over the expansion of the IoT network

Italgas is now about to achieve more than 90% operational costs reduction through efficiencies, such as minimizing field visits, improving visibility of network quality delivered by Communication Service Providers (CSPs), and ensuring adherence to contracted regulatory Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

The ability to quickly identify and resolve the root-cause of a problem is critical to both the customer experience we deliver and the SLAs to which we are accountable.

Diego Vola, Telecommunications Project Manager at Italgas 

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Automated Assurance: the power behind Italgas' IoT smart metering success

At the heart of Italgas' success story is Infovista's Ativa, a comprehensive service assurance solution adapted for the unique challenges of IoT networks. Ativa employs a sophisticated approach to IoT monitoring, offering real-time insights through:

  1. Traffic capture and analysis: leveraging Ativa Virtual Agents, the solution captures and analyzes all Italgas traffic in real-time.
  2. IPDR records for analytics: Ativa generates IPDR (Internet Protocol Detail Record) records, providing a granular view of each meter. These records are seamlessly integrated into Business Intelligence solutions like Tableau for enhanced data visualization and analytics.

Leveraging this approach, Italgas reaps a plethora of benefits from Ativa, showcasing the instrumental role of automated assurance in navigating the complexities of IoT networks:

  • Swift issue identification and resolution: Ativa detects connectivity issues related to CSPs promptly, for a first level of triage, preventing unnecessary onsite interventions.
  • Analytics for continuous improvement: real-time analytics offer a deeper understanding of problems, their periodicity, and root causes. This knowledge empowers Italgas to prevent outages and ensure uninterrupted service.
  • SLA monitoring for contractual compliance: Ativa facilitates real-time identification of underperforming CSPs, enabling Italgas to take immediate measures, including penalty enforcement, to uphold contracted SLAs. In parallel, Ativa enables Italgas to adhere to contracted SLAs with the Italian Regulatory Authority for Energy, Networks, and Environment (ARERA).  
  • Enrichment for comprehensive fault analysis: additional enrichments, such as IP address to PDR mapping and lists of active devices per subnet, provides a holistic view for fault analysis.

As the Itlagas story illustrates it, IoT smart meters alone pose a unique challenge: with hundreds of thousands of them per square kilometer, ensuring reachability, managing simultaneous wake-ups, and maintaining flawless operation for accurate billing and minimized operational costs are critical. Monitoring smart meters beyond wireless connectivity is paramount for success.

The broader landscape: IoT's unstoppable rise… and network challenges

Beyond Italgas' success, the broader landscape of IoT is marked by transformative growth. According to Transforma, cellular connected IoT devices are projected to reach around 5 billion by 2030. The total IoT connections, spanning consumer devices to vertical market applications, are set to surge to 29.9 billion in 2030.  

The total IoT connections are set to surge to 29.9 billion in 2030

According to Gartner*, this growth of IoT connections translates in market growth for IoT communications services that are due to reach a 62$ billion market value by 2025. The expansion of 5G services will be one of the core drivers of revenue growth for CSPs, as operators begin capitalizing on advanced use cases in industrial IoT. Apart from vertical (use cases, CSPs can capture additional revenue streams on IoT from high-growth segments like software platforms (real-time analytics and IoT platforms) as well as security and IT services reaching a total market of $115 billion in 2025.**

Seizing the IoT opportunity with Automated Assurance: an imperative for CSPs

This staggering growth underscores the need for robust automated assurance solutions to navigate the complexities of an evolving IoT ecosystem, especially for CSPs as it is for them an opportunity to seize.

The multiplication of IoT devices creates an unprecedented pressure when it comes to collecting, storing, and analyzing massive influx of data. Identifying patterns and anomalies in this deluge of information becomes increasingly challenging, impacting the ability to maintain operational continuity.

The complexity and scale of IoT networks complicate root cause identification, especially in incidents involving multiple devices or networks. Incomplete or noisy data exacerbates the challenge of pattern recognition and anomaly detection.

A 360° visibility into the connectivity and communication between IoT devices and infrastructures is crucial to IoT success.  Service Providers bear the responsibility of providing the connections between cars, homes, cities, manufacturing, etc. While the opportunities and benefits are limitless, the task of maintaining operational continuity demands the correlation of real-time data for actionable IoT insights and strict adherence to SLAs. 

The latter play a key role in the deployment of services, where their specification and management have become increasingly complex at the level of IoT applications. A granular SLA specification is essential to explicitly describe a prescribed service between a CSP and a customer in terms of required QoS, quantified and measurable expectations, consumer priorities, etc.  

In this context, Infovista’s Automated Assurance solutions are designed to support IoT network and service operations with predictive, real-time and automated customer experience assurance across all network domains. This unified visibility and automation enables customer experience driven IoT service operations. This leads to the monetization of differentiated Quality of Experience (QoE) and new IoT services business based on advanced connectivity, backed by SLA guarantees at scale.  

Conclusion: Navigating tomorrow's IoT challenges today

Italgas' journey with Ativa illuminates the path forward for IoT automated assurance. As the IoT landscape evolves, the demand for real-time monitoring, analytics, and proactive issue resolution becomes paramount. Automated assurance solutions like Ativa emerge not just as technological tools but as strategic allies, ensuring businesses stay ahead in the dynamic world of IoT - where CSPs can act as enablers for Enterprises transformation and IoT adoption success, and in parallel grow their B2B revenue stream.

The success of Italgas and the broader projections for IoT connections reinforce the importance of embracing innovative solutions to master the challenges and opportunities presented by the unstoppable rise of IoT.

* Gartner, Forecast: IoT Market Opportunity by Technology Segment, 2020- 2025, April 2022 
** Accenture analysis based on TBR 

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