What Is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

Man demonstrating advanced metering infrastructureTechnology is constantly evolving, and it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with the latest technology trends, no matter which industry you’re in. Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI, is one of the latest advances in water and utility management, and it has the potential to help conserve resources, reduce risk, enhance security, and save money. 

Learn more about what AMI is, and how you can implement it into your water system, below!

How Does Advanced Metering Infrastructure Work?

Advanced Metering Infrastructure can be customized to suit the needs of various municipalities, but for the most part, most AMI systems work in the exact same way. When it comes to monitoring water, gas, or electricity flow, a meter transmits a signal, which is converted to a flow value, to a meter interface unit (MIU). The MIU then sends data to an information management system wirelessly, providing key data about how much water or gas is being used based on several key variables. 

Many AMI systems utilize numerous types of sensors to collect such data, like temperature, water quality, and pressure monitors. Generally speaking, there are two main types of meters that are coupled with Advanced Metering Infrastructure systems: ultrasonic meters, and smart meters. 

Ultrasonic Meters

Ultrasonic meters use time differentials to measure the velocity of water flowing through a pipe. The meter sends sound wave frequencies throughout the pipe and measures the frequency that bounces back off particles and gas bubbles, which allows it to calculate a flow rate. These meters are useful in many contexts, but they don’t supply nearly as much data as smart meters can. 

Smart Meters

Smart meters use signals, much like those used with cellphones, to send information from meters that measure all kinds of variables, including flow rate, voltage, outages, and more. This allows utility suppliers to provide faster response times when problems arise, like power outages, and smart meters can also be used to connect or disconnect service without having to send a person on-site to do it manually. 

Benefits of AMI

Advanced Metering Infrastructure comes with numerous benefits that could greatly benefit our infrastructure as a whole. The most important benefits to be aware of, however, are enhanced resource conservation, minimized risk, better security, and scalability. 

AMI can detect leaks almost instantly, empowering crews to remedy situations as they arise, instead of days or weeks later, after a pipe has spilled numerous gallons into a field or a household has operated inefficiently for months. This alone has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of water and other resources wasted, which can save both customers and utility companies thousands of dollars a year. 

Because AMIs can also detect tampering or fraud better,  they can also make utility systems far more secure than ever before. Finally, scalability is another huge asset of AMI. Utility systems can begin by taking small steps toward a more advanced infrastructure by implementing an AMI in stages. There is no need to completely overhaul an existing system, unless a utility system’s budget allows for it. 

In the long term, AMIs are an excellent investment that can greatly benefit utility systems and the people they serve. 

Drawbacks of AMI

Like most things in life, we have yet to devise a perfect system for water monitoring. AMI is more favorable than water monitoring systems of the past, but it does come with a few drawbacks that are worth considering.

For starters, implementing a new AMI system comes with a cost. The hardware alone can be expensive, but various software components and advanced IT systems are also needed to make them work. AMI is also still relatively new, and they are complex systems that can be difficult to implement correctly.   This is why companies like RTS Water/Envocore are here to assist and guide you with a vendor neutral consultative approach.  We consider the entire system, the customer topography, the existing infrastructure and more when proposing a solution.  Most end customers are actively engaged with their existing meter supplier because they have used them for decades.  Many manufacturers will steer you to their solution even though the best option may be with others.  We are the owner representative in this process with proven experience in the field installing over 1,000,000 meters.

Currently, there is no end-all-be-all standardized method of AMI deployment and utilization, which can make comparing data to other organizations about as helpful as apples to oranges. Researchers and agencies have worked to produce tighter standards for these systems, but it’s still very much a work in progress. 

Final Remarks

Advanced Metering Infrastructure is a promising and exciting endeavor that could be an important key in the pursuit of enhancing our resource management efficiency. It may have a couple of minor downsides, but AMI comes with plenty of benefits that just might make it the primary method of metering utilities in the near future. 

If you’re ready to learn more about smart meters, and how to enhance your metering system, contact the professionals at Envocore today! 

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