NICIGAS Connects 850,000 Gas Meters in Japan with SORACOM and UnaBiz

Led by UnaBiz and SORACOM, the smart makeover will allow the collection of real-time data without the need for a network overhaul

Nicigas, Soracom, and UnaBiz team in front of NCU Space Hotaru gas meter reader
From Left: Kenji Iwamura – Energy Business Dept. Manager of NICIGAS, Masahiro Mukai – MD of NICIGAS, Junichi Morishita – MD of NICIGAS, Ken Tamagawa – CEO & Founder of SORACOM, Shinji Wada – President of NICIGAS, Henri Bong – CEO & Co-Founder of UnaBiz, Philippe Chiu – CTO & Co-Founder of UnaBiz, Yuki Matsuda – CIO of NICIGAS, Naoto Namekawa – Sales Manager of SORACOM, and Ryuichi Nagashima – Chief Designer of NICIGAS
Nicigas, unabiz, soracom, sigfox and kyocera logo

Nov. 20, 2019 – 850,000 Nippon Gas Co., Ltd (“NICIGAS”) gas meters across Japan will get a smart makeover by the end of FY2020, thanks to a retrofitted gas meter reader developed by UnaBiz and SORACOM. The project marks one of the largest deployments of smart utilities solutions to date.

SPACE HOTARU, an original concept by NICIGAS, is a reader that is easily retrofitted onto existing gas meters to enable “smart” features. The Network Controlling Unit (NCU) collects and transmits gas consumption data to NICIGAS’ IoT data platform, “NICIGAS Stream”, via Sigfox’s Japan-wide 0G wireless network allowing the gas valve to be controlled remotely. The NCU is energy-efficient and is expected to last more than 10 years on internal batteries.

Making low-cost and real-time gas metering a reality

The SPACE HOTARU addresses key issues that the gas industry commonly faces: collecting data in a cost-effective way to allow for real-time insights.

Since the adoption of the reader, meter data that used to be read manually by agents once a month is now collected by the NCU on an hourly basis, and sent to NICIGAS Stream daily. Collected data is used to visualise and predict the amount of gas remaining in households, allowing timelier replacement of gas cylinders and improving the quality of service to its consumers.

In addition, the NCU also reports on meter related incidents. When needed, the gas valve can be programmed to auto-close, bringing convenience to the properties.

NCU Space Hotaru solution diagram

High-speed partnership solution

The SPACE HOTARU was made possible thanks to the strong collaboration between NICIGAS, SORACOMUnaBiz, Sigfox, and Kyocera Communication Systems. The solution runs on the 0G network operated by Kyocera Communication Systems, a subsidiary of Kyocera Corporation.

A spokesperson from NICIGAS shared his excitement on the new product: “The combined expertise of SORACOM and UnaBiz in software and hardware development respectively has helped us bring our idea to mass production quickly. The team’s competence and dedication were the key success factors in developing this durable and cost-efficient smart gas meter, and their speed to market is simply unparalleled.”

“With more precise gas consumption data, we can better analyze our demand and supply and turn them into actionable insights for our logistics and distribution channels to achieve maximum resource efficiency. In addition, it will enable us to propose optimal energy usage plans to our existing and potential customers,” he added.

NICIGAS anticipates that the NCU project will give the company a technology lead in both the shifting Japanese consumer market and the global energy front. NICIGAS plans to offer SPACE HOTARU and the integrated system supported by NICIGAS Stream to other gas retailers and other energy retailers.

Ludovic Le Moan, CEO and Co-Founder of Sigfox, said: “It’s really exciting to get this project turning to mass deployment thanks to this collaboration. Sigfox is on the way to exceed its target of 15 million objects connected to our network thanks to the increasing maturity of our market. This project demonstrates the amazing potential of industries to connect their assets for higher revenues and margins.”

NCU Space Hotaru on a gas meter

Tapping the possibilities of IoT

Tasked with designing and manufacturing NICIGAS’ hardware solution, UnaBiz points to how effective and affordable IoT solutions can be, going well beyond the utilities sector, in logistics and facilities management, for example, allowing companies to optimise on the digitalization of their processes.

