Bruce A. Bharat is product marketing manager of Advanced Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) for Elster AMCO Water, Inc. With all the recent success of AMR technology in the water and wastewater market, WWD spoke with Bharat about the technology’s challenges, solutions, new products and AMR’s impact on the industry.
WWD: What new products/services did Elster AMCO offer at AWWA ACE07?
Bruce Bharat: We displayed evoValve, which is a remote-valve-actuation technology, and evoTrak in-home display units, as well as advanced hybrid- register technology and solid-state, fluidic-oscillator residential meters.
WWD: What sort of impact do you feel these products will have on the industry?
Bharat: The excitement generated with our initial customer offerings has been incredible. The water industry has been longing for an AMR/AMI product that provides true migrate-ability (mobile to fixed with a single endpoint), advanced functionality beyond meter readings, remote valve actuation that they get with evoValve and the in-home display units with evoTrak.
WWD: What are some of the larger AMR-related issues affecting the industry?
Bharat: Increasing efficiency with fewer human resources, conservation, increased revenue and cash flow, proactive customer service and liability.
WWD: How can these problems be solved?
Bharat: Reading meters every day without sending personnel into the field allows utility personnel to focus on value-added services. Data logging allows the utility to track usage and enforce water restrictions in times of drought. Time-of-use billing allows a utility to reward customers who modify their usage to utilize off-peak time; evoTrak allows the end customer to easily monitor their usage according to TOU cycles; evolution saves gas and environmental pollution by reducing or eliminating the need to have utility vehicles carry out unnecessary reads or shut-offs.
With problems in proactive customer service, customer complaints can be resolved in real time, immediate reads and data logging can be done over the phone, and data is available for end-user access via the Internet.
WWD: Do you have any advice for municipalities that have not yet invested in AMR?
Bharat: Utilities must not simply look at AMR/AMI as a way of improving reading efficiency. Today’s utility must take a holistic look at its metering infrastructure. The meter has been accurately described as the “cash register” of the utility. Elster AMCO Water believes that the future of the water industry demands that utilities look at meters as the “interface node” between themselves and the end-user.
Maintaining the AMR/AMI investment is of paramount importance. Most of North America’s 54,000-plus utilities are not in a position to fully implement a fixed-network AMI system. Therefore, true migration of a system from AMR to AMI is needed.
Many of the more rural utilities will have areas of their system that are not conducive to a fixed network. Therefore, the ability to have a hybrid AMR/AMI system is desirable. Utilities will benefit from AMR/AMI systems that empower them with data from the end user. The utility benefits by increased revenue, truly efficient customer service and improved conservation.
WWD: What percentage of municipalities in the U.S. have implemented water-related AMR?
Bharat: We believe that AMR has approximately 25% saturation in the market; however, that is not to say that there is only 75% of the market remaining to be upgraded to AMR/ AMI. Many of the early adopters of AMR purchased systems with very short battery lives. As a result, we feel that many of these initial adopters will soon be upgrading their systems to a new AMI-enabled system.