Sensus spreads its AMR network across Europe


From Germany to France, across to the UK and on to Ireland, the latest Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology developed by Sensus Metering Systems for its ESAAP (Europe, South America, Africa, Asia-Pacific) region is making its mark among utilities and water companies right across Europe.

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Sensus((S))cout is Europe’s first true single source ‘endto- end’ AMR solution. Every element of this AMR system – meters, transponders and data transmitters, collectors and interrogation software – is designed and supported by Sensus ESAAP. In effect, Sensus((S))cout offers an unbroken and seamless data chain from the meter point via the IT system up to the billing process – and it is increasingly recognised as an integral part of future water management strategies.

Sensus((S))cout has been developed by Sensus specifically to meet the needs of utilities and water companies in markets where there is growing demand for mobile and remote reading of meters, particularly in high density residential areas and in lower density industrial locations. What water companies increasingly recognise is that the true value of the water meter lies in the range of data it can provide. While at one level metering can modify the behaviour of consumers, it is through AMR that metering can transform overall performance in terms of water management – and thereby turn strategic vision into tangible operational success. In the

Sensus((S))cout network, each water meter is equipped with either an integrated or ‘plug and play’ transponder that sends consumption information to external data collectors. A hand-held unit is then used to read meters simultaneously from a single source as part of a mobile ‘walkby’ system. In larger urban schemes, the meter information is forwarded from the data collectors to GSM gateways via a repeater network.In this configuration, each Sensus((S))cout network can read meters remotely and automatically, and the solution is completely scaleable depending upon topology.

The system is also ideally suited to commercial and industrial areas where meter access is difficult (in flooded pits for example) or obstructed by traffic. “Sensus((S))cout takes AMR in Europe to a new level,” says Uwe Gross, Product Manager for Systems at Sensus. “For the first time, water supply companies can rely on true end-toend system integrity that comes from the ability of Sensus to control every element of the process. “Not only does Sensus((S))cout drive up operational efficiency through reading technology, it also adds value by delivering real-time information about business critical issues, including leakage and broken pipe detection, tamper alerts and reverse flow volume measurement.” Sensus((S))cout is available to new applications but is equally effective through backwards migration using the company’s HRI sensors, which provide a data interface for the remote reading of conventional meters.

The AMR system is already proving its effectiveness in Germany and in the UK and projects are also planned or underway in France and Ireland.

Sensus ((S))cout in Germany – ESWE Versorgungs

ESWE Versorgungs AG is located in Wiesbaden and is one of the first companies to benefit from the Sensus((S))cout AMR system. The company supplies water to 250,000 residential and industrial customers, manages a water network extending to 740 km and, until recently, had a manual read programme covering all its 35,000 installed water meters.

In June 2006 ESWE became involved in a trial of Sensus((S))cout, focusing on meters in hard-to-read locations. “We selected Sensus((S))cout because of the potential cost-performance ratio benefits,” says Josef Schell, GWWInstallations- und Zählerwesen. ”For the test programme, we chose piston meters which were already prepared for Sensus HRI sensors and located some distance from ESWE connections at private customer sites in pits prone to flooding or build-up of carbon monoxide (CO).”

Prior to the installation of Sensus((S))cout, safety requirements meant that two people were required to read out the meters. Moreover, if the CO in the pits was high, access was only possible after blowing it clear, causing delay and adding cost to the process. Now the company has significantly expanded the scheme and the benefits are also envisaged in using the technology in both bulk water meter applications and compact heat meters.

Sensus ((S))cout in the UK – Sutton & East Surrey Water

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In the UK, Sensus((S))cout has been such a success that Sutton & East Surrey Water – which has a reputation as a technology leader – is extending its AMR programme from a keyworker apartment scheme to include a 500 home new build development. Moreover, Sensus((S))cout is seen by the company as a key building block in introducing the concept of 15-minute data logging to the UK over the next two years.

This will provide Sutton & East Surrey with ultimate flexibility over consumption monitoring and modelling, delivering close to real time data on leakage, while contributing to accurate customer profiling and providing the potential for managing future tariffing structures. The company first installed Sensus((S))cout alongside 60 Sensus 620 residential meters at the Well Farm Heights apartment development. Here, the radio AMR system enables all the meters to be read remotely and simultaneously from a single location on the site using a handheld unit.

