Right Sizing an AMR/AMI Solution

Consulting engineers often discuss the need to 'right-size' large commercial water meters to help ensure they are neither too large nor too small, while protecting against excessive wear from constant heavy flow and safeguarding that leaks are identified and low flows accurately measured.

Aug 1st, 2012
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Consulting engineers often discuss the need to 'right-size' large commercial water meters to help ensure they are neither too large nor too small, while protecting against excessive wear from constant heavy flow and safeguarding that leaks are identified and low flows accurately measured.

However, when it comes to deciding on an AMR/AMI system, utilities often don't take a similar right-size approach to the underlying technology or scope of the meter reading system. For many cities, adding more and more infrastructure that comes with fixed network (AMI) systems amounts to overkill and a maintenance dilemma. Many times an AMI system exceeds the kind of information smaller utilities actually need, or are prepared to work with, and will be willing to pay the lifetime costs to obtain. Yet, the solution can't be undersized – it must solve the problems of quantifying non-revenue water (NRW), supporting conservation initiatives, and addressing customer service issues.

Enter "right-sizing" a meter data collection and management solution that produces the most important benefits of fixed network applications – sized correctly absent radio towers, designed without an expansive array of repeaters and other associated infrastructure. Why do water utilities buy more system than they originally sought? One learns early in life that a customer's goals often are different than a vendor's objectives – we've all gone into a Radio Shack to buy a replacement fuse and instead left with a 12 pack of batteries.

Is fixed network right-sized for your utility? AMI is definitely eye catching and it creates the promise of new experiences in how utilities conduct business, manage water, and engage with their ratepayers based on heightened detail in consumption information. And yet, have we wrapped ourselves around the excitement of a new zippy technology while loosing sight of a solid, proven, and venerable alternative? Can advanced meter goals and objectives be accomplished without the additional infrastructure? Dialog 3G AMR is a mobile solution originally designed to produce fixed network results in a simplified, manageable, secure unit without wires, external power or antennas. The key is sophisticated, time stamped intelligence inside the register, at each metered point.

The AMI Paradox

Our technology world continues the journey of moving further away from being tethered and connected by endless infrastructure. But paradoxically, municipal water utilities erect more RF towers, install more data repeaters, and expand infrastructure all in the effort to do what's been done for years – very effectively and with great ease – collect consumption data. Make informed decisions in reducing water loss, satisfy customers, and keep operating costs low.

To make effective management decisions, utilities require more than a simple numerical read – they need actionable intelligence. Meaningful, quantifiable data creates the authority to tackle the issues that directly impacts the bottom line. The myth is that this is only possible in a fixed network environment. Expanding legislation, worsening drought, and increasing demand for water accountability calls for advanced meter data – not necessarily – advanced meter infrastructure. Just advanced metering.

Right-Size – NOT SUPER SIZE

Dialog 3G is an AMR endpoint with a comprehensive suite of integral data with no additional infrastructure required. Utilities are using 3G's Real Time Clock (RTC) technology to synchronize every meter throughout their system – at points of consumption and production – to get an instance snapshot of distribution system health and water loss. Because the RTC offers multiple points of synchronization (for instance between 2 AM and 5 AM), utilities use Master Meter's mobile AMR solution to create metered districts and zones (DMA/DMZ) to help identify macro leaks or theft in specific areas – just like a fixed network can do. 3G is an inherently right-sized approach for most utilities.

Fixed network provides detailed data logging across every metered point. So does 3G Mobile but getting the information is a more right-sized approach. Utilities understand that even though their fixed network will deliver oodles of information for every user, most people, most ratepayers, simply don't care. Even when made available on a home web portal, people are too busy to use it. It's the problematic customers who most need the utility's attention, and the solution that fixed network or 3G Mobile AMR delivers. Enter the argument for a 'right-sized' approach. Every 3G meter has 4,000 points of personal consumption profiling. This information can address high billing complaints, verify tamper and theft alarms, help ensure that meters are properly sized, and it can be uploaded to the cloud without leaving the vehicle. To implement city wide strategies for accessing data, delivering it via a wide network of repeaters and towering antennas, is often unnecessary and not an ideal, right-sized approach.

Information is best made available in a streamlined eco-friendly platform. Reducing vehicle miles in a city lowers the utility carbon footprint. As well, so does eliminating the need to power multiple data repeaters, collectors, and other electronics 24/7 as is common with fixed network. Sophisticated GPS mapping and route optimization software helps to reduce miles driven to the bare minimum. Utilities are encouraged to look at the density of meters per sq. mile, consider ground undulation, and create a plan to act on the information these advanced systems can deliver. 3G Mobile gives a comprehensive meter data management solution with most every effective benefit of fixed network yet in an untethered solution and without the complex infrastructure.

Right-sized AMR delivers the most important essentials that utilities demand from AMI – active alerts for invisible leaks, water theft, and tamper made to disable a meter. 3G endpoints utilize sensors integral to the register for detecting minute water movement, the presence of magnetic tamper, inoperability, reverse or the absence of flow. 2-way in-field communication combines with cloud based computing allowing leak and consumption information to be sent in real time back to utility headquarters from the field. Most utilities take immediate action on leaks or consumption irregularities while present at a customer's address for superior customer relations.

3G Mobile AMR is inherently right-sized in that it enables utilities to implement a comprehensive meter and water management solution to realize a fast payback without sacrificing the quantity or quality of information available.

Right-sizing meter reading means to limit as much as possible the system infrastructure while reducing its associated footprint, shrink the deployment expenditure, and ensure that the most meaningful data is freely available – synchronized reads for water loss and balancing, meter performance alerts, and data logging for personal consumption profiles all to help promote superior water management.

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