In the US, the city of Sante Fe has chosen Badger Meter for the rollout of 35,000 BEACON cellular smart meters for full installation across the city’s water meter endpoints covering both commercial and residential customers.
According to information analyst IHS Technology, the deal marks the “largest implementation of cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) technology in the water utility sector worldwide.”
Sante Fe’s water scarcity and challenging geography makes cellular communication a suitable option for smart meter deployment.
Says Nick Schavio, Santa Fe’s public utility director: “Our city has a challenging terrain, which often makes communication difficult, so using the existing cellular infrastructure for our meters was very attractive.
He adds: “Sante Fe has some of the highest water rates in the country… with the rising cost of water, our customers need an improved view of their consumption, and the smart meter data allows us to immediately notify our customers about possible leaks.”
Cellular smart meter market potential
By 2020, says IHS, there will be an estimated 600,000 cellular enabled smart water meters shipped to North America annually.
There are several advantages to cellular-enabled smart meters, including ease of deployment – they are essentially “plug and play” devices that do not require rigorous network infrastructure, according to the research company.
In addition, IT network communications elements used in water meters can also be applied to power plants and other utilities. Advances in battery management technology also make cellular smart water meters a viable option.
According to a study by IHS, 'The Smart Water Meter Intelligence Service', in the past five years, telecommunications providers in North America are said to be altering their business plan to target critical infrastructure.
Michael Markides, director of the Smart Utility Infrastructure Group at IHS, commented: “Water utilities in North America are under pressure to improve operations, increase conservation and enhance customer service; however, in many instances they lack the capital, expertise and business model required to effectively implement new technologies.”
Communications technology is a key requirement for smart meters and other smart grid technologies to deliver two-way communication. Telecom providers are hence investing in partnerships and lowering rates and technology vendors enter the market.
“The advantages of installing smart water meters continues to become more and more clear to utilities in North America,” continued Markides.
“Even if the expectations for the meter lifetime change, there are simply too many benefits to ignore.”
UC Santa Cruz launches water meter technology
Meanwhile, the University of California Santa Cruz is launching new water meter technology that could lower water use and find elusive leaks quicker, local news source, KSBW has reported.
UC Santa Cruz has finalised a pilot programme using 10 Beacon cellular end point system devices connected to water meters, and is now expanding use of the devices throughout campus
Each meter is connected to a “device that works like a pager, a cellular endpoint that sits next to the meter.”
The end point sends information on usage to a central point once a day and faculty, staff, and housing managers will be able to view that information online.
One of the key elements of the technology is the ability to send email and text alerts if leaks are detected.