Next-gen intelligent metering solutions make good business sense

Water-link water utility, Antwerp, Belgium

Having the power to control their own network, reduce their costs and improve the service they provide their customers was at the front of Water-link’s mind when it made the decision to upgrade to next-generation intelligent water metering solutions.

The water utility for the city of Antwerp in Belgium currently has to contend with increasingly inaccurate mechanical meters, mounting administrative costs from manual reading procedures and a lack of control over its network which hampers its profitability. 
“In Antwerp, people move very frequently and Water-link puts a lot of effort into recovering their invoices. As a consequence, today, we have to manually open or close the water supply on almost 20.000 occasions a year,” explains Frank De Clercq, Head of Marketing and Sales for Water-link.
Next-gen intelligent metering solution
So the decision was made to investigate an intelligent metering solution that would enable them to remotely control the supply of water throughout the network. 
Water-link joined forces with Hydroko, a longtime partner of Belgian utilities that produces a valve that gives utilities the ability to control the amount of water customers receive.
The next step was to then find an intelligent metering solutions provider that had the willingness, flexibility and interoperability to be a solid partner throughout this project.
“The clear choice was Kamstrup. They were the only ones with the advanced technology required to meet our needs,” explains Jan Van Cappellen, former Project Leader at Water-link.
Around 205,000 of Kamstrup’s MULTICAL® 21 intelligent water meters will be installed throughout Antwerp over the next four years and, where necessary, they will be integrated with Hydroko’s HydroKonekt smart valve.

“Because we are combining the meters with a smart valve, we were convinced that SIGFOX would work best for us. Kamstrup is a frontrunner in IoT solutions for intelligent water metering and they are providing us with the flexibility and interoperability we need,”

says Kurt De Nies, former Project Leader at Water-link

Internet of Things as part of the solution

The meters will be read remotely via the Internet of Things (IoT) communication technology SIGFOX. Instead of using regular radio frequency technology to transmit data from meters, SIGFOX enables devices to remotely connect to the internet using ultra-narrow band (UNB) technology. For this project, Kamstrup has fitted an IoT chip into its MULTICAL® 21 water meters which gives access to the SIGFOX network. 
IoT meter reading solutions along with Kamstrup’s own data collection systems are considered to be next-generation because of the valuable data they provide utilities with.

Saving time and money

The ability to read every single meter across its entire network remotely, means Water-link is going to save a huge amount of time and money in administration costs. 
At present, their mechanical meters mean that once a year Water-link has to contact all of its customers and ask them to manually read their own meters and report back with the value either by mail or via the internet.
However, a significant proportion of customers are often unable or unwilling to do so which then requires Water-link to physically send staff members to take the readings on site.
The whole process that currently takes up to a month to complete will soon only take a fraction of the time thanks to remote reading. 
“The whole project is in fact helping Water-link to become a more service orientated organisation. Because of the regular availability of network data and leak detection technology, we will be able to send notifications to our customers if they have a leak or burst.
“Moreover, being able to control the valve enables Water-link to safely introduce pre-payment services and flow regulation as an alternative to completely cutting of the water supply,” says De Nies.

Calculated business decision

Given the size of the financial investment involved in this project, it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.
“When we were calculating the financial business case for this investment, the benefits of the Kamstrup meter became more and more important. At low flows, the Kamstrup meter is very accurate so the water we will save became an important factor in the return on investment calculation,” explains De Nies. 
Water-link will be able to save more water because the intelligent metering solution from Kamstrup will enable them to detect leaks, bursts and tampering, ensuring water loss is detected quickly.

642,000 users across 7 municipalities in Antwerp
More than 450 employees
Around 205,000 MULTICAL® 21 intelligent water meters, partly integrated with Hydroko’s HydroKonekt smart valve and read via the SIGFOX network.