Neptune Introduces Integrated RF/E-Coder Technology

In the Fall of 2005 Neptune introduced the E-Coder)R900i and utilities have responded favorably to the integration of Neptune’s R900 and E-Coder technologies.

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In the Fall of 2005 Neptune introduced the E-Coder)R900i and utilities have responded favorably to the integration of Neptune’s R900 and E-Coder technologies. Demand has exceeded expectations as the E-Coder)R900i solves many more utility issues than other conventional products on the market today.

Background

In 1998 Neptune introduced the R900® radio frequency meter interface unit (RF MIU). The R900 utilizes frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology for maximum transmission range to enhance read success rate and reduce meter reading time. Since that time, Neptune has continued to improve the performance of the R900 by increasing output power while extending battery life - further lowering the cost of ownership and enhancing the value derived by the utility. The waterworks industry has embraced the R900 because of its simplicity of design (no FCC license or programming required) and exceptional field performance, making Neptune a leader in the AMR market.

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In 2003 Neptune introduced the E-Coder, a solid-state absolute encoder register. Like all absolute encoders, the E-Coder shares several common characteristics:

• Local and remote readings are not dependent on a battery to power the encoding circuit;

• Remote communications via ASCII serial communications occur only when interrogated by a remote device (ex. probe/receptacle or MIU);

• Local visual reading and remote reading come from the same single source;

Local odometer reading and remote readings are guaranteed to match.

With the growing acceptance of Automatic Meter Reading, the market was requesting more information than a basic encoder could provide. Neptune’s engineers determined that the resolution provided by merely encoding the odometer wheels severely limited the possibility of offering enhanced features being requested by the market. This led to a totally new concept where the encoded data source directly related to the meter’s measuring element. In the E-Coder the encoded data source is the register magnet, which is the register’s only moving part and is linked directly to the measuring element.

With this new encoding technique, the E-Coder is capable of providing the features most requested by the market - high resolution meter reading, leak indication, reverse flow notification (backflow), rate-of-flow, tamper detection, and improved reliability (the E-Coder has only one moving part).

All electrical energy needed for the basic functionality of the E-Coder is internally generated and no batteries are required. When connected to the R900, the E-Coder utilizes the R900 to power the integrated circuit to perform the advanced leak, reverse flow, rate-of-flow, and tamper detection functions on a 15-minute basis. This advanced data is retained in the E-Coder’s non-volatile memory for a rolling 35-day period and is communicated remotely to Neptune data collection devices via the R900 RF MIU.

Neptune determined the E-Coder could be further enhanced if it were integrated with the R900 in a single enclosure. This integration of two field-proven technologies would provide further benefits to utilities, reducing installation time and potential errors, reducing the opportunity for tamper or theft of service, and overall improvement in product reliability.

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The E-Coder)R900i wireless design improves reliability and reduces the potential for tampering.

This integrated design offers increased value over separate encoder register and AMR units that must be installed using cables, connectors, and special tools. The E-Coder)R900i is mounted directly on the meter just like a standard register.

The E-Coder)R900i is available in two versions. The pit version is for submerged and harsh service environments found in meter pits and vaults. The pit version features an integral antenna and an optional through-the-pit-lid antenna design providing application flexibility to ensure maximum performance even in the worst application environments. The inside version has an integral antenna for applications in basements, hot water heater closets, or inside buildings.

Both versions of the E-Coder)R900i have a field replaceable battery for extended product life.

The E-Coder)R900i offers the “lowest cost of ownership” of any AMR endpoint solution on the market This rich feature set of the E-Coder)R900i allows water utilities to be much more efficient by providing the means and data for improved customer service and proactive problem solving. Examples include but are not limited to the following:

• The E-Coder)R900i leak data allows the utility to notify customers of leakage problems to avoid complaints and billing issues.

The E-Coder)R900i can assist with Homeland Security as it will detect a reverse flow event that would occur if a contaminant were pumped into the water system at an elevated pressure.

• The E-Coder)R900i identifies a “no flow” or possible tamper problem whenever the meter is read rather than waiting until after the billing cycle to identify unusual consumption.

These proactive, value-added features available with the E-Coder)R900i offer utilities the unique opportunity to maximize the return on their AMR investment by improving operating efficiency, customer service, water loss management, and drought management, as well as addressing Homeland Security related concerns.

This value-added data provided by the E-Coder)R900i is communicated seamlessly to Neptune’s meter reading software and to the utility’s Customer Information System (CIS) - billing software, management reports and customer service screens. Water utilities can proactively notify customers of water leaks before they become problematic by printing leak detection information on their customer billing statements. Customers with more serious continuous leak conditions can be notified via e-mail, fax, or telephone immediately following the reading of the route, which often occurs weeks before billing statements are mailed.

Meter diagnostic and tamper detection reports can be generated every time a route is read to support proactive water meter maintenance and water loss management initiatives. These types of reports are invaluable for water utilities located in regions faced with drought and water supply concerns. Neptune’s introduction of the integrated solid state absolute encoder and R900 radio transmitter, E-Coder)R900i, has opened a new era of opportunity for any utility striving to improve operational efficiency and customer service.

By combining the functionality of two of the industry’s most popular products, Neptune has given utilities a meter reading solution that offers value-added data, is easy to install and maintain, and is consistently reliable

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