For public and private water utilities who are considering making a meter system upgrade, the question of what kind of meter reading solution to implement can be challenging to answer. This is especially true when it comes to AMI, or advanced metering infrastructure, because there are some misconceptions about the technology. Regardless of these misconceptions, the simple fact is that outdated meter reading systems contribute to the nation’s problem of non-revenue water. You can learn more about that problem here. Fortunately, AMI technology can drastically reduce the amount of non-revenue water in a given community and provide a wide range of other benefits for water utilities and their customers alike. Learn about the myths and facts of AMI technology to help you decide if an AMI system upgrade is the right choice for your community.
5 myths and facts about AMI systems
Fact: AMI systems increase the speed and quality of meter read collection.
AMI systems do not require utility personnel to be involved in the collection of meter reads and meter data. Most AMI systems can provide meter data for all the meters in a system that is less than 24 hours old. The opportunity for meter reading errors is eliminated since data is transmitted from the endpoint through the AMI system and into the meter reading software without human interaction. This can help you provide your customers a better experience since bills can be issued more frequently (as in monthly, for example) and they can be guaranteed to be error-free.
Fact: AMI systems do much more than just provide accurate meter reads.
In addition to a current basic meter read, most AMI systems provide a history of hourly meter reads that can be stored for multiple years. A database of hourly meter reads allows for sophisticated reporting and performance monitoring. This can help your utility prepare more efficiently for state-required reporting, comply with conservation measures, and allow you to provide consumption profiles to your customers. Beyond meter reads, many AMI systems provide additional information such as leak, backflow and no-flow detection in addition to tamper alarms.
Myth: AMI systems are too expensive to implement.
The belief that an AMI system upgrade is financially out of reach is not true for many water utilities. The costs of AMI systems have come down significantly over the last decade and have been economically feasible for years. Most AMI systems have a financial payback of less than seven years as many recurring operating costs are reduced with the automated reading technology. Given that most AMI systems on the market today are designed and warrantied to last 15 years or more, upgrading to an AMI system can be a smart long-term investment.
Pro tip: Capital project financing allows utilities to budget for a meter system upgrade, which can ultimately lead to increased revenue over time. Ferguson Waterworks can help you understand the financial benefits of financing an AMI system upgrade for your utility organization. Contact us to request more information about a complimentary analysis.
Myth: AMI system technology is one-size-fits-all.
There are different types of technologies utilized by different AMI manufacturers, but all of them utilize radio frequency transmissions to transmit meter information through the AMI system. Some AMI systems rely on collectors with antennas installed around the distribution system to collect these endpoint transmissions, while others utilize infrastructure provided by third-party partners. Because AMI technology varies from one manufacturer to the next, you can select the system based on the particular needs of your community and scale it to fit your existing infrastructure.
Fact: It’s wise to partner with an expert when deploying an AMI system.
AMI systems are robust in nature and require multiple components, hardware devices and software integrations to coordinate seamlessly in order to operate. Licensed contractors are typically required to install the AMI infrastructure. Additionally, personnel from various segments of a public works department or utility organization must also work together in order to execute the implementation of an AMI system. This can include members of utility finance, customer service, IT and operations. Minimum implementation is six months but typically takes 12 to 18 months when endpoints are installed in the field. For these reasons, it is heavily recommended that you partner with an experienced distributor with project management experience to streamline the AMI system deployment process.