Future pathway for FC300 users opens

Migration strategies for the Itron FC300 hand-held units are emerging, as customers start planning for support of the product ending on 31 December 2021, while spare parts are becoming increasingly sparse and support sometimes slow.

Itron have announced end of support for FC300 by 2021, requiring utilities to rethink their meter data collection strategies. As FC300 replacements are introduced, they are not compatible with MVRS, so by default, MVRS may also become a non-supported software package. This could be a challenge with many utilities historically basing their meter data collection processes around Itron handhelds and MVRS.

For users of the technology, the FC300s have been rugged and reliable workhorses, enabling efficient collection of meter data. However, they also have a high cost to purchase and maintain, and are inflexible in adapting to rapidly changing technology in the utility sector.

With the end of FC300 support looming, it is an opportunity for utilities to consider the best replacement platform to support meter data collection. There are both transitional and full replacement options, that enable utilities to take a more modern approach to migrating from their FC300 fleet.

It is also an opportunity to ‘take a step back’ and re-evaluate meter data collection and management strategies with the influence that IoT is likely to have on smart metering deployments.  Potentially with a greater range of technologies and at a lower cost, it might be prudent to see how the technology evolves and the benefits it could provide before joining the ‘bandwagon’ of mass deployments with technology that may or may not be fit for purpose.

Since Itron originally introduced the FC300 in 2009, hand held technologies have advanced considerably. Today, ruggedised devices are commercially available that run industry standard operating systems such as Windows Embedded Handheld. These devices are smaller, more user-friendly, offer greater flexibility while being significantly more cost effective and come with excellent support.

For utilities looking to replace MVRS, they have the opportunity to deploy new proven software which can enhance meter reading operations and become the platform that is ‘Power of Choice’ ready It can be an opportunity to change the ways ‘things have been done’ and implement new KPI focussed processes. DataCol can introduce new hand-held technology if utilities require a broader set of more modern functionality or, if FC300s are beyond economic repair.

The SevenX multi-utility (electricity, water and gas) meter data capture and management solution consists of an application running on commercially available, non-proprietary, ruggedised, IP67 compliant handheld computers communicating with SevenX, (DataCol’s meter data collection server based application) over cellular networks. It also integrates data from other transfer modes such as web, IVR and AMR. In addition, SevenX provides a single interface to the utility billing system (e.g. Gentrack, SAP, Agility) for timely, accurate and consistent billing.

More than just improving the efficiency of a meter reading field force and providing strong contract KPI performance monitoring tools, SevenX provides a platform for introducing other field force automation initiatives such as meter maintenance and new technology deployments.

If you are considering a replacement FC300 solution that is proven to take costs out of the business and is Power of Choice ready, then contact DataCol, who have over 15 years of experience in this field, to schedule a discussion about your meter data management strategy, and your migration options from FC300s.

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Reduce potential leak points by 60% with Strongcast

Water Main Leak

Non-revenue water losses through leaks is a challenge that councils and utilities across New Zealand face, with aging infrastructure and poor-quality fittings contributing to millions of litres of lost water every year.

Councils are looking to upgrade and replace water networks and infrastructure to take advantage of new technology and methods which will help them become more efficient and robust. While many councils and utilities race towards advanced metering solutions, it must be emphasised that even the smartest meters can be hindered by poor performing ancillary components. The meter is the heart of this setup, yet the neighbouring parts are just as critical to the success of this asset.

Strongcast have developed a solution that can help reduce the risk of water leaks. Its Complete Meter Assembly Kit has minimised the amount of componentry and connection points to reduce the risk of leaks compared to other solutions on the market.

The Tingalpa, Queensland, Australia case study, outlined in the video below, demonstrated that on a street with 15 properties, a typical assembly could have 11 connection points. Taken across all 15 properties, this would equate to 165 connection points. Using the Strongcast solution, this was reduced to 60 connection points, therefore decreasing the risk of connection point leaks by 60%. Having less connections helps reduce the time it takes to install each assembly, improving efficiency and driving down labour costs.

Watch the video below to see how this works.

Through the DataCol and Itron partnership, Strongcast’s superior range of products are now available in New Zealand. DataCol take an agnostic, multi-vendor approach, which enables them to work with multiple meter brands. It gives New Zealand water utilities and councils the flexibility to use multi-meter networks, rather than replacing any current meters with vendor exclusive equipment.

