AMI systems provide utilities with a more complete picture of current energy and resource use which in turn allows for greater efficiencies in reads and improved customer service. By allowing utilities to provide a more analytic structure to their technologies, AMI infrastructures better enable leak detection and provide a convergence of new technologies.

WHY AMI?
As the global utility market continues to change and grow, it is critical that utilities stay ahead of this growing technology. An investment in AMI can allow utilities to meet the challenges around customer service and meter data collection and management. AMI’s open standard functionality helps ensure that investments continue to deliver for both utilities and their customers.

AMI systems enable utilities to receive interval data. This technology provides a more advanced functionality which leads to remote global network management, as well as detection of tampering and leakage. AMI systems provide the customers themselves with the empowerment to better manage their own water use, which in turn leads to increases in conservation and awareness. Reductions in pumping costs and increases in advanced leak detection and distribution system reliability can provide substantial raises to overall profitability and efficiencies. Utilities mindful of these benefits are looking to a more “intelligent metering” system in the form of AMI.

AMI vs AMR: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
In order to make a decision about which solution is best, global utilities must recognise the differences between the two systems so as to determine which solution best fits their model. AMI solutions provide utilities with the ability to collect timely and granular data from all electricity, gas or water meter customers remotely and automatically, and then apply that data to improve reliability and efficiency, expand customer choices, and create new rates and programmes. These solutions also offer water and energy utilities similar functionality with interval data collection to build customer load profiles to define who is using how much and when.

Traditional AMR systems, on the other hand, provide utilities with the ability to collect monthly billing data from electricity, gas and water meters remotely and automatically via several different communications media including wireless, power line carrier, telephone, etc. These systems offer utilities lowered meter reading costs, the elimination of customer premise intrusions, increased read accuracy and reduced cost through automation.

MAKING THE SWITCH TO AMI
Many organisations, especially in the water utility industry, are looking to AMI solutions to provide them with a more consistent and efficient method of meter data collection and management. The primary reasons behind this transition include the need for a more open communications system as well as improved reliability and efficiency.

Utilities that have brought AMI solutions into their scope are able to provide their customers with a more analytic technology, providing full two-way communication to each meter. This functionality allows for multiple channel interval data collection and takes into account an integrated mass market demand response. In short, AMI solutions provide a built-in communication pathway to the home, enabling extensive “smart grid” functionality.

AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON AMI
Water utilities throughout the world encounter challenges every day ranging from deregulation issues to the need to build a “culture of conservation”. Utilities in markets such as Australia and France recognise the value in improved functionality with interval data collection, primarily in the benefits of increased knowledge on the part of the utility as well as improved customer service efforts.

For locations such as Europe and Australia, conservation issues are critical as water utilities deal constantly with high prices as well as constraints to energy supplies and capacity. These challenges provide water utilities with the opportunity to look to the next wave of meter data collection and management, in the form of AMI.

From a demographic perspective, international utilities are constantly faced with the need to consider population usage and trends, changing regulatory issues, energy provider changes and additional challenges that require a more open system.

LOOKING FORWARD
Today’s water utility industry is one that is becoming more and more global. With the entrance of open systems like AMI, there are many considerations for the global water market to take into account as they consider implementing new ways of meter data collection and management.

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