One-on-One with Inensus
Despite the covid-19 disruptions, our members are constantly innovating for new ways and solutions to keep the lights on . In this series, we’ve approached Inensus to discuss the newly launched free of charge software solution for the management of Decentralized Utilities.
A User Demo of the MicroPowerManager open-source developed by Inensus , free software for all to use. This year Inensus is taking a big step of open sourcing their MicroPowerManager software for minigrid companies everywhere to use for free. Could you tell us more about it?
The MicroPowerManager software was developed by Inensus and has a long history. It originated from an early trial with smart metering in 2009-2010 in Senegal. Before smart meters were widely available, we started designing our own but later decided to concentrate on software and integrate it with existing meters that are mass manufactured and thus low in cost. We did this through a collaboration with JUMEME Rural Power Supply starting in 2014, and launched a new, expanded system in 2016 with more features, then later converted from metering and payment management system tool in a complete minigrid company management tool.
This software allows a company’s entire data management needs to be managed within one software platform. It incorporates customer, asset and O&M management features. It includes electricity and appliance sales (via deferred payment schemes) using mobile money and serves as a tool for call centers, SMS marketing campaigns as well as for monitoring revenue, staff and asset performance. An Android app for customer/meter registration, including geo-tagging, and an app for establishing a bi-directional SMS gateway for customer communication are being released free of charge alongside the software as well.
The now free software is an easy, complete system for minigrid site and company management. It incorporates mobile money and payment integration, monitoring of cash flows, monitoring of system assets, customer management, and call center management. The software has been Jumeme’s main business management tool for years, managing over 5,000 customers in Tanzania.
What motivated you to develop it?
At some point we realized others would need to develop something similar for their business. We discussed whether we could charge others for usage or adaptation of the software to their needs but in the end decided that as a consultancy firm, we did not want to compete with other software companies and also didn’t want to spend time and money adapting it for other companies in the so far rather small minigrid market. But we still wanted to help start-up companies across the world get a head start, so we started fundraising to develop a complete software package for minigrid sector available to the public for free. We are very grateful to the Doen Foundation for stepping in to make this dream a reality.
With MicroPowerManager now open sourced and available to everyone, we hope to mobilize minigrid companies across the world to use the software and grow, cut costs and improve their operations. Because it is open source, users are free to make changes, update it, and integrate new features according to their needs – but all users who improve it or add features must commit to uploading and open sourcing those as well to offer those features back to the community.
What is the specific added value of MicroPowerManager to Minigrid companies?
a) The software is free of charge and everybody can access and download it. This will save minigrid companies with a few customers thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars per year in minigrid systems management and payment management software costs.
b) It is all in one: You don’t need to integrate different software packages – once you download it, you have everything you need to run your company.
c) It is an open source: Once you download it, you can integrate what you want based on the needs of your company – and future users can improve and expand the software.
d) You have control of your data: This is a concern for minigrid companies using other software now, who want to protect their data. The data is on the user’s server and neither we, nor anybody else has got access to it. The data is for the user; you decide who you give access to or not.
In instances where companies already have other software, is it always possible to use the MicroPowerManager software? Is it compatible with other software and hardware?
Currently we are preparing an integration with Odyssey Energy Solutions, so that you can automatically upload data if the user requests the software to do so. We are also integrating with various smart meter and mobile money providers and can always include new or existing software from various companies into our software. So far, we already have integrated Vodacom and Airtel in Tanzania for a start. As the data interfaces of these two mobile money providers are quite different, we believe to have a relatively wide range of options already covered. Minigrid companies can contact us with integration requests. On the meter side, we have Calin’s STS meters integrated. We are currently linking up with smart metering companies to integrate with their systems and data analytics. Any new features from these collaborations will be added to the Open Source version of MicroPowerManager over the coming months. While the Doen Foundation support enables us to add some additional integrations in cooperation with minigrid companies using the software, we do not have funding to do all technology integrations ourselves, so we will indeed need to rely on the open source community spirit to fully integrate all meters and mobile money options. Or we can do it on a fee for service basis if needed, meaning that those minigrid companies which do not have software development capacity in-house or have issues with the software can always rely on INENSUS’ IT consultancy services.During the Doen Foundation funding period, our services come at a significantly reduced cost or completely free of charge.
How can we learn more about the software? What are the steps users should follow to start using it?
You can learn more about the software here:
https://micropowermanager.com/ where you will find more information, a demo and description of the features
https://github.com/inensus/MPManager where you can download it to use for your company