ARB® and R900®: Progressive and Conservative at the Same Time
From the start, R900® radio frequency (RF) technology was designed by Neptune to meet the needs of utilities as they grow. Serving as a foundation for migration to advanced Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), the R900 allows extended functionality from ARB Mobile to ARB® FixedBase™ AMR.
Together with Neptune’s 8-digit-resolution E-Coder®, the R900 Meter Interface Unit (MIU) helps save time, allowing utilities to capture reads in days or hours that would otherwise take weeks. Additionally, money is saved with the reduced need for man-hours in the field and the ability to reassign personnel to other tasks that otherwise would have to wait. Billing cycles and cash flow are improved.
With the additional migration capability Neptune now offers, this R900-based AMR system not only saves time and money but also becomes a useful conservation tool as well – in more ways than one. Through the data provided by an ARB FixedBase AMR System, utilities can pursue water conservation initiatives, help further reduce their carbon footprints, and preserve the technology investment they’ve already made in the field.
Moving On Up – Migration Made Easy
In an era where money doesn’t go quite as far as it once did, it’s encouraging to have a system in place that can keep going further. For example, a utility currently using an ARB Mobile® System can simply add R900® Gateway Data Collectors to create a hybrid system combining elements of mobile and fixed base data collection. Through a process known as propagation modeling, locations for Gateways can be determined allowing that same utility to park its trucks in the garage and let the meter reads come through the Gateways straight to its CIS/billing system.
When a utility needs it, an R900-based system even provides backward compatibility. Should a storm knock out power to a community, an R900-based system will allow the utility to use mobile data collection devices to perform emergency mobile reads.
This combination of stability and flexibility gives growing utilities opportunities to implement new service initiatives without upsetting the status quo. Because R900 technology allows a utility to achieve more accurate reads from the same encoders in a fraction of the time, it has the freedom to reassign personnel to field services or other departments. While time and energy are conserved, safety is improved. No readers having to enter backyards and basements, deal with dog attacks, or perform dangerous roadside reads. From a cost-benefit analysis, the benefits are no-brainers.
More efficient use of resources drives the move from a mobile to a hybrid AMR system. When there are clear differences in routes to be read – urban versus suburban or rural, residential versus Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI), for instance – it often makes sense to “divide and conquer.” With a mobile system to handle more widespread areas, Gateways can be deployed to capture meter readings in more densely populated areas such as neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and industrial parks. Not only are utilities spared from having to send personnel to read regular routes in Gateway-read areas, they eliminate truck rolls for special reads such as move-ins and move-outs – those reads are taken, collected and sent to ARB® N_SIGHT™ AMR host software automatically. Considering that each special read can cost a utility as much as $50 or more, those savings add up.
An ARB FixedBase AMR System with R900 Gateways also supports resource conservation at larger venues such as airports, business parks, and manufacturing facilities. Not just the savings in manpower, gasoline, and vehicle maintenance, but the savings from catching leaks early. With the consumption levels routinely seen in industrial usage, even a relatively small leak that might evade detection in many systems can result in high-volume water loss in a short amount of time representing lost revenue. Daily meter reads with hourly consumption data combined with E-CoderPLUS flags for leak, tamper, and reverse flow detection (along with the rolling 96 days of hourly data provided through the data logging capability of the E-Coder)R900i™) allow utilities to pinpoint when and where consumption anomalies occur – 30 times faster than through a mobile system (with its monthly reads) alone.
Leaving a Smaller Footprint in Water
With an all-Gateway ARB FixedBase AMR System, a utility realizes all the advantages that R900 technology offers: (1) get “feet off the street”; (2) E-CoderPLUS flags for leak, tamper, and reverse flow detection delivered daily; and (3) ability to collect daily reads across an entire system without pulling a single truck out of the garage. Taking the feet – and wheels – out of the field means a smaller carbon footprint overall; in this way, a utility isn’t merely saving “green” fiscally but being “green” environmentally.
As communities grow, the need for tighter control of clean, potable water grows as well. This is especially true for towns and cities in drier areas such as the southwestern U.S. By tracking leak, tamper, and reverse flow conditions and by keeping a closer eye on consumer water usage through data logging, utilities can better enforce usage restrictions (e.g., odd versus even days) and encourage consumers to monitor and adjust their own use of water.
As already seen, an R900-based AMR system – ARB Mobile, ARB FixedBase AMR, or combination hybrid – excels at conserving water resources.
The Confidence and the Flexibility to Move Forward
Conservation of personnel, man-hours, utility resources, and water are all important. But when choosing to implement or expand a meter reading and billing system, the question that remains for a utility manager is, “Will what I put in place now provide for my needs in the future?”. With an R900-based system, the answer is yes. From ARB Mobile to ARB FixedBase AMR, Neptune has developed a series of simple transitions to accommodate needs that grow over time.
At any point along the R900-based technology migration path, your utility can take the next step without having to change its endpoints or other infrastructure. Today and tomorrow, you’re on solid footing.