Smart Metering technology is enhancing the world’s water management and conservation resources. Prior to Smart Metering, public utilities had to either manually read water meters or use Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems, which transmit data at fixed intervals to a central data base.
Smart Metering with its advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is a quantum advancement over AMR, making a rich resource of on-demand water consumption data available to both utility and customer. Of the 39 million remotely read water meters in North America, 8% are read through Smart Metering.
Smart Metering Characteristics
A Smart Metering System is typically defined by the following characteristic:
A meter engineered for short-interval consumption readings, either daily, at shorter fixed intervals or on demand.
Robust communications channel to the utility company that supports the communication of this data and over which commands can be issue to the meter to carry out predefined tasks, such as restricting or disconnecting swear flow, or running various diagnostic maintenance procedures.
Data management facility at the utility company that can validate data, has the capacity to store the high volume of data received, and that interfaces with the existing billing system, and is accessible to customer service representatives and to the customers.
A maintenance gate way accessible to either central office personnel or field service reps using mobile technology and employing maintenance scheduling software.
Customer display module that supports customers’ consumption and compliance monitoring and assists them with regulatory compliance and leak detection issues.
Benefits of Smart Metering
1. Smart Metering vs. AMR
AMR systems merely provide consumption totals, not interval data. They communicate to the central data collection point over a hodgepodge of non-dedicated systems, such as power lines, satellites or radio networks, with no facility for two way communications. Smart Metering can provide far more detailed data than AMR. Recognizing the benefits of Smart Metering, many utility companies purchase AMR system meters with the capability for upgrading into Smart Metering systems.
2. Enhanced Customer Conservation Management
Smart Metering offers the advantage of enlisting the customer in their own water conservation management. Given the sophistication of a Smart Metering data management system, customers can use Internet access to create tables and charts to help them analyze their water consumptions. Monitors at the customer’s site can be configured by them to help detect leaks, compare their water usage to that of their neighborhood’s average or their own historical water usage.
3. Customer Leak Detection
Before Smart Metering, and even with AMR systems, leak detection was a cumbersome process, with customers often only investigating leaks when inspired to do so by suddenly soaring water bills. With Smart Metering Systems, customers can monitor their property water flow rates by the minute hour, or in real time and quickly determining if water is flowing and billing charges accruing during periods of inactivity.
4. Regulatory and Compliance Alerts
Smart Metering systems can be configured to alert consumers when they’re on the verge of falling out of out of compliance with local water regulations, or when they’re out of compliance. Alerts can also be trigged to advise the amount of the mandated surcharge.
5. Municipal Leak Detection
Water utilities can employ preset alerts and utilize real time data from customer meters to pinpoint loss of service and localize water main leaks or breaks for quick and accurate response before damage occurs to public and private facilities.
6. Automatic Alerts
Customers can be given the capability of scheduling email or text alerts triggered by water consumption levels within parameter set by them, or urgent alerts if service is interrupted. Utilities can set customer alerts to advise of scheduled or non-schedule service outages.
7. Workforce Dispatch
Smart Meter data management systems support field service scheduling software, which can provide links to mobile workforce dispatching systems, automatically sending maintenance crews to repair broken meters.
As the pressure of climate and population changes continue to impact the availability of water resources, utilities are expanding their use of Smart Metering systems to help manage their water consumption, identify waste, and allow communities to respond quickly and flexibly to their water needs.