Intelligent Analytics Software Gives Dubuque Customers Higher Water IQ

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N_SIGHT IQ enables customers to see their consumption data at a glance.
N_SIGHT IQ enables customers to see their consumption data at a glance.

In 2010 and 2011, the city of Dubuque, Iowa, Water Department converted its approximately 22,500 water meters (22,386 residential, 114 commercial and industrial) to Neptune's two-way, full fixed network advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system. After seeing its success, the city became one of the first utilities to adopt Neptune's new, cloud-based N_SIGHT™ IQ to leverage that advanced data.

In addition to long-term data storage and advanced analytics, the software provides an online portal, which the Department incorporated into its utility billing website where customers can also pay their bills. Through this portal, the city's water customers can monitor and manage their own usage - and receive automatically emailed alerts when consumption exceeds customer-preset levels or shows anomalies suggesting a leak. This capability naturally dovetails with the city's existing Smarter Sustainable Dubuque program.

"This seemed like the next progressive step," said Joe Pregler, lead applic- ations/network analyst for the city's Information Services Department. "I saw a demo early on and how the portal provided citizen self-enrollment without the need for intervention from our staff," he said. "It's also cloud-based and eliminates us from having to purchase another server or additional hardware."

Customer Empowerment

During the winter of 2013-2014, the city of Dubuque used N_SIGHT IQ to track customers' water consumption and find leaks. Owners of vacant homes were automatically notified about broken pipes, helping prevent major property damages. Further, rental property owners and managers can now group their properties and check all consumption at a glance with a single login.

"Before N_SIGHT IQ," recalled Utility Billing Supervisor Rose Hoerner, "I had an account where the owner of a mobile home park had a compound meter inside a ground vault that he couldn't access - but the Department of Natural Resources required it be read." Through the R450 System, Hoerner would provide the customer with a reading each day from that meter. "Once we had IQ, I gave him an option to continue that arrangement at additional cost or check the reading himself. He opted to take on that responsibility himself, and we haven't had any further inquiries regarding the account."

software provides an online portal utility billing website customers pay bills.
The software provides an online portal, which the Department incorporated into its utility billing website where customers can also pay their bills.

City and Customer on the Same Page - and Screen

The software enables customers who call in with the occasional question regarding their account to see their consumption data displayed on-screen - with the city's utility billing/customer service staff logged in at the same time to guide them through graphs or tables to answer their questions. Showing them their consumption history and pinpointing the times their meter showed water flowing helps makes bills hard to dispute.

Dubuque's ultimate goal is to have water customers take responsibility for their own usage. Additional updates to the software will help even further, especially with out-of-town alerts for unexpected or unauthorized consumption emailed to property owners. And a new feature will allow customers to compare their consumption against the consumption of others with similar characteristics.

Meanwhile, Water Department Manager Bob Green is enthusiastic about N_SIGHT IQ's ability to "help us to be more energy-efficient, promote sustainability, and be more transparent in our day-to-day operations."

Public Information Officer Randy Gehl said, "Prior to having Neptune's AMI system, we could tell customers, 'Here's what you used in a month. And here's your bill.' But now we can give them so much more. N_SIGHT IQ is a tool consistent with our philosophy to give people the information they need, to do what they want - whether that's saving money, identifying ways to reduce their water use, or just educating themselves."

Neptune is exhibiting at AWWA's ACE14 expo in Booth 2101.

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