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July 25, 2014

British Gas adopts Windows 8 tablets to roll out smart meters

Dell devices will help energy firm meet ‘tight’ deadlines.

By Joe Curtis

British Gas has swapped workers’ aging tablets for Dell devices running Windows 8 as it tries to put smart meters in 12 million homes by 2020.

The energy company partnered with Computacenter to supply the Dell Latitude tablets to 1,200 engineers on an "aggressive timescale" of four months starting in June last year, replacing tough tablets that weren’t doing the job.

The shock- and water-resistant tablets lacked the features to draw on customer information rapidly, while the Dell devices use such data to speed up the smart meter roll out as British Gas tries to meet the Government deadline.

The Government wants smart meters to replace gas and electricity meters in six years’ time to show people how much energy they are using and what it costs, as it tries to make people more aware of energy usage.

Each home gets a smart gas meter, a smart electricity meter and a monitor that shows them their energy expenses in pounds and pence, upadting twice an hour – British Gas gets these readings once a day, putting an end to estimated bills.

And the company is confident that it can meet the 2020 deadline now it is using the Dell tablets.

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Alan Fairhurst, technical consulting manager with British Gas Strategic Systems, said: "The IT devices they use have a big impact on their productivity. We need them to be able to focus on their customers and the job in hand, without worrying about IT issues and downtime.

"Mass device change is not our core business, so when it comes to projects such as this, we need a partner with expertise and experience, such as Computacenter."

Computacenter helped the energy company negotiate pricing with Dell before delivering the Latitude tablets on assigned dates to meet tight deployment deadlines.

The devices then passed software tests and were packed with accessories, including shock-resistant casing and delivered to British Gas staff.

The tablets provide workers with full details of each property and task, track job progress and are used to take photos of the installed meters for future records.

British Gas has now supplied smart meters to one million homes, and Fairhurst said the roll out is gathering pace.

"With support from Computacenter, our smart energy experts have the tools they need for the job. They are happier, more motivated and able to provide better customer service," he said.

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