Focus on “smart water,” ultrasonic metering, IoT networks, the impact of broader ROI and cellular technologyBadger Meter, a leading global innovator and manufacturer of flow measurement, control and communications solutions, have shared the key trends predicted to shape the water utility industry in 2018. The following 2018 trends reflect on this experience:
The 2018 trends include:
- “smart water” and “smart city”
- Mechanical vs. ultrasonic meters
- IoT cellular networks
- The impact of a broader ROI
- The move from mobile AMR to AMA/AMI
“At Badger Meter, we like to say smart cities require smarter water. That idea leads this year’s top five trends for 2018,” said John Fillinger, director of utility marketing at Badger Meter. “In 2017, we saw continued interest and growth in cellular communications, managed solutions, Software as a Service and the importance of the meter. This year, while there is some carryover, we are also seeing a focus on the broader implications of these technologies, such as increased interest in the flexibility and adaptability of cellular network solutions. Above all, utilities are demanding new innovations in meter reading technologies in order to generate broader savings beyond non-revenue water.”
The key water themes predicted to shape 2018 are:
“Smart Water” and “Smart City.” Stronger cellular networks are allowing water utilities across the country to build “smarter” water systems. Beyond the water system, these smarter solutions translate more broadly to how a city operates. For instance, by implementing Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) with cellular endpoints, cities are not forcing a one size fits all proprietary solution on to other departments within the city. Since cellular endpoints utilize existing cellular networks, utilities are not forced to install additional infrastructure that requires large scale deployment to justify its use. The flexibility of cellular networks can also support sensors for a city’s parking meters, lights, transportation, public safety and more. This interoperability allows the utility to implement solutions that are required for their specific Smart City applications.
Not all metering companies share the information collected through a network. Since the data collected is owned by the utility, Badger Meter encourages utilities to maximize their use of data for greater efficiency. More and more water utilities are seeing this as a critical feature to ensure that any reading system deployed drives greater operational efficiency across the utility and that data is accessible across the entire utility to facilitate proactive and informed decisions.
Mechanical versus ultrasonic meters. As utilities investigate cellular solutions with cloud-based software, they are quickly learning that the system is only as good as the data that is being provided. This is why the water meter matters and is taking on an even greater importance within an AMA system deployment. In addition to the growing trend towards flexible infrastructure-free cellular network solutions, water utilities are also demanding water meters that are more accurate across a wider flow range, more reliable and that support the goals of the utility. In 2018, interest in ultrasonic meters as the technology of choice for reliable and accurate meter reading will continue to accelerate. Unlike mechanical meters, ultrasonic meters, use high-frequency sound waves to measure flows. This technology helps water utilities extend low flow accuracy to measure small volumes of water and detect small leaks, as well as improve reliability.
The IoT cellular networks. With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), water utilities are in a prime position to capitalize on the flexible solutions now being offered as part of these networks. Existing secure and reliable cellular technology is leading the growth of IoT and Smart City deployments. And, with the release of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, which includes cellular networks developed specifically for IoT applications, record growth and deployment is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In fact, the ease, reliability and security offered through cellular connectivity is expected to drive more than 26 billion IoT connected devices by the year 2020, according to the research firm, Gartner – with more water utilities deploying these tools than ever before.
When deployed at full capacity, the new LTE-M and Cat 1 networks, which impact IoT solutions such as smart metering and other “smart city” services, will offer extended coverage and a longer battery life for smart devices. These new networks even improve connectivity underground and deep within buildings – something especially important for water utilities. By enhancing IoT coverage, connectivity and lifespan, the new LTE network can help water utilities more efficiently manage existing resources.
The impact of a broader ROI. More and more, utilities are thinking about the broader return on investment (ROI) implications of their water metering systems. Beyond reducing non-revenue water, water utilities want their systems to provide greater efficiency and reliability, including:
- Reduced truck rolls,
- Reduced time spent resolving issues/managing customer service issues,
- Extended lifespan of equipment,
- Greater flexibility with employee time, and
- Greater services provided to utility end water consumers.
Every day, water utility teams deal with the stresses of managing their systems. With the introduction of new advanced technologies, they are seeking innovative systems that share the workload. To address these concerns, many utilities are transitioning to cloud-computing software, or software as a service (SaaS) solutions. These cloud-based platforms are quick to deploy, do not require any hardware purchases, include automatic software updates and can be scaled up or down as needed, which means peace of mind for the utility.
The move from mobile AMR to AMA/AMI. In the recent U.S. Smart Water Infrastructure: Market Forecast report, built from surveys and interviews with water utilities nationwide, the Northeast Group cited that the industry is seeing an ongoing shift toward Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) versus mobile Automated Meter Reading (AMR). In other words, the water metering industry is noticing that the time has come for utilities to begin investing in the latest AMA technology for new system deployments.
Because meter reading needs vary by utility, mobile will continue to be a part of ongoing product strategy. To support all levels of utility technology, the Badger Meter BEACON AMA has the flexibility to be deployed alongside any ORION mobile endpoint for AMR as customer’s transition to a more advanced system. This is where the relationship between the metering manufacturer, metering distributor and water utility plays a vital role. Having a team of smart and experienced customer service managers can help water utilities thoughtfully determine the best solution for their needs.