An Overview of Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Customer usage is an essential measurement in a water distribution system. Knowing what customers use promotes accurate billing and provides data about future needs. Previous generations of water metering technology involved an employee taking a physical reading inside a customer’s house. Advanced metering solutions allow water utilities to receive remote real-time information.
The Need for Water Metering
The water meter sits at the connection between the water system and a customer’s home. Measurements at this junction provide billing data for the water utility. However, equipped with the right technology, the meter is an opportunity to gather other insights about the system. Sensors on an AMI water meter can measure factors like temperature, pressure, and quality.
From AMR to AMI
Automatic meter reading is a cost-saving technology currently in use by many water utilities. AMR speeds the meter reading process by ending the need to enter customer homes. Instead, a radio transmitter sends a signal from the meter to the outside. Meter readers can take a reading with a handheld device or by driving through the neighborhood in a specially-equipped truck.
AMI systems are the next step in gathering water use information. A meter interface sends a digital signal with AMI data to the water system. The water system receives real-time information from the AMI water meter without employees needing to drive to the location.
What Is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?
AMI is a collection of measuring and communications technology that streamlines gathering information about water use for utilities. Using this technology, water utilities will have a real-time picture of system usage and faster response times to problems. At a customer’s house, the advanced metering solution has four parts.
The AMI Meter
Like water meters for decades, an AMI meter measures the volume of water entering a building. This water use measurement determines the amount of a customer’s bill each month. One of the advantages of an AMI system is that the meter can send real-time alerts if there is unusual activity.
The Meter Interface
The AMI meter interface connects the meter and the larger communications systems. Meter readings go to the interface, which transmits them at predetermined intervals. The utility can also ping the interface to receive an immediate reading.
If equipped, the interface will also send self-monitoring messages to the utility. Some units will report low battery issues. Meters with GPS technology will send alerts about location changes that indicate tampering.
A basic meter will include sensors that report volume and flow rate. Water utilities may choose to equip some or all of the meters in a system with additional sensors. With this technology, they can receive information about factors like system pressure, water quality issues, and temperature changes.
Connecting or disconnecting a home from the system once required an in-person home visit. An AMI system may come equipped with a remote-controlled valve. The water utility can quickly turn service on and off without entering the home.
The Benefits of AMI Systems
The primary benefit of adopting an advanced metering infrastructure is the real-time information it provides. The technology gives an instant view of what is happening at any point in the distribution system. This knowledge will streamline functions like billing and maintenance planning.
AMI enhances the security of the water system by sending alerts when there are signs of tampering or other unusual behavior. Units with RC valves can also close off portions of the system in an emergency.
The initial cost of installing AMI equipment is expensive, but the technology provides long-term cost savings. Utility companies will spend less money on labor without monthly physical meter readings. Shut off protocols and tampering alerts will prevent wasted water.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure and SCADA
A supervisory control and data acquisition system is a natural fit with an advanced metering infrastructure. SCADA takes data from sensors throughout a larger system and sends them to a central computer for collection and analysis. The sensors in an AMI water meter can function as part of the utility’s SCADA system. As the SCADA solution registers unusual trends, it will send alerts to managers who will send out crews quickly and efficiently.
Changes in water pressure may indicate a leaky distribution pipe. The SCADA system can analyze AMI data from a cluster of meters to pinpoint the location, saving time and money.
Cloud-Based SCADA Solutions for the Water Industry
High Tide Technologies develops and provides cloud-based SCADA solutions for the water and wastewater industries. Operating SCADA in the cloud allows workers and managers to access sensor data at any location on their mobile devices. This configuration leads to a more efficient and responsive operation. To learn more about the benefits of SCADA for your water system, contact us today.