North America's water utility market faces an evolving expectation for what its AMI investment will deliver. Although an early pioneer in AMI, Master Meter has reached out to a broad geographic sample of both current and future water utility AMI customers for ideas in maximizing system value. Our product evolution focuses on an expanded 2-way interaction between the utility and assets in the field aimed at creating improved customer tools and elevated system functionality. By incorporating dedicated time slots and true I/O functionality for each endpoint, utilities achieve greater flexibility in retrieving data and operational control of assets tied to the network. This new network architecture is built on the premise of expanded flexibility to support current and, more importantly, future communication demands between differing data-producing instruments, sensors and an evolution of ancillary products not yet imagined.
The pursuit of more accurate water accountability has long been a target in considering an investment in AMI. After all, it's difficult for utilities to achieve improved water accountability without first addressing data accountability. But an expenditure in advanced data collection must be justified by a promise greater than simply 'more data.' Further, there is a growing sophistication and ever expanding vision by water utility managers who demand that AMI technology innovators improve not only quantity but also the breadth and quality of data. AMI investments need to yield expanded value for utility operators not just by incorporating pressure and temperature sensors, water level or residual chlorine sensors, and 4-20 mA signals, but also through expanding data availability to the end user.
AMI technology has demonstrated itself as a powerful weapon in the battle against water loss, conservation efforts and deterring theft or meter tamper by ratepayers. In redesigning Master Meter's AMI solution, our engineers sought to leverage well-documented implementation successes, while striving to create new value-added services for end users and new revenue models for water utilities. New solutions aim to improve operational insight and enhance flexibility to manage remote communications with distant instruments beyond just the meter.
AMI is simply a pipeline for the delivery of consumption and distribution performance data to a utility. However, the Meter Data Management (MDM) software is the engine to harness this unpolished data and drive tangible, useful solutions that benefit water utilities and their customers. IBM is integrating their latest analytics algorithms into Master Meter's underlying Dialog 3G technology and our corporation's MDM software to drive greater conservation and water management by empowering the ratepayer to make real changes in their consumption behavior and bring a new self-awareness of the customer's water related eco-footprint. AMI is more than a technology — it is an educational platform that, by advancing information sharing, brings about positive change for both water utilities and ratepayers alike.
The best way to encourage conservation is to empower the end user with information and tools that promote informed, self-governed decisions regarding their water use. Conservation directives are not always perceived well and can serve to create a wall between the utility and ratepayer. In contrast, customers look favorably on SMS/text notifications of possible leaks or unauthorized water usage — made possible by value-added services like interactive budgeting for water expenditure with real-time, periodic nudges when usage trends exceed the amount budgeted. As a result, advanced AMI is an excellent tool for enforcing water restriction programs and selectively reminding certain homeowners who appear to have ignored the designated times for watering. When a homeowner begins to view his or her daily or weekly consumption as a percentage relative to an average of their peers (for instance, in a subdivision), a combination of peer pressure and a contest-like spirit moves the customer to achieve the utility's conservation goals, while building an increased visibility and strengthened respect for the importance of water and the utility personnel that provide it. That is real ROI for AMI.