Meter Data Management: The Next Step for Water Utilities
Greg Myers Jul 27, 2012
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) networks and meters are loaded with useful data, but utilities and municipalities nationwide find themselves in a unique position when learning how to manage and best use this unprecedented amount of data being collected from smart water networks. While many utilities choose to implement a smart water network for data related to usage, they now find themselves with more data than they know how to manage. In the past, they received one read per month, per customer. Now, there are multiple reads an hour per customer.
On the flipside, utilities are eager to analyze this data and realize the full benefits of implementing a smart water network. They know that the correct analysis and use of this data will increase operational efficiency, improve customer service and provide intelligence to help reduce utility costs. †
Cracking the Code with Data Analytics Software
We saw the gap between information and action and sought to create a modular AMI data analytics software platform that goes beyond traditional meter data management solutions with the fundamental benefits of intelligence, automation and flexibility. Logic Data Analytics Software was created to help utilities maximize the value of data collected from various devices, including meters, by efficiently managing, validating and presenting the data in useful formats.
For intelligence, Logic is designed with the key features of validation, editing and estimation, or VEE. VEE provides a series of routines to assure multiple checks and balances of the data. In addition to these checks and balances, incoming data is examined using routines that verify both interval and raw data. With VEE, the utility can assign the appropriate action such as editing, estimation or extrapolation to adjust any perceived discrepancies in the data.
Through the intelligence of VEE, Logic helps utilities run more efficiently and better serve customers. Utilities can pre-select responses and organizational tactics for different types of incoming information. Using a variety of flags, utilities are immediately alerted about certain occurrences, such as leaks. Logic can also segment meters to match specific water towers ó a practice known as district metering ó which correlates consumption demand and measured usage. †
Over time, as the utility adjusts these parameters to meet its own specific needs, Logic develops automated processes for data, thereby saving time and increasing efficiency. This brings us to our next point, which is the importance of automation in a meter data management system.
Logicís dashboards provide an instant snapshot of the utilityís system with automation features such as a scheduler for the utility to create and organize specific reports and then automatically push the reports, such as continuous usage notifications, to end users via email or text message. Other automated features such as the editing and extrapolation quickly address data exceptions and eliminate the need for manual intervention from the utility. And because the utility designs this automation, it is customized to their specific needs and flexible as needs change. Utilities have varying needs that require customization and flexibility within the system and Logicís customized menus can incorporate a variety of reports and address those needs specific to the utility or to the end user.
Despite the already advanced nature of Logic, we realize that technologies and needs in the water industry are constantly changing. This is why the core Logic software platform is not only equipped with all the features required to efficiently collect, store, validate and manage data, but it also has vast customization options. The basic Logic platform is fully equipped to solve nearly any data- related utility issue with its core program. It is also designed to improve key functional applications, such as billing, while incorporating a sophisticated platform to address more complex needs of a utility, such as distribution automation.
Functionality is also an outstanding component of Logic. Logic seamlessly integrates with Sensusí FlexNet communications network. The software has been tested for compliance with the latest MultiSpeak 4.1 specification, the most widely applied interoperability software standard in North America.
Who Benefits from Logic?
Logicís data management benefits both water utilities and their customers. While it enables utilities to take a system-wide view of their operations and run more efficiently, it also allows them to better serve customers by turning data into intelligence.
For example, Logic enables water utilities to more quickly detect leaks, which improves conservation for the utility while inevitably saving the end user money that would have otherwise gone down the drain. Continuous water usage from a leaky sink or forgotten hose that would have once run for days or even months, is now noticed swiftly and stopped immediately.
Logic also improves the customer experience through usage reports for faster response to customer inquiries and consumption details in hourly intervals for better insight into when exactly the water is used. Utilities can use this software to monitor customers not expected to use water as well, such as those on vacation. It can detect possible leaks, theft or meter stoppage.
With the addition of a customer portal, Logic also helps water customers monitor usage and conserve water. This add-on to Logic enables utilities to share information with customers via the portal about drought conditions, water restrictions, water schedules, conversation and leak repair. The customer portal is also customizable for the end-user, with flexible settings such as text or email alerts, for high usage or other pre-selected notifications.
The Conservation Side
Water conservation is a consideration for utilities and end users worldwide. Logic facilitates this conservation by reconciling unaccounted for water loss, enabling customer segmentation to enforce mandated watering days and encouraging end-users to self-initiate conservation through customer portal applications.
By organizing and validating data, Logic is also a key partner to smart water networks, such as AquaSense, to quickly ensure rapid leak detection. For utilities looking to determine specific culprits for excessive water use or loss, virtualization in Logic enables aggregation of water usage data for several commercial properties at a time or by specific regions or districts to allow utilities to quickly react to all meters and end users affected by an issue.
When water conservation elevates from a priority to a necessity, Logic allows water utilities to implement tiered rates for end users. These rates reward end users with the lowest rate, provided they stay within a certain amount of usage per person, per household. †
What Utilities Can Expect Beyond the Basic Logic Platform
Logic provides utilities with everything they need to efficiently collect, store and manage data with a variety of customization options. However, we also recognize that many utilities are interested in expanding the base offerings of Logic to do even more for the utility and its customers.
Some examples of the features available beyond the base package for Logic include advanced reporting with a deeper analysis of existing reports, the aforementioned customer portal, advanced systems integration to enable synchronization with GIS and CIS databases, outage supervision, distribution automation and more.
Logic is offered as part of the FlexNet solution to customers in North America, beginning with FlexNet systems implemented in the third quarter of 2012. Logic is available to water, electric, gas and combination utilities.
Logic can be a key partner to utilities and a method to the madness when it comes to data. Logic collects, manages and organizes the increasingly large amounts of data utilities receive from communication network systems into a single platform, thereby providing intelligence and ensuring accurate billing.
Greg Myers is the vice president of marketing for Sensus.†