What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)?

Jan. 3, 2022
Taking a deep dive into AMI

What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is an integrated system of equipment, communications, and information management systems for utilities to remotely collect customer water usage data in real time, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. AMI uses radio-based technology to read water meters, which eliminates the need for manual meter reads. 

How Advanced Metering Infrastructure Works

According to U.S. EPA, there are four main components of AMI: meters, a meter interface unit (MIU), other sensors, and remotely controlled variables. 

Meters measure the flow to a customer connection, after which the MIU receives a hardwired signal from the meter, converting this signal to a flow value, storing this flow value and then wirelessly transmitting the data to the information management system. Meters are often mechanical or solid-state meters.

These meters are often coupled with other sensor types including: pressure monitors; temperature sensors; acoustic sensors; and water quality monitors.  data is transmitted to the information management system, and can sometimes be incorporated into the utility's SCADA system.

The remotely controlled valves allow a utility to shut off or turn on water service at a customer connection from the information management system. 

Types of Water Meters Commonly Used in AMI Applications

Smart Meters 

Smart meters communicate readings to utilities for processing, analysis, and communication back to customers for billing, energy feedback, and time-based rates. 

Smart meters can also provide remote connect/disconnect, tamper detection, outage monitoring, voltage monitoring, and bidirectional measurement of electricity.

Ultrasonic Meter

Ultrasonic flow meters use ultrasonic technology to measure the velocity of a fluid flowing through a pipe. Transit time technology measures the time differential between signals sent upstream and downstream, and the transmitter processes signals from the transmitted sound wave frequency reflected off of gas bubbles or particles to determine the flow rate.

Who Uses Advanced Metering Infrastructure? 

In the water industry, utilities implement AMI for operational efficiencies and cost savings.

According to EPA, AMI is also a surveillance component because it generates data and alerts that may indicate system contamination or tampering. Additionally, the data gathered through the meters can also be relayed to the end user or customer to give them more insight into their water usage. With these data points, utilities can also improve messaging on water conservation and show how the customer compares to their neighbors in water usage.

AMI can provide utilities real time notification of backflow from a customer connection and meter tampering, which could indicate accidental or intentional introduction of a contaminant into a water distribution system. 

What are the benefits of Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

Benefits of Advanced Metering Infrastructure include: improved utility operations; improved water conservation; leak detection; and enhanced security and resilience. 

AMI solutions are scalable, so utilities may implement the system in stages depending on their budgets and needs. AMI fully automates meter reading, billing and data collection processes, making it a sustainable long-term solution for utilities.

According to the Department of Energy Efficiency, AMI projects proceed through several stages: initial exploration; feasibility study; procurement and contract negotiations; installation; operation and maintenance; and business process transformation. 

Despite the efficiency of AMI systems, they are often costly, but nonetheless pivotal to preventing non-revenue water losses and protecting water resources.

What is the difference between AMI & AMR?

Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology enables accurate and timely meter reading, which occurs through the installation of a radio-based meter module called an ERT module on a new or existing water meter. The readings are collected by a meter reader using a handheld or vehicle-based radio device, or by a fixed network system.

 An AMR system means meter readers no longer need to enter customers' home, yet AMR is quickly being replaced by utilities with AMI, as AMI provides improved system reliability and future operational efficiencies. In comparison to AMR, AMI allows for a drop in labor due to efficiency, so utilities can focus their attention elsewhere. 

About the Author

Cristina Tuser

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