AMI utility market Major acquisition propels Sensus to the forefront


Ever since Sensus Metering Systems acquired Advanced Metering Data Systems (AMDS) earlier this year, the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) industry has watched Sensus make a serious play to be the leading AMI provider.

That’s due in large part to Sensus’ immediate success in capturing major contracts featuring FlexNet – an AMI system with international appeal that functions across the electricity, gas and water industries. FlexNet is a radio frequency fixed network utility meter reading system designed to increase meter reading efficiency, reduce overhead costs, and enhance customer service. FlexNet offers both two-way and one-way fixed-based monitoring for up to 770 km2 of coverage, depending on terrain, from one network tower. The patented technology allows for Internet-based programming of the network and meter endpoints. And the system is scalable to accommodate growth of a utility.

“The purchase of AMDS’s assets took us to the top level of today’s radio frequency fixed network AMI systems and complements our current metering and AMI services,” says Dan Harness, CEO and president of Sensus. “FlexNet has been exceptionally well received in the market throughout North America.”

Within days of the acquisition, Sensus signed an agreement with Southern Company, a premier electric utility serving the Southeastern United States, that provided for the deployment of FlexNet across Southern’s territory of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power.

Explains Harness: “This was an opportunity that we were working on with AMDS as our partner. To announce this agreement with Southern Company on the heels of our acquisition of AMDS indicated the positive direction that Sensus is heading.”

More than 22,000 customers of Apopka, Florida will switch from a TouchRead® reading system to FlexNet over the next 12 months.

In Canada, a flurry of activity around FlexNet is underway. Sensus will install more than 25,000 FlexNetenabled iCon meters in Newmarket and Tay, Ontario. Newmarket Hydro, recognised as a pioneer in the Ontario electricity market, selected the FlexNet AMI solution for full deployment. A contract for 80,000 meters using the FlexNet AMI solution was purchased by electricity provider PowerStream for the York Region of Ontario.

“Our selection process evaluated every technology available today,” says John Sanderson, PowerStream’s vice president, CDM and metering. “We chose Sensus’ FlexNet system because it satisfies our stringent technical requirements, utilises minimal network infrastructure, and is a true multi-utility platform, which communicates over a secure licensed spectrum.”

These early wins for Sensus and its FlexNet solution are prompting other providers to take a second look. Sensus officials are implementing tailored pilot programmes coast to coast. Smart Meter Pilot Program Inc. (SMPPI), a nonprofit company led by Pepco Holdings, Inc, electricity provider to the Washington DC area, has selected the Sensus FlexNet system and iCon electricity meters for a smart metering pilot project slated for more than 2,000 homes. New FlexNet-equipped iCon meters will go into homes in every section of Pepco’s DC coverage area.

The project is meant to give Pepco more data about residential consumption habits and trends, and give homeowners better control over their usage. The project is pending for expected final District of Columbia PSC approval. Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) officials also are piloting the FlexNet system under a unique plan that allows customers to control their own electricity usage and billing. To manage the growth and success of its AMI programme, Sensus has reorganised to address the increased AMI market activity.

AMDS founder and CEO Britton Sanderford, assumes the newly created position of chief technology officer for Sensus. The Sensus AMI management team consists of Doug McCall, AMI marketing director, Marc Reed, director of communications technology, and Gregg Larson, director of network deployments. They report to George Uram, vice president, electricity and AMI. McCall, responsible for marketing all Sensus AMI products across gas, water and electricity sectors, joined Sensus in 2000, and has held various sales and marketing positions.

Reed, a founding principal of AMDS, is a two-decade veteran of the metering industry, specialising in systems, software and hardware designs. Larson, from the AMDS network operations unit, has extensive experience with the operations side of the metering industry. Prior to AMDS, he directed network operations for CellNet, where he reduced operational costs by more than 50% while improving system performance and overseeing the successful installation of more than 2 million meters. MI Major acquisition propels Sensus to the forefront