By Arnaud Brunelle

Every day, water utilities require more comprehensive information in order to supply high class water services in an efficient way. Thanks to years of field service and proven reliability, mobile data collection is ready to answer the needs of utilities by offering enhanced functionalities.

Over the last 10 years, water utilities and service companies have adopted radio mobile reading systems, primarily to reduce the cost of meter data collection. Mobile reading is proven to significantly increase meter reading speed and avoid risk of reading errors. It also improves meter reader safety and customer satisfaction by eliminating the need for the meter reader to intrude into private facilities. Today, radio mobile data collection is widely used by water utilities throughout the world for their basic invoicing process.

This wireless technology is now recognised as being mature and cost efficient, and Itron has been a major player in achieving this recognition. Itron was a pioneer in introducing, 15 years ago, the principle of inductive detection (trademarked Cyble) to ensure the highest level of data transmission reliability between its full range of water meters and its radio modules.

With more than 50 million radio modules currently installed on meters in the field around the world, Itron has continuously developed and upgraded in order to maintain a high level of radio performance. The issue today is no longer to improve a technology that has reached an optimum level of reliability, but to make the most of it in terms of functionalities and return on investment for a smarter management of water resources.

Being “smart” means being able to record consumption data and to turn it into valuable information.

Itron was one of the first companies to go beyond the simple transmission of basic meter index and since 2000 has introduced integrated monthly fixed date readings, leak detection and backflow alarms in its radio modules.

Now with its latest generation of radio modules, Itron offers utilities the chance to benefit from unprecedented functionalities using their classic mobile data collection system.

As an example, one of the largest Indian water utilities which reads water meters every three months now requires daily meter indexes. The objective is to accurately monitor usage patterns and provide consumers with a better understanding of how water is used. The new generation of radio modules developed by Itron allows them to collect a history of up to 180 daily meter indexes through their usual quarterly mobile reading process.

In Australia, where water conservation is a national priority, detailed knowledge of consumption profiles has become an important management tool for utilities. Itron’s new radio modules provide new functions like consumption over the flow rate threshold and consumption within predefined day/time interval (time-of-use). Utilities now have all the data required to verify the effectiveness of water conservation programs, to implement time-based rate programs, if necessary, and to optimise their production capacity planning.

In France, a municipal water utility had to invoice all its customers using consumption index at a fixed accounting date. However, due to a limited number of employees it took one full month to read all their meters. The new generation of Itron radio modules has alleviated this problem by allowing them to separate billing and reading dates. Volume indexes are recorded in the radio modules at four preset billing dates throughout the year, irrespective of actual reading dates. All customers are then invoiced based on a fixed period of consumption.

The utility also benefits from this function being able to accurately calculate its water network efficiency and non-revenue water ratio. As all meter indexes are recorded at exactly the same preset date and time, the sum of all consumed volumes can easily be compared with the information given by the network meters.

Another utility in Germany required revenue protection services after it discovered that most of the commercial and industrial meters were significantly oversized, with the meters offering poor accuracy at flow rates where water consumption was the highest. With Itron’s new radio modules, clear indicators are regularly received when the meters are incorrectly sized. The utility can validate its new meter sizing decision by looking at actual peak flow values, total volume below and above flow rate thresholds; this data is all recorded automatically in the radio modules.

Whatever the various challenges, the new versatile Itron radio module, part of the new AnyQuestTM mobile data collection solution, delivers enhanced functionalities to help worldwide utilities and service companies get the most out of their mobile reading process.

Anywhere, Anytime, AnyQuest.