Badger Meter: Strategic financial investments, smart water metering solutions top trends for 2019

Oct. 26, 2018
Annual list outlines key trends predicted to shape the water utility industry in the next year.

MILWAUKEE, WI, OCT 26, 2018 -- Badger Meter, a leading global innovator and manufacturer of flow measurement, control and communications solutions, has announced the key trends predicted to shape the water utility industry in 2019. Of the six trends included in this year's list, the importance of strategic financial investments and smart water metering solutions top the list.

"Water utilities, now more than ever, are being asked to do more with less. Ensuring that water utilities can make strategic decisions about where their investments are being made is always top of mind at Badger Meter, and it is why 'Strategic Financial Investments' tops our annual trends list this year," said John Fillinger, director of utility marketing at Badger Meter. "While strategic investments and smart water metering solutions continue to be part of the ongoing water metering conversation, this year cybersecurity and the aging workforce make their first appearances. Beyond new innovations, water utilities are demanding technologies that address inefficiencies, support water system safety and help create a productive water system as a whole."

The key trends predicted to shape 2019 include:
Strategic Financial Investments: In last year's AWWA 2018 State of the Water Industry Report, optimizing operations was of great concern for utilities and it is expected to continue in 2019. Because most water utilities and municipalities have limited funds, they need to carefully consider their investment needs and capital expenditures. Deploying a solution that leverages smart data and offers flexibility can help. By implementing a smart water metering solution enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), water utility managers can build a holistic view of their water system to allow for greater understanding and efficiency. Especially for solutions where the water utility owns their data, such as Badger Meter's industry-leading BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) managed solution, water utility managers can get a hands-on view of their water system. In turn, this helps them to better understand and manage the utility's operations.

Benefits of Cellular and IoT-based Technologies: An ongoing trend for the past several years, the conversation surrounding Cellular and IoT-based technologies will focus on the growing capabilities of these new technologies in 2019. Water utilities need technology solutions that fit their needs. Cellular technologies eliminate the need for traditional fixed-network infrastructure, while providing water utilities the option to use Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology if that is the best solution for their needs. This benefit can allow a water utility to focus its infrastructure installation and maintenance expenses on other projects. Without the need for traditional fixed-network infrastructure, an evolving cellular water solution requires less time and money. At one time water utilities were required to upgrade by installing new physical equipment around a city. However, cellular-enabled water metering solutions, such as ORION® Cellular endpoints, provide software upgrades that happen in minutes rather than weeks, keeping the system up-to-date.

While all of these benefits are pivotal to the daily operations for a water utility, when crisis happens plans often go upended. Recent devastating hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes have destroyed portions of the infrastructure of a number of cities. One of the largest, albeit hopefully unused, benefits of cellular-enabled technologies is resiliency. After major weather events, cellular networks typically come back online fast in order to support emergency efforts. That means a water utility using cellular networks would be back online too.

Smart Water & the Smart City: As a key decision maker in how a city implements its smart city technologies, water utilities must consider the value of flexibility. By implementing IoT-enabled cellular networks, such as BEACON AMA alongside ORION Cellular or ORION® LTE endpoints, water utilities and the cities, themselves, have options. Cellular-enabled technologies are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Because cellular does not require any infrastructure, the water utility and city can install technologies that best fit their respective needs. For a city, cellular can also support smart sensors for parking meters, lights, transportation and more.

Engaging the Utility Customer: Accurate and reliable data analytics have changed the water utility landscape. But water utilities can only go so far in reducing water loss and meeting water usage goals. That's why a growing number of utilities are engaging their customers in helping to monitor and manage their water usage. As part of many advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and AMA solutions, water utility customers have access to engagement tools, such as Badger Meter's EyeOnWater® consumer application, that enable utility customers to take a hands-on approach to their water usage. Consumers can see their personal consumption data daily, hourly, monthly and annually via their smartphones, computers or tablets. By providing clear and transparent information about water usage, water utilities are empowering and educating their customers. This can help mitigate concerns and questions about water rate increases or leaks and reduce response time – all of which can improve efficiency and support water conservation efforts.

Cyber Security: With cities becoming more and more vigilant about their cyber security concerns, water utilities and cities need to know how to protect themselves. Paramount, especially when implementing a cellular- and IoT-enabled technology, is keeping technology up-to-date and deploying technology with the correct security certifications. To ensure data security, water utilities should insist that the provider offers 3rd party certification – for instance, Badger Meter's IoT-based systems are ISO 27001/SOC-2 certified.

Aging Workforce Needs: Lastly, the aging workforce is a continuing trend across all manufacturing and labor-intensive industries, including the water utility industry. More and more laborers, both on the water metering manufacturing side, as well as the water utility side, are retiring or will be retiring in the next 10 years. According to research done by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte (2015), "over the next decade, nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled." While not a replacement for workers, managed solutions can help ease the burden for water utilities. By housing knowledge and data in an owned solution, like BEACON AMA, a water utility won't lose years of experience and knowledge when employees retire.

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