City of Sunnyvale, California Case Study
The need for increased efficiency and real-time data, without increasing infrastructure, leads to a move towards a new AMA solution
The city of Sunnyvale, California had been looking at improving efficiency from its current AMR and manual read systems for over ten years. When the city also started receiving requests from commercial utility clients for real-time water use data for conservation efforts, utility managers knew they needed a solution that could automate their data collection and provide information at a granular level, without having to build and/ or manage more infrastructure. After considering many options, Sunnyvale made the decision to move to a new fixed network AMI system and selected the Badger Meter BEACON Advanced Metering Analytics solution for its ability to meet all of its needs.
The city immediately started using 75+ Badger Meter cellular endpoints and the BEACON AMA software suite to streamline efficiency and gain better access to useable, instantaneous data for some of its commercial customers. Because of the ability of BEACON AMA to be up and running quickly, without the city having to install infrastructure or manage technology, Sunnyvale was able to provide a cost effective and useful service to its commercial customers.
Increased efficiency, reduced infrastructure and a managed solution
One of the main barriers for the city when deciding on an AMI system was that most solutions required additional infrastructure in order to get to the next level of information the city needed. The city also knew it did not have the in-house technical expertise to work with a complicated system. BEACON AMA offered an immediate solution that combined cellular infrastructure and an easy to use software product to give the utility the fast, real-time data its customers were demanding.
“Utilities are always looking for savings and efficiencies in all aspects of their business,” says Tim Kirby, Assistant Director of Finance for Sunnyvale. “Managed solutions such as this help by providing the technology and infrastructure that municipalities and utilities usually would have been forced to deal with themselves. By having a managed solution, it puts the burden on the vendor and not with the utility, so we don’t have to worry about it. We don’t have to maintain anything outside our area of expertise.”
As Kirby also noted, “Cellular is going to be one of the first things to be recovered in a disaster. So, here in California where we have earthquakes, one of the first things that will come back online will be the cellular infrastructure. That will ensure the utility remains financially sound by getting us up and running again and our revenue coming in more quickly than if we had to try and bring back our own infrastructure.”
Reduced customer complaints, enhanced customer service
BEACON AMA offers an interface that is easy to use for both the utility and its customers. By utilizing the BEACON AMA software suite, the city can easily access and manage exact, real-time data. This gives the city a troubleshooting tool for any customer complaints or maintenance issues that may arise. Because the city has access to accurate data that is collected continuously, it can easily point to specific occurrences on the customer’s utility bill to help decipher where and how a discrepancy might have occurred. Customers can then work with the utility to fix any leaks or determine when their water use may have exceeded their expectations. Through the use of a future smart phone app, customers will also have the ability to see the amount of water they are using and when they are using it.
“All customers are being driven to mobile applications – water utilities should be no different. Customers do not want to be tied to their desktop computer,” says Kirby.
Better, continuous information leads to long term conservation goals being met
For Sunnyvale, conservation is a critical issue. The city realized it will face long-term water supply issues as the cost of water continues to increase. The city knew it needed a solution that could communicate to customers how much water they were using and when they had leaks. When end water customers have instantaneous information and know how much water they use, they can make behavioral changes to help control long term water costs and conserve resources. BEACON AMA gives those customers the ability to manage their use themselves – reactively. It also enables the city to reach out to its end water customers during times of drought and meet its overall conservation goals.
Future deployment for more customers
Moving forward into a wider implementation, the city will deploy 500 more Badger Meter cellular endpoints over the next two years and would like to expand BEACON AMA city-wide within the next five to ten years.
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