Giving Utilities Momentum
What do you do when you’re sure you need to move forward but unsure of the route to take? First, you get your bearings. Next, you decide on the vehicle you need to get there. Then, you get moving.
That’s good advice for anyone, but especially for a water utility. What about those who say migration isn’t possible? You keep on going – knowing that, not only is migration possible but also that water and gas utilities do it every day with Neptune’s R900® radio frequency technology.
Of course, to make this migration possible, Neptune planned ahead – designing the R900 RF meter interface unit (MIU) with a high-power transmitter. This gives the R900 the range for meter readings to be captured by either mobile or fixed network data collectors.
When paired with the E-Coder® Solid State Absolute Encoder – or integrated in the E-Coder)R900i™ – this combination of range and rich data (including flags for leak, tamper, and reverse flow detection) gives utilities an ideal foundation on which to build and expand a Neptune AMR System. As thousands of utilities across North America have found, their initial investment not only is sound but also yields many happy returns.
Getting to Know Your Drivers Before You Get Going
Whether a utility is currently researching the most efficient (including cost-efficient) system for automatic meter reading and billing or already has meters, Neptune encoders, and/or R900 MIUs at least partially deployed – taking advantage of a system that’s built to be built onto makes good sense. Right now, much of the water utility industry is abuzz about all things “fixed”. To be sure, fixed network systems can offer utilities more advanced data and opportunities to measure system-wide consumption. While migration to fixed network is certainly possible, your utility’s needs – including budgetary needs – may be better served by mobile or hybrid in some cases. Before you specify a system, you have to ask a couple of important questions. First, what are my key business drivers right now? And second, what will my utility likely need in the future?
Your utility has its own unique set of challenges you must address – including the total number of services, the size of the area you have to cover, any geographical challenges (mountains, islands, etc.), age of infrastructure, and whatever automatic meter reading and billing system components may already be in place.
For instance, your utility may serve various populations in different areas – a more widespread set of suburban or outlying residential routes, more concentrated residential urban neighborhoods or multi-resident complexes (apartments or dormitories), and several industrial parks. Which areas cost the most to read – the rural routes? The complexes with high rates of move-ins and move-outs?
Going with What Works – For You
Once you have a better idea of “where you are,” you can look at particular issues you face moving forward. Continuing with the earlier example, you might need to split your routes between mobile and fixed. At the same time, you may need to get certain reads for move-outs without having to send a reader on site. Or you might need to collect more detailed customer leak information and hourly consumption data to support a water conservation initiative. Maybe you want to get all feet and trucks off the street to reallocate personnel – while still having the options of walk-by or mobile as backups in case of a storm-related power outage.
There are some utilities, particularly those in larger metropolitan centers or those in regions of water scarcity, that have the need for the functionality that advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) provides. Those using Neptune’s R450™-based ARB® FixedBase™ AMI have access to system-wide, time-synchronized reads and District Metered Area (DMA) monitoring down to the neighborhood level.
However, there are thousands of utilities currently using Neptune’s R900-based ARB® Mobile™ System that don’t have the time or resources to devote to more advanced data analysis but can realize many of the benefits of a fixed network system by migrating to ARB® Hybrid™ or ARB® FixedBase™ AMR.
For these utilities, a cost/benefit analysis may show that the data logging capabilities of the E-Coder)R900i will allow them to extract that type of information manually from individual meters to address the handful of customer inquiries each billing cycle. By the same token, those utilities currently using R900 RF technology may only require a few R900® Gateway data collectors to meet their needs – just one or two to capture reads from a targeted population. Or, if they choose to migrate to a full-scale fixed network system, daily meter readings provided by the R900 Gateway data collectors may be all that are required.
Knowing Exactly Where You’re Headed
Again, it comes back to your utility’s drivers. What types of data, how much of it, and how often do you need it? A utility doesn’t necessarily have to migrate to one-way full fixed, but at least that option is still there for the future. All Neptune R900 technology is compatible from day one. Not a single meter needs changing out or reprogramming. And you’re not left with stranded assets.
Utilities have found that Neptune’s ARB Mobile, ARB Hybrid, and ARB FixedBase AMR Systems are designed to perform for decades. Not only have these Systems proved reliable, but they’ve also proved bankable in saving time, personnel, natural resources, and financial resources. These utilities have also seen how Neptune continues to support the R900s on which they depend with innovations that continue to move them forward such as the newly designed, more portable MRX920™ Mobile Data Collector, the R900 Gateway data collector, and customer-driven enhancements to
ARB® N_SIGHT™ AMR host software. They’re confident that they have what they need now – and ten years from now. These utilities know migration works because Neptune makes it work.