April 6, 2021
How Utilities Can Accomplish a Successful AMI Deployment
The Insider Blog / 5 min read
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April 6, 2021
The Insider Blog / 5 min read
With advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), this process is streamlined significantly. There is no work order or truck dispatch because a single employee can read the meter and produce the final bill. This is just one example of how an AMI system can improve a utility’s operational efficiencies.
Because of its capability to capture and analyze vast amounts of actionable data, AMI has quickly become a worthwhile investment and leading solution to improve customer service, reduce costs and boost visibility into water distribution systems.
Some utilities experience buyer’s remorse with AMI because they don’t take full advantage of its capabilities or the system doesn’t provide the functionality that was expected. Both problems can be easily avoided.
Only using AMI to perform monthly billing reads is a waste. Instead, a mobile meter-reading solution would be just as effective and cost much less. And to assure a system meets all the municipality’s needs, its goals and objectives should be defined prior to purchase. Officials should clearly determine what business processes need improvement and how can near real-time data generated by AMI help meet those goals. This exercise will provide a clear path to selecting the best AMI solution.
Another scenario that’s problematic is when utilities end up with an AMI solution because it’s all that a vendor offers and not necessarily the best fit. Ideally, water managers should find a provider that offers a wide range of products and solutions that can also accommodate a wide variety of situations.
Most meter manufacturers, for instance, are going to sell either mechanical meters or electronic meters. However, Badger Meter offers both because many utilities have a preference. We also offer both traditional fixed-network data collector systems and cellular-based AMI solutions. While there are various scenarios where the fixed-network solution makes sense, cellular AMI is emerging as the more reliable and cost-effective option.
For long-term budget predictability, cellular AMI can be purchased in a Network as a Service (NaaS) contract. Utilities pay a set monthly fee to use the existing cellular network that is fully monitored, managed and maintained for them. Some of the key benefits of a cellular NaaS solution include:
The city water utility in Bedford, Texas—located between Fort Worth and Dallas—serves nearly 50,000 customers across its 10-square-mile city limits. In 2013, the city conducted a system survey and found that its water meters needed restoration and replacement. Initially, Bedford considered implementing mechanical meters with a drive-by system but determined that solution was too limited and that AMI would be a better long-term fit.
Based on feedback about AMI from water managers in surrounding cities, Bedford officials decided to launch a two-month pilot program, installing five E-Series® Ultrasonic water meters at locations throughout the city in hopes of verifying the meter accuracy and the success of meter-read transmissions to BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) Software as a Service (SaaS).
The pilot was a success and the city moved forward with a full-scale project. At completion, Bedford deployed more than 15,000 E-Series Ultrasonic meters for residential and commercial applications with ORION® Cellular LTE endpoints and began using BEACON AMA to manage its entire water system.
The pilot program, which began in 2017, helped Bedford become one of the first cities in the country to deploy a smart water solution utilizing a secure LTE cellular network. Officials there report vastly improved operational efficiencies, including better customer service experiences and more accurate meter reads—between 99.9 and 100 percent—across the entire system.
AMI offers the tools municipalities need to provide quality water at the lowest possible cost over the long term. By doing their homework before selecting a system, the AMI implementation has vastly improved the efficiency of water operations and is expected to provide Bedford with the strongest return on its investment.
AMI solutions are designed to be flexible to meet your utility’s unique needs. To assure a successful deployment, it’s important to consider the top goals you’re trying to achieve with an AMI system. Learn more about our infrastructure-free AMI solutions and then discuss your options with our professionals to help make your deployment a streamlined and successful one.