DCC national control centre opens with 2,400 smart meters test spaces


The Smart Data Communications Company (DCC), the organisation leading the nationwide smart meter roll-out, has opened a state-of-the-art facility in Greater Manchester.

It will bring 250 jobs to the city region – many specialising in technology that will help save energy – playing a key role in the country’s drive to net-zero carbon emissions.

The new facility, at Brabazon House beside Manchester Airport, was formally opened by Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, with the DCC’s chairman, Richard McCarthy CBE.

Smart DCC built and operates the secure national data network that supports the rollout and operation of 53 million energy smart meters in homes and small businesses across Great Britain. 

Angus Flett, CEO of Smart DCC, told attendees that the “purpose-built centre provides us with an unprecedented, real-time view of the nationwide smart meter rollout in incredible detail. It will enable the DCC to deliver its purpose, of making Britain more connected so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”

As the smart meter rollout is a national infrastructure project of the highest priority, the facility reflects this with its design. Its technical operational areas are protected by tri-factor biometric authentication, including fingerprint and iris scans. Additional features include tools to visualise and analyse national smart meter data at a level and complexity never seen before and is equipped to detect and manage issues as they arise, including cyber activity.

The site has been fully operational since June and includes extensive smart meter and communication hub testing facilities to help smooth the installation process for millions of homes and small businesses across the country.

Key aspects of the facility include:

  • Smart meters at scale – 19 modular test labs hold 2,400 smart meter testing spaces that can be configured to meet customers’ bespoke requirements. The facility houses one of the largest radio frequency test facility in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.
  • Big data visualised – with over 70 million messages transmitted every month and growing streaming across the network, the Technical Operations Centre (TOC) uses video walls to visualise the rollout like never before. This big data view will help smooth individual installations and pinpoint the source of any issues immediately if they emerge.
  • Industry-leading security – all visitors are required to give biometric information to enter the facility. There are multiple security zones which increase their requirements to enter, starting with 2-factor fingerprint and badge authentication, to triple-factor authentication requiring an iris scan.
  • Flexible, modular design – the facility can grow or shrink to accommodate the space needed. For instance, with the task of migrating the millions of first-generation meters to the DCC network, DCC will need to test hundreds of technology combinations next year, but this will scale down once the migrations are successful.
  • Innovation spaces – from innovating on smart meters to finding new ways for customers to re-use the secure network, DCC have designed the facility to accommodate future technologies, such as 4G, electric vehicles, machine learning, home automation, and even irrigation. Experimentation and testing will be done within a safe and secure “sandboxed” environment.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “To achieve Manchester’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2038, we need an industry that supports our vision.

“The DCC’s work here at Brabazon House will help people and businesses in Greater Manchester save energy, and lead the nation’s drive to towards renewables.

“Manchester has already proven it’s a national leader in the digital sector, advanced manufacturing, and in innovation. This facility brings 250 jobs to our city, which continues to lead the nation in the green economy.”

Richard McCarthy CBE, chairman of the Data Communications Company, shared that the new facility will improve “the way the DCC works in many ways, accelerating the programme to digitise Britain’s analogue energy industry.

“This facility will bring improved support for customers via our technical operation centre and expansive test labs. It will be a hotbed of innovation, allowing the DCC to work with its customers in new ways, shaping the future of this important national infrastructure project.”