The industry of smart water meters is advancing rapidly as we address the challenges of measuring water accurately and detecting leakage. There are many options out there to choose from however without these features you may be buying into more bells and whistles rather than solving the most critical problems a smart water meter should solve.
As cities around the world are working on becoming smarter, the water industry needs to innovate to advance the integration into the new smart city infrastructure. Many cities around the world are still only on a trial basis for implementing smart water meters in residential buildings, agriculture, or industrial bulk water.
What is affected after implementing smart water meters?
Even larger cities with plenty of water resources for their population are starting to recognize the importance of conserving water, tracking water usage properly, and collecting data. In areas where there are major droughts, the conversations are circling around trying to figure out how to solve the water shortages with desalination plants, creating pipelines, and the dire need of an infrastructure upgrade.
When smart water meter systems are implemented, like in Australia, and the United Kingdom we can see the benefits to both the water utilities company and the customer.
From the water utilities point of view, by implementing the right infrastructure and systems, they can reduce water waste, offer flexible billing, increase revenue, balance energy costs, and engage the communities they are supporting.
On the customer’s end, the only two issues that count are savings, and customer satisfaction. Both are achieved with proper monitoring and data collection followed by alerts and billing adjustments.
Smart water meters need to have the following features to maximize management that allows for water utilities companies to provide quality service.
- Real-time web based monitoring
- Data Management
Real time web based monitoring
To effectively manage our water resources, we need to start with the basics of monitoring the consumption. The origin of monitoring water consumption was based on the need to start billing customers. As the infrastructure ages, and it doesn’t age well, monitoring takes on a whole new meaning. The ability to monitor needs to include leak detection, tracking trends and practices based on demand, and at a higher frequency.
Ultimately the underlying factor to monitoring success is the reliability of its accuracy. Based on what we have seen, due to the issues related to the current pandemic, manual readings and checks are not frequent enough and could be delayed even longer causing serious leaks to be undetected.
A system that is based on a real time feed and web based collection of data removes the blindfolds and focuses the water utilities companies to act based on the data collected.
It’s great to have smart water meters that are monitoring consumption and leaks, however relaying this information in an effective way is vital to being able to prioritize decisions. That is why connecting the smart water meter to a network that can deliver the data in real time and alerts about critical issues will enhance overall efficiency by reacting immediately to alerts and reduce water loss.
Alerts should notify you about any of the following issues and therefore give a complete picture of the operational health.
- Leaks in the system
- Attempts to tamper with water meters
- Unusually high or low flows
- Sudden and unexpected changes in water level and pressure
- Low battery levels in self-powered units
- Meter reading indications and CCW alarms
These networks come in handy when you have to manage water utilities in remote locations. This can reduce the amount of time staff needs to manually get a reading and would therefore be able to focus their time on more important issues.
When you have real time information about the status of the water flow and consumption, receiving alerts or notifications allow you to react with the appropriate response.
Water utilities around the globe are turning to end-to-end smart water management systems to enhance their operational and financial efficiency. Automated Meter Reading (AMR) or Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) systems combine wireless meters with advanced data collection device control products that can communicate with even the most remote water meters, including from underground pits. Data management software can turn them into a holistic water management solution.
The software should provide a collection of reports and statistical analyses to help manage and control the metering network. For example, the user could select an area to receive instant usage summaries, alerts, history information, and data on changes in usage patterns. This can then be translated into forecasting that can be used by the operations team to manage issues before they even happen.
One of the main issues that operation managers struggle to overcome is the integration of the smart water meter into existing software they are already using. The most common one is the billing software. The next generation of smart water meters are IoT ready and will integrate seamlessly into your current systems.
On the more technical side, there are also a variety of network protocols to choose, based on your operational needs. The choice depends on the size of your operation, size of the area, financial constrictions, security and battery life. The current protocols available in smart water metering are wM-Bus, LoRa, Sigfox, and the 3GPP technologies NB-IoT and eMTC. (Explaining these protocols will be available in an upcoming blog.)
Solving the Most Critical Problems
The advancement of smart water meters has one goal; protect our most precious resource. When choosing to upgrade make sure that it offers the flexibility you need to improve billing options for your customers, which improves customer satisfaction. In the case of AMR, residential water meter readings should be transmitted automatically to a centralized data center. In the case of AMI, two-way communications should support both automated readings as well as remote control of the meter. When it’s all said and done, the forecast should indicate that the smart water meter reduced non revenue water by detecting leakages.