Operational efficiency
Internet of things (IoT)
Wireless meter reading

Posted on Friday, November 13, 2020 by Martin Møller Værum

Five immediate benefits of going digital

Some people think about investments as being either short-term or long-term. While that’s understandable, that’s not always the case.

Perhaps the seemingly never-ending focus on what lies ahead is the reason why many people still consider digitalisation a long-term investment. And although digitalisation is definitely a long-term investment – that’s not all it is either.

As a matter of fact, going digital is an investment that provides advantages for utilities now and later. Admittedly, that may sound too good to be true. So to prove the point, here’s a list of five immediate benefits of going digital, sprinkled with a few of our customer references.

1. Know what’s happening in your distribution network

From the second you install intelligent meters and get your reading software up and running you’re in the know. Whatever is or isn’t going on in your distribution network becomes clear to you, enabling you to find and respond to issues like theft or leaks much faster and much more accurately.

No longer do you have to wait for your customers to contact you, to tell you about a leak. No longer do you have to spend weeks searching entire neighbourhoods and districts for leakages or go out digging blindly. And no longer can people steal water, be it by tampering with the meter or hooking up to your pipes. At least not without you knowing it.

A prime example of just how instantaneously rewards can be gained from going digital is the case of Söderhamn Nära in Sweden. With the assistance of smart meters with acoustic leak detection and Kamstrup’s Leak Detector software, the water utility found and located a leak within the first hour after their new system had been set up. Thus, results were literally delivered from day one.

2. Intelligent alarms on events like burst and leakages

Unlike mechanical meters, intelligent meters can keep watch over your distribution network for you; if anything out of the ordinary happens, like a sudden spike in water usage for instance, your meters and systems will alarm you, letting you know about any bursts or leakages. Needless to say, this is the case from the moment you install smart meters in your network.

This nifty feature is particularly important in places like Urbanna, located on the Virginia coast in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The state of Virgina has imposed new regulations on groundwater withdrawal in the area and steep fines of USD 25,000 per day for over-withdrawing. Digitalisation ensures the town stays within its limits and doesn’t incur the hefty penalty.

“With the new withdrawal regulations, we need to have a water conservation and management plan in place,” says Holly Gailey, Town Administrator for Town of Urbanna. “Now we detect leaks and bursts and stop water loss faster. We are able to take a proactive approach to water conservation for the town.”

3. No more house visits

“I thoroughly enjoy spending the entire day, going from house to house, ringing doorbells when nobody’s home, trying to collect information about how much water a household has been using!” said no one ever.

Meandering around and about your distribution network is time consuming, expensive, and inefficient. From the very moment you employ the digital tools that allows you to gather meter data from afar, independent of your customers’ presence, you mitigate the hassle related to this issue. Additionally, you improve your customer relations and service, as most people will probably like the freedom of not having to be home in order to have their meters read. Everyone’s a winner.

Another clear benefit to remotely reading meters is safety. Thanks to remote meter reading, field staff tasked with reading water meters for Vitens, the largest drinking water company in the Netherlands, no longer has to enter dangerous meter pits or industrial rooms with asbestos. Furthermore, the same number of people can cover more tasks.

“Depending on how unsafe a specific location was, it would require one or two people to do the job. This could be meter pits filled with water, big cellars where our people had to climb down ladders, or industrial rooms with asbestos,” explains Paul Looman, Project Manager at Vitens.

Finally, when you don’t have to physically visit a lot of different people in their home, you reduce the risk of getting yourself and others sick. Perhaps now more than ever, the immense value of this specific aspect has become clear.

4. Secured hygiene for your consumers, no moving parts in the meter

Speaking of hygiene, due to digital meters not having any moving parts, in which residues, contaminants, and bacteria can gather and grow, you ensure safer, cleaner water for your consumers. While this effect is immediate – especially if the digital meter replaces an older mechanical one – the benefit of this particular aspect will only continue to increase over time; for each passing day, where a mechanical meter would slowly, but steadily become less hygienic, its digital counterpart stays impeccably clean.

5. Eliminate reading errors and achieve accuracy you never have to question again

When your meters (and reading process) aren’t digital, mistakes are bound to happen, be it intentionally or not. Some people either misunderstand how they’re supposed to read their meter and report their usage incorrectly, others may type in a wrong digit or place a comma by mistake, and some may just blatantly lie. Some may do it late – if at all – hindering you in billing your customers at the same time.

Also, over time, mechanical meters are worn down and become less accurate than they used to. For instance, in some meters, the resistance increases over time, meaning more water needs to run through the wheel for it to move. By that point, you’re basically giving away free water.

The solution is digital. The very instant you install meters that report water usage automatically, is the very instant you remove the infamous “human factor” as well as the inevitable inaccuracies from the wear and tear of the meter’s moving parts.

Water-link in Belgium is a testament to that. The Antwerp-based water utility were having issues with increasingly inaccurate maters and mounting administrative costs from manual meter reading procedures. To add to that, a significant portion of their customers were often unable or unwilling to read their meters and report to the utility. But now, with intelligent meters, these woes are things of the past and the utility saves time and money.

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