As automatic meter reading becomes commonplace, utilities are able to operate more effectively and provide better customer service. WWD Assistant Editor Nicole Bowling recently spoke with Rob Bissey, president of Eastern Meter Management Assn., about metering challenges and trends.
Nicole Bowling: What are the latest trends in automatic meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI)?
Rob Bissey: AMR and AMI systems are more widely available now than they have ever been. They are allowing utilities to improve customer care by giving them the ability to answer questions quickly and accu- rately without trips to the field. Also, AMR leak detection for distribution systems and service line connections, using either drive-by or fixed-base AMR, is reducing non-revenue water loss. Related to this are alarm features with AMR. Utilities can monitor a customer’s leak detection, tampering, empty pipe, reverse flow or backflow.
Bowling: What are the biggest metering challenges that utilities are facing?
Bissey: A big one is customer education. Before you roll out any new AMR or AMI system, you need to educate the public about what you are doing so they have a better under- standing of how it will actually affect them. This way, you will minimize push back and ensure them that it is not “Big Brother” watching them.
Bowling: Have you come across any interesting projects lately?
Bissey: I read an article in the February 2012 issue of Water & Wastes Digest about a Kansas municipality that implemented the AquaSense water management solution from Sensus. This was really interesting.
Bowling: What are the latest technologies you are excited about?
Bissey: It depends on whether you are a public or private utility and what you want to obtain while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Two-way and one-way systems are very different, but I haven’t seen anything over the top. Mueller is making a reading and billing system that is neat because it has relay points that you can stick on utility poles to boost a subdivision to another collector if it is out of range of the main collector. It also has a relay point that actually goes in the cap of a fire hydrant, which water utilities obviously deal with. Another neat feature is that it has a meter with a valve actually on it, so if you have a customer that you want to put on reduced service or turn off for non-payment, you can do it right through the meter system. Also, the latest thing we have seen at Eastern Meter Management is a meter from Capstone Metering that uses a Wi-Fi system for reading.
Bowling: What are your predictions for the future of AMR and AMI?
Bissey: I see it growing in use. Everyone is looking at it and the technology is getting better. I think the leading vendors out there are constantly improving on their products. I foresee down the road some new products that we haven’t even thought about.
Bowling: How can members of the metering industry keep up with the technology?
Bissey: I think the biggest thing to help with this is an organization like Eastern Meter Management. We get together quarterly and our slogan is, “Sharing the experience.” We’ll have a jam session where we go around the room and everyone gets to talk about what projects they have going on, what vendor they’re using and problems they have had. We also have vendors come and show us new products. They give us suggestions and we give them suggestions about what we would like to see as well. Being a member of an association and sharing your experiences really makes a difference, especially when you roll out big projects.