Migrating from AMR to AMI: A Case Study

AMR drive by/walk by solutions are certainly preferable to manual water meter reading. However, typically AMR is a one-way solution (i.e., the meters are read-only) and the data collected are both unsynchronized and limited. Thus, AMR data are suitable for billing systems, but not for the more sophisticated analytics that 21st century water utilities need in order to significantly improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

AMI solutions, on the other hand, are two-way solutions, with a wide range of smart end-points providing synchronized data on an hourly basis. The result is smarter alerts for operators and consumers, and sophisticated network management.

Despite the clear ROI, it is not a simple decision to migrate from an AMR to an AMI infrastructure. Organizations and stakeholders (employees, customers) tend to be change-aversive and there is no question that an AMI roll-out is a complex project which, if not managed properly, can lead to disappointment and frustration.

At the Smart Water Systems Conference that took place in London on April 29-30, 2015, Tal Zur, VP Software & IT of Arad Technologies, discussed the key success factors to be addressed when migrating to an AMI solution:

  • Choosing between a proprietary AMI system (such as Arad, Itron, Sensus, Elster, etc.) and an interoperable, open protocol system (which are not yet mature).
  • System installation that provides maximum coverage and implemented in a manner that ensures business continuity. It is also important that installation be accompanied by a PR campaign that prepares the public for the new system.
  • Choosing the right MDM solution (SAAS, vendor, correct feature set, etc.) and carrying out an incremental, prioritized implementation.

objectivesTal then provided a brief case study of a successful AMR-AMI migration carried out by Arad against an aggressive timeline (12 months) in a mid-sized town in Texas (26.3 square miles, 100,000 residents, 35,000 Dialog3G AMR meters installed):

Step One: Allegro™ 2-way AMI Implementation:

  • Licensed frequency 450 -475Mhz
  • Fully synchronized
  • 24 hourly readings
  • Interrupt alerts
  • 1 base station: range 3-4 miles, capacity up to 75,000 units
  • Plans for 5-7 repeaters: range 7-8 miles, capacity 1,000 units
  • Installation tool: Harmony™ MDM (field team and work order management)
  • Bottom line: Installed at a rate of up to 200 meters per day, resulting in 99.6% coverage

Step Two: Harmony™ MDM Implementation:

  • Took a “less is more” approach, starting with billing (an easy starting point) and then implementing other interfaces in a step-wise manner
  • Reports, alerts, dashboard were customized according to the utility’s unique requirements

Step Three: Human Capital: Appropriate personnel were recruited to take ownership of the system (IT, billing, water preservation, customer support, field reps) and trained.

The result after these three steps was immediate value to the customer:

  • Customer engagement (phone app + portal)
  • Simple NRW alerts: home leaks, water theft
  • Field team management

The implementation will continue in order to ultimately achieve the desired end-points:

  • Automated processes
  • Customer letters and alerts
  • Work order management
  • Advanced NRW alerts: Leaks, DMA
  • Comprehensive analytics module

We would like to thank Tal for sharing his presentation with us and we will give him the last word.
“I believe that AMI has tremendous value to water utilities but I would also urge them to choose an experienced vendor who can guide them safely through the process and then be a long-term partner for success.”

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