Going Against the Flow – Upgrading to AMR

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The promise of smart data, less upkeep costs and higher revenue is certainly alluring for water providers.

With seemingly constant media articles around the number of many water providers making the transition to AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), it can place pressure on other utilities to follow suit and also make the leap. Often, the argument is that AMI is the best technology available. Others say it’s the way of the future and everyone will eventually have to make the shift in order to obtain the volume of metering data remotely and regularly.

But before falling into the trap of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, it is wise to evaluate the alternatives? It is then a case of asking, ‘what is the best fit for my utility?’

Smart meters and networks are steadily being rolled out across America and other developed countries. Massive government and industry investments have been poured into this endeavour to create a more efficient water network with increased visibility of data for all parties involved.

AMI: one size doesn’t fit all

With water data updated constantly, water providers have a better understanding of real time water usage peaks and troughs. But are these benefits really worth the billions of dollars invested?

Often, the justification of increased water bills for customers due to AMI deployments is that by empowering customers with real time data on their water consumption, they will decrease their water usage. This in turn will decrease the region’s water consumption by a certain percentage.

However, the critical missing element is that people don’t change their behaviour simply because their water utility installs a new meter on their property. It takes time, motivation and considerable education for a person to change their well-formed mind-sets and behaviour patterns.

With so much time going into planning; so many promises waiting to be fulfilled; and so, so much money being invested, are AMI networks really the best option for all water networks across America?

Switching to AMR

Not all water companies can realistically jump from a MMR to AMI system, for financial and infrastructure reasons. However, there is a better option that avoids the leap of faith across the chasm from Manual Meter Reading to AMI. An option which gives water utilities greater bang for their buck, less stress and not nearly as much infrastructure upgrading.

The middle ground is implementing AMR (Automatic Meter Reading). Taking this step up from MMR involves adding equipment to the current infrastructure, rather than applying a complete network overhaul. This vastly more affordable option also helps the utility benefit from similar positive impacts of installing an AMI system.

This intermediate upgrade is also a smoother transition for staff. Rather than having to train them to use a completely different system, AMR technology integrates into familiar systems.

AMR enhances processes rather than replacing them with something completely new.

AMI and AMR are both beneficial processes to implement across utilities. However, not all utilities should justify the incredible investment necessary to apply AMI to their network when an AMR alternative is more affordable, with similar benefits.

If you would like to further discuss your options around water metering and everything involved, please visit our stand at DistribuTECH 2016, booth 969 (near the delegates lunch area)

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