Snow and Ice No Problem for Essex & Suffolk Water Drive-by Meter Reading

As the summer starts to feel like a distant memory, and Christmas displays start dominating shops all too quickly again, thoughts also turn towards preparing for what has recently been a disruptive time of year. Recent winters have seen heavy snowfall around the country, making travel treacherous and severely impacting many businesses. For water companies and other utilities, it has, for example, made active meter reading a very difficult task, with meters often hidden securely behind several inches of snow and ice. Essex & Suffolk Water, however, has found that HWM’s SMART Log wireless AMR system allowed its technicians to continue to collect meter readings and historic consumption data from their Domestic Consumption Monitors simply by driving – carefully – along the road.

When the snow fell back in December 2010, William Salmon (Demand Planning Technician for Essex & Suffolk Water) decided to conduct an experiment and set out in his van. Normally, the hardened shell of snow and ice would make accessing and reading those meters virtually impossible. The SMART Log system, however, turns any existing pulse-enabled water meter into a digital, virtual smart meter capable of transmitting a month’s worth of collected data over 100m distances in just a few seconds. So William, safe and relatively warm inside his van, carefully negotiated his way along the frozen roads to see if he could still complete his task:

The weather conditions during this time were terrible, we had heavy snow, with temperatures close to minus 10 degrees C,” he reported.

To my surprise – and relief – all the data from the SMART Logs we had in the area was successfully downloaded with the speed and success rate we have been used to in calmer weather.

Even the antenna on the van had frozen over in the end!”

Now, two years later, Essex & Suffolk Water currently has around 1500 SMART Logs in place for their Study of Water Use project, automatically reading meters and transmitting the data to passing patrol vehicles in all conditions. The company uses this consumption data to monitor water demand in targeted areas, and estimates that the new system is on average 5-10 times quicker per property than traditional meter reading methods; this includes the time taken for technicians to check the data in case any immediate remedial action is required.

The SMART Log system stores consumption and event history records for wireless data transfer to drive-by patrols. The data can then be used to determine accurate billings and develop tariff models, identify back-flow and even detect customer-side leakage. The wireless technology sends a ‘beacon’-type message every two seconds to initiate the connection as soon as possible, allowing rapid data transfer and effective drive-by speeds of up to 30mph (when driving conditions allow). SMART Log is also considered a viable and cost-effective alternative to GPRS or SMS dataloggers for commercial applications.

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