Company Offers New Fixed-Network AMR System

Following on the launches of the Orion® drive-by AMR system and the Absolute Digital Encoder (ADE™), Badger Meter has just introduced Galaxy - a radio-frequency (RF) fixed-network AMR product.

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Following on the launches of the Orion® drive-by AMR system and the Absolute Digital Encoder (ADE™), Badger Meter has just introduced Galaxy - a radio-frequency (RF) fixed-network AMR product.

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A Galaxy network consists of three basic hardware components - the RF transmitter, the data collector, and signal repeaters. The system operates in the 450-470 MHz band. That's a licensed frequency, which means assurance against radio interference. The transmitters are compatible with Badger's RTR® and ADE™ encoder registers, and will be available in both remote-mount and pit-set packages.

The data collectors are based on industrial microprocessors that are simple, rugged, and readily available. Each collector can receive and store account information for up to 8,000 meters, and features a modem that allows it to communicate with the utility office. The collector maintains a database that includes the last-received transmission for each meter account, as well as diagnostic data to help monitor system performance. The data collector has a non-volatile flash memory, which means that no data is lost in the event of a power interruption. When power is restored, the processor restarts itself and goes about its business.

The signal repeaters are an important key to the overall economics of the system, because they allow the most efficient use of the data collectors. For example - even though a data collector has the memory and processing power to accommodate 8,000 meters, in a typical residential setting the collector may be in RF range of less than 1,000 transmitters. Economical signal repeaters are employed to effectively increase the coverage of the data collectors. Signal repeaters can be either AC line-powered or solar-powered. With the solar power option, no external power connection or phone line is needed - just mount the system on a pole and it takes care of itself.

Badger offers a pre-wired, pre-programmed system that installs easily. No screw terminals, which can corrode or loosen, are used. Indoor-mount remote units can be shipped pre-wired and programmed from the factory, with no gel-splice external connections. All pit set wire terminations are in fully potted enclosures or waterproof connectors, suitable for continuously submerged environments. This also allows the company to test the pre-wired transmitter before shipment, and assures customers that system integrity is maintained during installation.

In the long term, the real value of a fixed-network system is in how the account data are used. Galaxy offers a full-scale database management program which archives and processes customer account information, providing reports, queries and many other housekeeping and maintenance tools. It also passes the data easily to the utility's billing software, with little or no modification to the existing system.

The metering information has a variety of uses. For instance, leaks can be spotted very quickly, with the possibility of saving the homeowner from costly water damage. A non-advancing meter can be flagged, to warn of a fouled or vandalized unit. Total consumption of meters in a neighborhood can be compared to the flow in the main line feeding the neighborhood, to spot unaccounted-for water loss.

Some of the greatest value is in the area of customer service for the utility. Service representatives with immediate access to a customer's daily readings are better equipped to resolve disputes quickly.

Daily readings also mean that billing can be staggered. For example - suppose a utility that bills monthly divides its customers into four groups and bills one group each week. Calls to customer service reps, which usually occur shortly after bills are received, will now be evenly spaced throughout the month instead of all coming in at the same time. This allows the most efficient use of customer service resources.

These are the types of values that often are overlooked when a utility first considers an AMR system, but later prove their potential for economic savings.

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