DataCol saves clients’ time and money, while still producing reliable, quality results. The open technology framework of DataCol also protects their client’s investment – if another type of meter is added to the infrastructure in the future, it would still be possible to read its data using the DataCol solution.

To find out more about the benefits DataCol, Itron and Strongcast  can bring to your New Zealand water utility infrastructure, give Mark from DataCol a call on 021 416 311, or send him a message through the contact page.

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Electra Announces Sale of DataCol

Electra Group has entered into an agreement to sell the Datacol business including Australian activities to Wellington-based company, Arthur D. Riley and Co Ltd (‘ADR’).

The agreement is now unconditional with final settlement to occur on the 29th September.

Electra Group Chief Executive, Neil Simmonds says he has been working closely with the Board over the last year to conduct a strategic review of the Group’s business and the decision has been made to pursue other growth opportunities.

“DataCol has made a positive contribution to the overall performance of the Group over many years. We are grateful to the entire team for their efforts and achievements, particularly in transforming the business from an electricity meter reading business into a leading edge data collection, monitoring and management business that has quickly established a market dominant position in the New Zealand water reading market and managed to secure significant international contracts.”
“However, we believe that the future success of the business requires greater size and strength, and that the best way to achieve this is through market consolidation. By consolidating forces with ADR, the Board believes the combined operation can more quickly achieve the required economies of scale that will better position the business for future growth, and provide the most positive outcome for the business, its staff and clients.”

DataCol Today
Established in 1999, DataCol is a data collection, monitoring and management business that has gained widespread recognition for its service commitment and levels of innovation.

A fully owned subsidiary of Electra Group, DataCol employs 23 full time staff across it’s Christchurch head office and Auckland and Wellington branches.

DataCol’s heritage is as a successful provider of meter reading services across the electricity, gas and water sectors. Crucial to this success has been the development of the proprietary SevenX electronic meter reading software package.
The company’s electricity and gas customers include Contact Energy, Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy, Meridian Energy, Energy Online, TrustPower and Powershop. In just seven years it has secured 80% of the New Zealand water meter reading market, with clients including Watercare Services (Auckland) and Tauranga City Council, Waikato Councils, Christchurch and Dunedin City Councils as well as Sydney Water in Australia.

In the water sector, DataCol has partnered with many Irrigation Service companies as well as Meter and sensor vendors to provide comprehensive water monitoring and irrigation management solutions, helping water consent holders comply with government regulation and improve their water usage efficiency through better information and reporting.

In 2015 the company purchased a large player in the agricultural sector, Watermetrics, bringing together a large client base with DataCol’s market leading, proprietary remote data collection and monitoring system (Collect) to create a strong market proposition.

Who are ADR?
Established in 1909, Arthur D. Riley & Co. Ltd (ADR) is a wholly New Zealand owned company supplying and servicing the utility industry with special emphasis on electricity and water metering, and high voltage equipment for distribution networks.

The company is proud to represent a select group of manufacturers from across the globe, and the knowledge and competence of its technical personnel who supply solutions to clients in New Zealand, Australia and throughout the Pacific Islands.
Since 1989 they have been involved with the supply of handheld technology utilised by field staff, this has primarily focused on utility meter reading and parking enforcement solutions. Initially using overseas technology , in the late 90’s they committed to the development of their own solution for both meter reading and parking enforcement and management and have continued to develop and offer innovative solutions to their client base.

In recent years a change in ownership structure has created a focus on the need to consolidate their experience in the remote acquisition, monitoring, management and control. From being successful in the supply of Cybetec IP Gateways to Transpower, the acquisition of Control Systems (a SCADA integration company) and ADR’s recently announced acquisition of Abbey Systems – a successful SCADA hardware and Design company who has exposure in local, USA, Australian and South Asia markets – the Datacol acquisition further increases the experience and offering that they can bring to the market place.

Garth Mickell, Managing Director at Arthur D Riley & Co Ltd says the combined operation will strengthen ADR’s market position as a legacy meter reading provider, by being able to offer synergies and efficiencies in operations, and creating New Zealand’s leading data monitoring and management business. This allows the business to actively pursue opportunities both nationally and internationally, particularly in the data collection, monitoring and management sectors. “We are excited to be consolidating forces and to build on the excellent work that’s been achieved to date.”

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