Each apartment meter is located either in a pit or in a central meter cupboard. Jeremy Heath, development engineer at Sutton and East Surrey Water, says that the AMR programme is in line with the company’s policy of evaluating technology that can add value both to customers and to the company. Comments Heath: “As a company, we have been using encoded meters for 20 years. We have about 70,000 meters installed at present, with a programme in place for a further 30,000 over the next five years.

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We envisage that a number of these meters will be radio read – particularly in multioccupancy developments and in difficult-to-read locations. “For Sutton and East Surrey, the main drivers behind adopting radio AMR technology are efficiency, accuracy of read and cost effectiveness. We want to reduce the time to read as much as possible and we also want to ensure that any system we adopt has in-built flexibility. “We are very keen to be at the cutting edge of technology and always moving forward,” says Heath. “We are always looking for better ways of doing things and lowering cost. For us, radio read will be one of the ways of achieving our objectives for meter efficiency, accuracy and longevity.”

Sensus ((S))cout in Ireland – Cork and County Wicklow

In Ireland, a change in legislation is driving a massive investment in nondomestic metering and associated AMR technology. Sensus is a key partner in a Cork County Council programme that will see 40,000 meters installed over the next 15 months. County councils in Ireland are responsible for water and wastewater services and are required to meter non-domestic customers in accordance with the Government’s National Water Pricing Framework.

The Cork project is one of the most significant water meter and AMR programmes in Europe. Through Sensus((S))cout, Cork will not only be able to ensure that thousands of meters are read automatically using walk-by and remote reading technology – include GSM networks – but the real time data available will also give vital information on leakage and patterns of consumption, leading to better water conservation and management. Cork anticipates that the meters will be read using mobile and remote technology every three months and bills issued on a six-monthly basis, although more frequently for larger consumers.

The modular nature of Sensus((S))cout means that the authority can migrate easily from inductive read to walk-by radio and, if required, to data collection via a fixed radio network. The data will be processed using Sensus’ Dokom software, which will interface with the ‘Rapid’ billing system developed by South Staffordshire Water Group. Meanwhile, a second project in Ireland, with County Wicklow, will see the first application of Sensus((S))cout S – the Sensus integrated HRI solution – in a 5,000 meter walk-by radio AMR programme covering non-domestic users.

Sensus ((S))cout Fact File : The flexible AMR radio solution

  • Sensus((S))cout is setting new standards in AMR systems in Europe, offering an unbroken and seamless data chain from the meter point via the IT system up to the billing process.
  • Sensus((S))cout is an 868 MHz bidirectional flexible radio system developed specifically by Sensus for ‘horizontal’ meter reading for the mobile and remote reading of meters (water meters and heat meters) in areas of high building density (urban streets).
  • Existing meter schemes can be connected to Sensus((S))cout through backwards migration using Sensus’ HRI data sensors or the MiniBus protocol.
  • Sensus((S))cout enables consumption meters to be read by radio using a variety of methods – using hand-held units (with integrated radio modem) running Dokom Mobile software to read single meters fitted either with integrated transponders (Sensus((S))cout S for residential/Sensus((S))cout Mei for bulk water meters) or ‘plug and play’ transponders (Sensus((S))coutMB). The data is transferred from the handheld unit to a PC using a docking station. Sensus((S))cout is ideally suited to the mobile reading of meters in locations where access can be difficult.
  • The handheld unit can read water meters in a typical range of 100 m, or up to 4 km with the support of a repeater (Sensus((S))coutRep). Each module can be used as an additional repeater to expand the radio range by a further 100 m. • Meters can also be read remotely through a data gateway (Sensus((S))coutGate) that provides the data endpoint for repeaters within a typical range of 1km. One gateway can read up to 2,000 meters remotely via the GSM network.
  • The Sensus((S))cout bidirectional radio system enhances operational efficiency, firstly through the efficient transfer of consumption data up to the billing point and secondly by adding value by delivering real time management information covering business critical issues such as leakage and broken pipe detection, reverse flow volume data, tamper detection and minimum and maximum flow rates over a given time period.