Five Benefits of Integrating AMI and GIS

March 11, 2016

Besides being critical for asset management and minimizing non-revenue water, the integration of GIS and AMI can be an overall “game changer” for operations for many utilities. “Neptune Technology Group introduced its GIS module in late 2014,” says John Sala, director of marketing. “As an AMI vendor, we use GIS-type information as part of what we do when we develop AMI solutions,” continues Sala. “We also use GIS information to help support our customers within our applications. The GIS component really helps us when we are working with utilities to implement AMI.”

Sala shared a number of the benefits of the integration:

  • Leaks: Various outside factors can contribute to leaks, such as water quality and pressure. So, since Neptune meters can capture leak events at 15-minute intervals, you can overlay these leak events on a GIS map to see if there are any geographic relationships. The GIS overlay can also help coordinate any inspections that will likely result to make the most effective use of the field technician’s time. Kind of a one-two-punch
    from the GIS integration.
Besides being critical for asset management and minimizing non-revenue water, the integration of GIS and AMI can be an overall “game changer” for operations for many utilities. "Neptune Technology Group introduced its GIS module in late 2014," says John Sala, director of marketing. “As an AMI vendor, we use GIS-type information as part of what we do when we develop AMI solutions,” continues Sala. “We also use GIS information to help support our customers within our applications. The GIS component really helps us when we are working with utilities to implement AMI.” Sala shared a number of the benefits of the integration:
  • Leaks: Various outside factors can contribute to leaks, such as water quality and pressure. So, since Neptune meters can capture leak events at 15-minute intervals, you can overlay these leak events on a GIS map to see if there are any geographic relationships. The GIS overlay can also help coordinate any inspections that will likely result to make the most effective use of the field technician’s time. Kind of a one-two-punch from the GIS integration.
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  • Backflow: Neptune meters can detect backflow. “Backflow can happen for some innocuous reasons, such as in a very tight home where a water heater cycles when no one is using water, pushing some water back out of the house as a result of thermal expansion,” says Sala. “That’s not too important. In other cases, though, backflow can be important, such as a major line break that hasn’t been reported yet, which is causing negative pressure upstream.” Then, when someone opens a faucet, it can create a reverse flow of water. In addition, Neptune’s radios work with acoustic leak loggers that can be installed on distribution lines. They can alert the utility of a possible distribution line leak. If these don’t happen to be lined up all on the same street, you may assume these are independent, non-related, and non-importantinstances. However, by being connected to the GIS system, it will show the lines, laterals, and entities. If you overlay the distribution, you may find that there is an actual common line, because sometimes lines don’t run down the middle of a single street. When you overlay this, the line that does connect them becomes visible, and you can see the geocoded meters that are having backflow events that are all on that same line. “This lets you know that you need to go out and begin looking for the leak that is causing all of those problems, before it blows a hole in the road or floods something,” he says. “In other words, you want to ‘roll a truck’ to do repair proactively when possible, using the AMI intelligence for your preliminary investigation.”
  • Redundancy: “There are some very sophisticated GIS-based products that help make sure there is proper communication and coverage between the meters and the collectors,” says Sala. “GIS and AMI integration can also reduce the need for certain collectors. You may find that certain networks are overbuilt, and certain devices are being read by four different collectors. This overlap happens a lot in some networks.” The utility may also find that everything being read by a certain collector is being read by at least one other collector, and thus that collector may not even be necessary.
  • DMAs: “We can create groups in our systems,” says Sala. With meters, for example, if you want to create a DMA (district metering area), one benefit of GIS is that you can see all of the points, you can see all of the inputs or outputs, and this allows you do draw a circle or polygon around all of the devices, select them all, right-click, and say “Assign to Group DMA 1.” “It is so simple,” says Sala. “Doing it the traditional way, on the other hand, is extremely complex. You would have to go into a huge list to find all of the properties, and then try to find the devices associated with the properties, then go to the billing system to try to find the accounts.”
  • Disaster Recovery: “If there are a group of meters that are all grouped together in one particular area and not being “heard”, those are pieces of information that can help you determine if you have a situation such as a collector that got struck by lightning,” he says. If this happens, the collector may not stop working, but the antenna can be damaged or the cable may get fried, causing the antenna to gain a certain amount of impedance, causing it to reduce performance. “Now you can see that coverage hasn’t gone away, but it has shrunk, which is useful information, because it will signal to you that maybe you need to check the antenna on the collector,” he says. 
    • Backflow: Neptune meters can detect backflow. “Backflow can happen for some innocuous reasons, such as in a very tight home where a water heater cycles when no one is using water, pushing some water back out of the house as a result of thermal expansion,” says Sala. “That’s not too important. In other cases, though, backflow can be important, such as a major line break that hasn’t been reported yet, which is causing negative pressure upstream.” Then, when someone opens a faucet, it can create a reverse flow of water. In addition, Neptune’s radios work with acoustic leak loggers that can be installed on distribution lines. They can alert the utility of a possible distribution line leak. If these don’t happen to be lined up all on the same street, you may assume these are independent, non-related, and non-importantinstances. However, by being connected to the GIS system, it will show the lines, laterals, and entities. If you overlay the distribution, you may find that there is an actual common line, because sometimes lines don’t run down the middle of a single street. When you overlay this, the line that does connect them becomes visible, and you can see the geocoded meters that are having backflow events that are all on that same line. “This lets you know that you need to go out and begin looking for the leak that is causing all of those problems, before it blows a hole in the road or floods something,” he says. “In other words, you want to ‘roll a truck’ to do repair proactively when possible, using the AMI intelligence for your preliminary investigation.”
  • Redundancy: “There are some very sophisticated GIS-based products that help make sure there is proper communication and coverage between the meters and the collectors,” says Sala. “GIS and AMI integration can also reduce the need for certain collectors. You may find that certain networks are overbuilt, and certain devices are being read by four different collectors. This overlap happens a lot in some networks.” The utility may also find that everything being read by a certain collector is being read by at least one other collector, and thus that collector may not even be necessary.
  • DMAs: “We can create groups in our systems,” says Sala. With meters, for example, if you want to create a DMA (district metering area), one benefit of GIS is that you can see all of the points, you can see all of the inputs or outputs, and this allows you do draw a circle or polygon around all of the devices, select them all, right-click, and say “Assign to Group DMA 1.” “It is so simple,” says Sala. “Doing it the traditional way, on the other hand, is extremely complex. You would have to go into a huge list to find all of the properties, and then try to find the devices associated with the properties, then go to the billing system to try to find the accounts.”
  • Disaster Recovery: “If there are a group of meters that are all grouped together in one particular area and not being “heard”, those are pieces of information that can help you determine if you have a situation such as a collector that got struck by lightning,” he says. If this happens, the collector may not stop working, but the antenna can be damaged or the cable may get fried, causing the antenna to gain a certain amount of impedance, causing it to reduce performance. “Now you can see that coverage hasn’t gone away, but it has shrunk, which is useful information, because it will signal to you that maybe you need to check the antenna on the collector,” he says. 
    About the Author

    William Atkinson

    William Atkinson specializes in topics related to utilities and infrastructure.

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