The world is quickly evolving into the Internet of Things (IoT) as mobile devices proliferate into daily living. It’s impact has yet to be felt within water submetering—yet, it isn’t far off. Trends show that automation is here to stay with new markets in home and building automation becoming multimillion dollar industries.
Most automated metering reading (AMR) implementations are simple systems consisting of a radio and meter combination, plus a data collector with mainly phone line connectivity. These will eventually change as manufacturers introduce new technologies and Internet-dependent systems.
One company, Tehama Wireless, has a data collector that works through broadband routers within an apartment leasing office. Access to the data collector is through a server-based Internet.
Others are moving toward Internet-based meter reading such as Inovonics’ push to connect individual meters to the cloud. Some companies are pioneering server-based Internet data collection as a means of improving data management.
For billing companies, such as NWP Services Corporation (NWP), the move toward the Internet creates opportunities as well as challenges when implementing Internet-based data collection in multihousing environments.
As systems become more complex in their communications and metering infrastructure, customer service and billing options start to dominate the landscape. Leak detection and daily water usage notifications can help residents minimize high water usage and subsequent bills. These value-added options personalize water metering to the resident which tends to engender customer loyalty and improve customer perception of the billing process.
From a billing perspective, smart metering of apartment water provides better operations management and billing. The benefits of AMR lead to earlier detection of meter maintenance issues based on meter performance data being collected.
Priority can then be determined as to which meters need attention. Low usage, high usage or no data being received are indicators that smart metering easily identifies. This allows for rapid response and timely maintenance visits to correct the deficiencies noted through the AMR/billing connectivity.
Without this feedback from the local smart metering system, identifying maintenance or performance issues would be extremely difficult and time consuming, and require constant on-site meter evaluation.
Home and building automation systems will eventually filter down into submetering. This brings a new level of required technical expertise and knowledge in computer systems and wireless networks.
So far, the level of technical sophistication required to install AMR systems lags behind the today’s information technology trends. The main reason is the simplicity of most AMR devices and communications infrastructures. As companies cost leverage existing and future submetering AMR, the need for better and faster services, plus application benefits, will increase in importance. It will differentiate one billing company from another.
Resident expectations, based on mobile devices and Internet technologies, grows as they become aware of potential features of future metering systems.
The biggest unknown in submetering AMR is the question of integration. How far will automation integrate the various utilities (electric, water, and gas) within apartments and what technologies will dominate the landscape? It is these unknowns that the industry must someday answer.
Integration is a game changer and a disruptive element of technology innovation. As submetering AMR moves from legacy systems to open platforms and into the Internet of things, the focus will move from simple systems to complex technologies.
The move to empower residents with unique metering information goes beyond simple water billing. Complex technologies provide data mining and information granularity that benefit the resident, and the billing company that owns the metering system.
Like mobile devices, the information available from integrated smart metering systems add another dimension to the consumer experience.