Italian multi-utility leads innovation in the smart gas sector


The Hera Group, one of the largest multi-utility groups in Italy, has launched the NexMeter, a new gas meter which looks towards the future.

The technology and functions incorporated within the device, which above all are concerned with safety and a focus on being “environment-friendly” cannot be found elsewhere on the international scene.

The Hera Group has already allocated roughly 45 million euro in investments to install the first 300,000 meters over the upcoming three years.

The companies chosen as partners are among the most qualified, nationally and internationally: the Japanese multinational Panasonic, a leader in electronic product and component manufacturing, and Pietro Fiorentini, an Italian enterprise involved in providing products and services for the entire natural gas sector.

Precisely because of its advanced functions and the international team involved in its development, a preview of NexMeter was given today in Paris.

A “mini-computer”, leading the way in innovation and safety

According to the company, the HexMeter is much more than a gas meter: it’s a “mini-computer” with features not seen in other devices on the market.

Provided with advanced technology – contained within the device itself and based on algorithms, sensors and ultrasounds and characteristics giving it an unrivalled precision – it offers advanced safety functions, supporting a fundamental aspect of gas services.

The specific monitoring and warning tools with which it is provided allows it to prevent accidents in a range of situations, offering greater protection to buildings and citizens, along the lines of electric circuit breakers.

For example, the system’s regular functioning is constantly checked by verifying supply and network pressure, immediately reporting any excess or drop. The meter is able to signal any kind of gas leak: not only large, short-term losses due to breakage or voluntary damage, but also the smaller, continuous leaks that customers might not notice right away. It can thus interrupt supply in case of irregularities, making the system safe. Furthermore, it is able to detect tremors caused by earthquakes in real-time and in this case, as well it interrupts gas supply and thus provides better safety.

Real-time communication between meters, control systems and users

In addition to periodically sending ordinary information as to actual consumption, like other smart gas meters, in the case of an emergency NexMeter is activated and contacts the Group’s central remote control facility in Forlì.

The centre is one of Europe’s largest and monitors Hera’s networks and plants across the entire area served in real-time. In turn, the remote control facility, if it a way of contacting the user, attempts to send them a warning signal. In any event, the device’s status can be checked by customers themselves on the meter’s display, thanks to a simple and immediately comprehensible interface. 

NexMeter is environment-friendly 

Not only is NexMeter “smart” and precise, it’s also a green assistant which will help cut spending for consumption. Thanks to its ability to detect even slight gas leaks and signal them to users, NexMeter contributes to reducing the cost of bills.

Furthermore, it benefits the environment by promoting a smart use of energy and favouring a rational use of resources. By eliminating leaks, it also reduces methane emissions.

The entire process of optimising gas network management has a positive effect on the performance and emissions of many devices, first and foremost hot water heaters. NexMeter – in addition to being entirely compatible with all kinds of networks and plants – is already suitable for future “clean gas” systems, such as biomethane.

It is the first meter built out of materials that contain recycled plastic, reflecting Hera’s long-standing attention towards the environment and a circular economy. Moving in this same direction, Hera was the first company in Italy to introduce recycled plastic materials into the tubes of its own networks.

An opportunity for local areas: the first installations and the next steps 

Following up on the opportunities offered by the large-scale gas meter substitution foreseen by Italian regulations, Hera’s new meter meets possible developments in legislation in advance, introducing features that go beyond current requirements and putting innovative technology at the service of the needs shared by household and non-household users. 

Within the next few months, installation of the device will be started in some areas served by Hera Group distribution companies. Overall, over the next three years, 300,000 devices will be installed mainly in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Emilia-Romagna, in the provinces of Modena and Ferrara, areas classified as being at risk of earthquakes or in which similar events have recently occurred.

A valuable project

“With NexMeter”, states Stefano Venier, CEO of the Hera Group, “we are bringing a new wave of innovation into a business, gas distribution, that is still quite traditional. To develop it in the best way possible, we have brought together our considerable experience in the gas distribution sector together with the skills of the most qualified national and international partners. In a broader sense, innovation is one of our strategic priorities, sustained by significant economic investment, coming to over 380 million euro in the five years covered by our latest Business plan. It is with initiatives such as this, indeed, that the Hera Group carries out its own mission, already today, with technology coming from the future, meeting the needs of the citizens who live in the areas we serve. All of this is accompanied by constant attention towards the environment: our meter, in fact, promotes smart use of energy and efficient use of resources, which are two of the drivers according to which the Hera Group has established its commitment towards sustainability”.

“This project could not be accomplished without Gruppo Hera’s solid desire and intention to develop and deploy new gas smart meter which equipped with safety functions. It is honourable for Panasonic to contribute as a key devices supplier of which technology had been proven more than 35 years with 120 million sets delivered in Japan and will enormously enhance the safety level in the gas distribution network in Italy” said Anton Terasaki, Managing Director of Smart Energy System Business Division Appliances Company, Panasonic Corporation.

“We are very enthusiastic about our work on this innovative project for smart meters with advanced features in safety and reliability. It will provide Hera’s customers and the entire supply chain with a significant amount of data, fundamental for a safe, efficient and enlightened use of gas”, states Cristiano Nardi, Executive Chairman of the Pietro Fiorentini Group. “Our collaboration with Panasonic fully respects our policy of open innovation that leads us to collaborate with many international partners, universities and research centres.”