Flexible Energy Charging

A Key Building Block for Your Smart Metering Architecture

Money and long-term customer relationships do not come out of thin air – when talking about unprecedented tariffing and charging capabilities, we have to look at a powerful online charging system and at its embedding.

The Flexible Energy Charging component incorporates the experience of decades of work in billing and charging, serving several hundred million end customers with a strong base product and provider specific solutions. The component comes with recommendations for a Payment Acquisition (Vending) infrastructure and off the shelf components for messaging and customer information. Both subsystems are described below and optionally can be replaced with customer specific components. Custom integration with utility IT systems such as Customer Relationship Management, the legacy Billing system (performing monthly postpaid billing tasks including bill presentation) and ERP will be provided.

The Flexible Energy Charging component can operate in different system environments depending on the customer’s infrastructure.

In the first variant, the component retrieves meter readings directly from a headend system. The headend is expected to hide the physical communication infrastructure from the Charging component. By default, the Flexible Energy Charging component performs simple data checking and interpolation functions which are sufficient for residential metering. In the second variant, the Flexible Energy Charging component is embedded into a MDM system and performs rating and charging after the MDM system’s data retrieval, check and substitution functions. Rated readings will be applied to customer accounts and will be written back into MDM for further processing and reporting functions.

Features

  • versatile rating rule engine capable of satisfy some of the most complex tariffing and regulatory requirements by combining custom designed ‘time of use’, ‘consumption based’ and ‘time independent’ components
  • multi-account tariff sequence rules supporting among the other, loyalty, couponing, regulatory and topup bonuses
  • tariff scheduling and versioning
  • prepayment, postpayment and hybrid forms
  • data preprocessing for legacy postpaid billing and bill presentation systems
  • prepaid-postpaid conversion
  • accounts serving multiple meters and multiple utilities (optional)
  • rule-based decisions for interactions with the customer (notifications, customer decisions) and with the metering and service delivery infrastructure
  • event preprocessing for integration into Operations Support Systems

Interfaces

Flexible Energy Charging provides a set of Web Service interfaces. Additional customized Web Services or legacy interfaces are deployed on custom installations. All transactions affecting accounts create ticket files in ASN.1 or XML formats which can be used for import into backend and reporting systems.

Payment Acquisition Infrastructure

A key reason for deploying a dedicated charging component is to have a clean partitioning between charging and the payment acquisition or vending infrastructure. At a single point in the environment the customer can add new sales channels and evolve its system from physical points of sale for tokens or vouchers to a multichannel, multi-tenant and multi-provider payment acquisition infrastructure supporting physical sales points, online and mobile payments and account transfers. Postpaid and prepaid payment acquisition and hybrid forms can use the same interfaces and building blocks.

Customer Interaction Subsystem

Careful planning and capabilities for customer information are key to the success of advanced Smart Metering use cases. To support customer information and interaction, FEC offers a messaging component for multichannel customer information – e.g. via In Home Display, SMS or Web push. To provide detailed information about tariffs and applied charges, an itemized billing component is offered that can be integrated into customer care agent workplaces as well as end customer self-service portals. In addition, FEC offers export of itemized billing information to existing data warehouses.

Hosting

The Flexible Energy Charging component and customer information subsystem components support:

  • deployment in highly secured environments
  • clustered and cloud deployments
  • high availability and disaster proof configurations