June 8-12, 2008, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, USA – world-leading technology company, Sagentia, showcases its science and technology talent when its client, Master Meter, Inc., launches a breakthrough water meter register, AccuLinx™, designed and developed with Sagentia. The patented* technology behind the non-contact, 8 wheel system, ‘Gray Wheels’, was also invented by Sagentia. The project generated more than $1 million in consulting fees for Sagentia, and the ongoing license deal for the core technology will generate $4.5 million for the company over a number of years.
AccuLinx is an 8 wheel absolute encoder without batteries that connects the water meter to 3rd party Automatic Reading (AMR) systems using Sagentia’s ‘Gray Wheels’ sensing technology. The new 8-wheel system provides utility companies a way of accurately, remotely, and electronically reading the mechanical odometer for billing purposes and detecting leaks. This system is extremely low-power and is ‘non-contact’ creating no friction. Therefore, it enables use with multi-jet systems, which make up about half of the water meters used in the world, most of which until now have previously been exempt from AMR for this reason.
Sagentia was approached by Master Meter initially to design the mechanics (gearbox and enclosure) for a water meter register based on a third party’s 6-wheel encoder. During a two-year development, Sagentia carried out various phases of work on the design, in particular looking at the number of gears. Through a clever combination of maths and mechanics, Sagentia initially reduced the tooling outlay for the gearbox variants by 90 percent – saving Master Meter millions of dollars. Sagentia also changed the design to include 8 wheels, not 6 at this stage.
During this development Dr. Robin Lee, Head of Science and Technology at Sagentia came up with an idea for a new sensing principle for the absolute encoder, which reads the position of the wheels in an odometer (like a trip meter in a car). The technology was named ‘Gray Wheels’. Dr. Lee presented the idea to Scott Seehoffer, Director or AMR Technology at Master Meter, and he saw the potential to develop a real breakthrough product. An exclusive license deal was signed with Sagentia for the use of the technology.
Dr. Robin Lee comments: “I was trying to think of ways to improve on the existing technology. We had previously been doing work on inductive sensors as a simple detector of a metal object and I was able to build on this to develop an idea that would uniquely determine the position in a number of zones. I spent the weekend writing up the idea and described it to some of my colleagues the following week.”
He continues: We were aware of the technologies available for absolute encoders for water meter registers. However, there were still some problems. To make the idea more widely applicable and useful we needed a spatial pattern code for the coils that had some very special properties. Fortunately, one of our mathematical experts, Dr. Ross Jones, was able to solve this challenging problem and soon we had the foundations of a unique sensor system.”
Since 2004, Sagentia has been further developing its sensing capabilities with the development of Captrack, a novel, low-cost water level sensor which promises reduced costs for white goods manufacturers and more energy efficient washing for the consumer, plus provides accurate, non-contact, fuel level sensing for the automotive industry. The Gray Wheels technology builds on this even further, in the specific area of water meters, and the license in this instance is exclusive to Master Meter.
Dr. Lee continues: “We will continue to develop the technology and believe there could be other applications where real breakthroughs are possible in a number of industry sectors. Because we can design and develop both the clever science and the detailed mechanics behind a product, and take it through to manufacture if necessary, we offer a smoother route to market for firms wanting to engage in real radical, breakthrough developments.”
AccuLinx is being launched by Master Meter at the American Water Works Association’s ACE 2008 conference – the world’s most comprehensive and diverse water conference, June 8-11, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, Georgia. 570 presentations representing the work of more than 1,000 experts in the water industry, providing an excellent platform for those interested in the future of the water industry.