“We want to design high-quality, economical and sustainable solutions that can help companies and industries optimise their processes and grow sustainably. Getting connected doesn’t always have to mean having to completely rehaul assets. It is important that businesses, consumers and the environment all win in this process,” explained Henri Bong, CEO and Co-Founder of UnaBiz.

His view is shared by Ken Tamagawa, CEO & Co-founder of SORACOM, which provides the platform that connects devices in sectors that range from agriculture, energy and construction to consumer electronics, manufacturing and real estate.

“NICIGAS represents a prime example of the benefits that a smart IoT connectivity platform brings to large-scale deployments. The combination of IoT technology and cloud capability lets businesses connect devices quickly, affordably, and securely anywhere in the world, while increasing efficiency, sustainability, and customer satisfaction,” he said.

Nippon Gas Co Ltd, or NICIGAS, is a Japanese integrated energy retailer and supplies LP (liquefied petroleum) Gas, City Gas and Electricity to 1,549K customers in the Kanto region of Japan (as of 30 Sep. 2019). In Japan, the electricity and city gas retail market were fully deregulated in 2016 and 2017, respectively and every player needs to provide newly added-value and higher quality of services, to their customers, in order to differentiate from their competitors. NICIGAS considers ICT and digital transformation (DX), supported by energy/cost-efficient communication technology on the SPACE HOTARU, are the key to solution and success. In this context, NICIGAS believes that ICT and DX are not just a cost rationalization tool but also a strong driver to increase the top line of the businesses, and enterprise-value, sustainably. NICIGAS’ ambitious challenges are highly evaluated in the market and it has been awarded “the Competitive IT Strategy Company” jointly by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (“METI”) and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (“TSE”), for four consecutive years (2016-2019).

Soracom is a global provider of smart IoT connectivity, offering cloud-native wireless service designed specifically for the needs of connected devices. Founded in 2015, Soracom now serves over 15,000 customers around the world in industries ranging from agriculture, energy, construction and transportation to consumer electronics, manufacturing, real estate and healthcare. From global enterprises to fast-growing start-ups, customers trust Soracom to help accelerate speed to market and make it easy to connect devices to the cloud. More information is available at

About UnaBiz

UnaBiz is the enabler of Massive Internet of Things (IoT) in Asia. The company specialises in providing affordable, well-designed solutions that are energy efficient, highly scalable and simple to deploy at a fraction of conventional cost. UnaBiz envisions a closely connected world powered by simple technology. By uniting people and technology, UnaBiz aims to create an impact on a massive scale, to help every person and every organisation on the planet live smarter, simpler. The company’s mission is to keep its clients and partners ahead with agility and ingenuity. Today, it provides a diversified range of expertise from product design to manufacturing capabilities, tapping into a wide range of skills and resources from the IoT ecosystem to power business growth. In 2018, UnaBiz raised over US$10 million in its Series A funding round, and is since accredited with the ISO 9001:2015 certification for Design of IoT Product and Provider of Network Connectivity Solutions. The company is presently selling in 28 countries and focus on key verticals such as facilities management, asset management, asset tracking and smart parking.

About Sigfox

Sigfox is the initiator of the 0G network and the world’s leading IoT (Internet of Things) service provider. Its global network allows billions of devices to connect to the Internet, in a straightforward way, while consuming as little energy as possible. Sigfox’s unique approach to device-to-cloud communications addresses the three greatest barriers to global IoT adoption: cost, energy consumption and global scalability. Today, the network is available in 65 countries, with 1 billion people covered. ISO 9001 certified and surrounded by a large ecosystem of partners and IoT key players, Sigfox empowers companies to move their business model towards more digital services, in key areas such as Asset Tracking and Supply Chain. Founded in 2010 by Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet, the company is headquartered in France and has offices in Madrid, Munich, Boston, Dallas, San Jose, Dubai, Singapore, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.

About Kyocera Communication Systems

Kyocera Communication Systems Co., Ltd. (KCCS) is a systems integration company which connects information to people, people to business, and business to society. The KCCS Group covers the following four major domains: information platforms, communication infrastructures, harmonised economy and ecology infrastructures, and management platforms for companies.