Data Considerations in AMI System Evaluation: What do you want to do with the data?

June 15, 2010
[WaterWorld Online, June 2010] Advancements in AMI technology now give water utilities the ability to gather significant amounts of consumption data...

By Dean Slejko

Advancements in AMI technology now give water utilities the ability to gather significant amounts of consumption data. AMI systems offering two-way communications and time synchronization can transmit hourly, time-stamped meter readings, providing a dramatic increase in data compared to manual or drive-by systems. Multiplying hourly reads across all the meters in your service area shows how quickly the amount of data increases in just one day.

You may be thinking, "Do we need all the data that a two-way system provides?" To determine whether a two-way AMI system is right for you, a good place to start is to consider your data needs and uses.

Data Needs
Your data needs may depend on a number of factors:

• Customer types and usage: What are the water usage profiles and demands of your customer base? Do you face excessive disconnections and corresponding revenue write-offs?
• Daily demand: What does your daily demand graph look like? How long and large are the peaks? How much do they vary?
• Areas of concern: Do you have areas where you suspect there may be leaks, theft or other unaccounted losses in your distribution system? How accurate is your system water balance?

Data Uses
How do you want to use your AMI water data? Two-way systems with time synchronization provide information that can lead to improvements in a variety of challenges over and above billing accuracy.

Improve Customer Service: Hourly, time-stamped consumption data provides utility representatives with the level of detail needed to provide accurate and exact account billing, eliminating estimates and errors. CSRs also get enough information from two -- way networks to quickly help customers with any account questions, including the exact hours when water consumption was unusually high. Utilities can also use the hourly data to set up structured rate plans to encourage customers to use water during non-peak times.

Educate Customers: With hourly consumption data, customers can more closely monitor their own usage and make informed conservation decisions.

Increase Revenue: Comprehensive consumption data allows a utility to better manage meter data, track trends, monitor water usage and losses, and detect tampering and equipment damage.

Reduce Losses: Water loss for utilities can be significant, with some systems losing up to 40% through theft, leaks, breaks, and other service disruptions. Regular system water balances, using a two-way system with time synchronization, is a useful tool to identify possible sources of non-revenue water.

As a first step in evaluating whether a two-way AMI solution is right for your service area, consider the data you need and what you want to do with it. This will help you determine whether the detailed data that a two-way solution provides can lead to improved operational and financial performance.

About the Author: Dean Slejko recently joined Aclara as the Product Marketing Manager responsible for water utility solutions. He has 12 years of experience marketing system solutions for power management and process control applications. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and a Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University.

WaterWorld Online, June 2010