Water meter technology has been advancing steadily, providing added value to water utilities in recent years. In 2012, Mueller Systems introduced a Remote Disconnect Meter (RDM) that helped to advance the industry and raised the bar in water system functionality. Since then, Sensus has also created an RDM in the form of the Ally meter. The expanded AMI capabilities of an RDM allow the utility to send a command to the meter endpoint and activate a radio-controlled valve in the meter that will close or open, depending on the action selected. The meter relays the change to the back office and the account status indicates the new state of the meter. In addition to simple shut-offs, these RDMs can detect theft and do not need to be deployed throughout an entire system to have an impact.
RDMs can also be deployed in more remote areas of a utility’s service territory. This can be practical in areas that have high turnover rates, such as rental properties, or for customers with a history of inconsistent bill pay behavior. This ability to remotely initiate a command to turn water service on or off allows the utility to only roll have to a truck on an exception basis or to locations that do not have an RDM, instead of every time. Some added value of less trucks rolls is reduced fuel consumption, lowered emissions, and increased staff safety. For billing and customer service staff, this type of meter will significantly reduce the manual processing time taken to review meter audit reports, highlight accounts that are eligible for disconnect service, and provide the list to the meter technicians for shut off service in the field. On the customer side, RDMs allow for better service from the utility. Whether in rental areas or in areas of high disconnections, the utility can render service quickly and limit back-ups in service work orders.
As municipalities face increasing costs of operations with flattened or declining revenues, services that are streamlined and automated, like remote disconnects through strategic deployment of RDMs, reduce the burden on staff. Being able to fully leverage new technology requires strategic change management to properly facilitate the value it can bring to the utility. In the instance of remote disconnect metering, the entire workflow of disconnect for non-payment and emergency water disconnection can be updated to increase efficiency in system management. MeterSYS has experience in helping utilities strategically adopt and expand AMI technology, and our services include facilitating business process redesign and training support to ensure the utility fully realizes the return on investment and the customer service enhancement of innovative system components. Next week we will discuss another capability of advanced meters, pressure monitoring, and management.