STAR AFRIQUE METERS has been involved in electricity metering for almost 20 years. Our factory, based in Morocco, manufactures a complete range of Watt-hour meters, from mechanical to fully electronic prepaid meters, including electronic multi-rate and MV meters.
Why prepayment? It’s a new way of using electricity. Various systems have been developed worldwide, and STAR wanted to set itself apart by developing a bi-directional prepayment watt-hour meter. This allows distributors to use the customer’s smart card to recover the meter’s data, leading to better management control.
What are the features of THE STAR System?
STAR developed the ‘SUN’ bi-directional prepayment line – A Class 1 meters, conforming to IEC61036-2000 and IEC687-92, in single-phase and three-phase (direct and CT input, in single and multi rate). Some of the important features are:
- Credit management
- Power cut
- Return of information
- Anti-tamper (display and card sign)
- Overload detection
- Warnings (two warning levels)
WHY A BI-DIRECTIONAL SYSTEM?
When we opted for the bi-directional system it seemed a futuristic decision, but time has proved us right and new developments in this field are now on their way. We developed this system for three main reasons.
- The ‘SUN’ bi-directional system is the best ‘bridge’ between a conventional and a prepayment system.
- Receiving the information from the customer’s meter allows the utility to maintain control and enjoy better feedback on its distribution and supply.
- Safety is one of the attractive points of the bi-directional system, which allows the utility to monitor its sales and its customers’ behaviour. The ‘one meter/one card’ system helps to minimise fraud.
WHY A SMART CARD?
A smart card is so simple to use – it is adopted quickly, even in countries where the illiteracy rate is high. The cards all feature an arrow, which shows how they should be inserted into the meter. A one-second operation captures the amount of kWh bought, and at the same time the meter’s data is transmitted to the card.
A smart card has several advantages:
- One card for one meter.
- The card has a reliable chip with a high level of safety.
- Information transportation (the system needs reliable support to carry the information sent in two directions).
- It is rechargeable. The card must be reliable to be re-used several times.
WHAT ABOUT SOFTWARE?
Star 9000 is a management software system selling electricity, using a basic architecture of data in order to manage the prepayment meters using smart cards, multi-rate meters and MV meters. Star 9000 is designed for ease of use on a convivial platform with simple menus. It’s a friendly and powerful system, offering several features:
- Registration, sales and stock management
- Customer and sales point management
- Energy disconnect/reconnect management
- Cancellation and theft management
- Meter and card RMA management
- Analyses, research and report management.
We set up a team to identify and study the utility structure. We organise a pilot site and work with the utility to put the systems in place to adapt the STAR 9000 selling management software. A STAR team is then sent in, or an office is opened locally, to oversee the installation and train the local staff.
From the utility’s point of view, the reduced meter reading costs, distribution of notices, control of manpower and better cash flow with better customer relationships are the main reasons to justify such a project. The end-users also appreciate the control they have over their own energy consumption, thanks to the ‘SUN’ system, which offers flexibility, continuity and safety.
All you need to make the system operational are:
- A standard PC
- STAR 9000 software
- STAR ‘SUN’ line meters (single/three phase) installed on your network
- Smart cards for end users.
As regards the future, we believe that our experience and our geographical location in Africa, as well as our proximity to the Middle East and Europe, will lead to our becoming more active in those markets.