Arson Metering supports utilities in the efficient deployment of remote reading of water and gas meters through the implementation of universal LoRaWAN-based technology currently operating successfully in cities in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Costa Rica…
Article published in the magazine FuturENVIRO
Today’s technological evolution can undoubtedly be overwhelming in certain situations for those who have to choose a remote meter reading solution. The reality is that no single technology is 100% ideal for the needs of every utility and it is not the main key to success.
The key to good water or gas management is to choose an integrator that masters the technologies and knows how to exploit them to the utmost in each case, depending on the specific needs of the project or city. It is, therefore, important to analyse the needs of water managers and gas distributors before talking about technology.
A key factor to begin with is the need to upgrade meters. Amongst other factors, this has been made necessary by recently published Spanish “Ministerial Order ICT/155/2020”, which makes it compulsory to replace all water meters of more than 10 years old and all gas meters of more than 20 years old. This legislation also defines the estimated service life of meters and, therefore, the investments required in meters and communications systems.
The replacement of a batch of meters should be seen as a project and not as the acquisition of a product. This is because these devices are no longer just metering elements for billing purposes. They have become the key to managing a water or gas distribution network.
Converting a cost into an investment
An efficient, practical, cost-effective remote meter reading management project must provide sufficient information to improve the water network and to detect anomalies easily.Only in this way will a remote reading system cease to be an expense and become an investment, improving the service to users and offering higher-quality service.
A remote meter reading system must be approached holistically from start to finish and the ideal partner must be defined for each case, along with the best technology to be implemented.
Initially, the needs of the water manager must be defined, and a detailed study of communications coverage with the meters and sensors must be carried out and customised to the exact location of each device.
Finally, the feasibility and technical risks potentially associated with the deployment must be examined, and dealings with the water manager must be transparent, with explanations of how each problem that might arise will be solved. There are always pitfalls that must be avoided on every road.
Minimum technological requirements
Determining the communications technology, with the amount of information (or misinformation) that exists, influences the future of the project and the viability of the utility.
Having the support of a company with experience in the water and gas sector, and particularly with expertise in the development of communications solutions designed for these sectors, will enable the best solution for each case to be determined and facilitate the overall success of the project.
Although no technology meets 100% of a water manager’s requirements, certain minimum requirements must be met so as not to jeopardise the manager’s future:
- Guarantee the life of the meter throughout its period in service. (Battery)
- Simplify the management and installation of meters and the associated digitisation. (App)
- Ensure communication with the meters in all scenarios, as well as meter operation throughout the life of the system. (100% coverage)
- Facilitate freedom of choice, with respect to both technology and meter brand. (Multi-protocol and multi-brand)
- Ensure the system is open to new technologies. (Constant innovation)
No more than 10 seconds to install a meter
When a meter is installed inhouse or by outsourced professionals, the process must be digitised and the installation of meters registered using digital means. (Mobile App or Tablet).
This process provides the management company with invaluable information. The meter is geolocated at the time of installation and key network management information is made available for the management of the network.
The correct execution of this process determines the success of a project. Therefore, the best and most user-friendly tools for the digitisation of a meter change should be made available to the installers. The process should not take more than 10 extra seconds per meter; time is money.
It is also vital to have a technical support team that provides knowledge of the new technologies, as well as experience in the sector to deal with any problems that may arise, thereby guaranteeing deployment.
Only key information from millions of data
A meter provides a lot of information; it transmits over 9,000 values per year, including indices, alarms and other data, thereby providing managers with a tool for detecting anomalies amongst users.
But a meter is part of a water network, and therefore the information must be managed in an integrated way. Just 1,000 meters will provide over 8 million hourly data in a year, data which must be exploited, managed and simplified for utilities.
A platform capable of providing useful information to managers, informing them of alarms, anomalies and potentially suspicious circumstances in real time, will provide a return on the investment in meters and enable smart management of the municipality.
AquaCity and GasCity, 100% daily readings of all meters
In order to meet all these requirements and offer an exceptional user experience, ArsonMetering has been developing a “universal remote reading” system for over 10 years. This system incorporates all the communications solutions with their corresponding protocols from the leading meter manufacturers.
The technological commitment is to offer a guarantee of communications that adapt to the conditions of each municipality.
In the water and gas sector in Spain, as in many other parts of the world, meters are installed in many different places, including facades, interiors, manholes, basements, or garages. The challenge is to provide transparent coverage to the operator in all possible conditions.
LoRaWAN ultra-low power radio communications technology comes closest to meeting these requirements, as recently recognised by the United Nations specialised agency for ICTs. This independent authority has formally documented the capacity of LoRa technology for mass application in Recommendation ITU-T Y.4480.
However, there was still a limitation for meters in complex or remote locations such as deep manholes, garages and basements, where no technology that has its antennas, gateways or amplifiers on the rooftops of buildings allows us to provide coverage.
That is why, five years ago, the ArsonMetering R+D+i team designed and developed a special Gateway for Metering to provide coverage wherever it was needed, regardless of the complexity of the location.
This Gateway is powered by a small solar panel and features autonomous connection to the internet, enabling it to be installed in places without any electrical installations, such as water tanks, lampposts, rooftops, etc.
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