AMR technology

Jacques-Louis van der Linde technical specialist Elster Kent Metering
Jacques-Louis van der Linde technical specialist Elster Kent Metering.jpg

New automatic meter reading technology installed in a block of flats in Bloemfontein is setting the trend for the effective management of the water in South Africa.

Platinum Global a long established company that specialises in the provision of services for body corporate management, has decided to use the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology as it provided them with immediate benefits in terms of the effective management of the water facilities for the unit. Platinum Global provides a variety of services in both the residential and commercial industries. The company’s owner Jill Spencer says that they took the decision to make use of AMR technology for this particular project, due to the structure of the building which comprises a total of 33 flats.

Ten of the units in Dorotheahof have shafts on the outside of the building and when reading meters can only be accessed via scaffolding. This has made the reading of water meters for each of the units extremely difficult. AMR technology was the most logical way to ensure the successful administration of the water services provided to the individual units.

According to Jacques-Louis van der Linde, a technical specialist from Elster Kent Metering, the project included the installation of new Elster Kent meters with electronic shut-off valves being fitted in the shafts of this six story block of flats. Van der Linde explains the technology used in this project:

“The system that has been installed makes use of a remote shut-off radio valve. This technology has been developed for the residential market and enables the remote reading of the meters, control of water to the meters within certain time frames, as well as the monitoring of leaks in the system”.

Meter reading over the radio network provides the facility to access and monitor the network as frequently as on a daily basis. One of the major benefits of this system to the consumer is in its leak detection facility. The radio valve enables the water distribution company to intervene by radio control and shut-off the water supply when a leak is detected.

The radio transmitter used in this project is the Elster Kent Meter Interface Unit (MIU), which enables remote administration and fully automated meter reading. This unit contains a radio frequency (RF) transmitter/receiver that can be fitted to most pulse meters. This works in conjunction with the Elster Kent Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) concentrator and radio modem to provide an effective solution for meter reading.

This technology has several benefits which include walk-by and drive-by meter reading systems. They are also simple and cost effective to install with no specialised knowledge being required, and in addition, require very little maintenance in the long term.

Whilst Elster Kent provided the hardware for the project, they partnered with SDG Technologies who provided the software components. Van der Linde says that they provided the client with a fixed network solution, which comprises a MIU being installed on every water meter through the standard water meter Reed Switch. The MIU is an RF device that connects to the meter and sends data to the RF data collection device called a Data Concentrator.

The MIU listens continuously for a short code signal from the RF collector and responds with a meter reading and other events. The rapid data acquisition techniques results in short transmission times which ensures extended battery life. The MIU is IP68 waterproof rated which makes it suitable for both internal and external installations. The fixed network also includes a versatile management system that can read from a single meter to an unlimited number of meters.

Other key features of the software include an unlimited number of user connections through web browsers, with both profile and billing displays as well as the facility to view consumption online. In addition, the system allows for the detection of leaks in the network, as well as broken meters, and makes it possible to remotely disconnect or restrict consumption.

For water balancing purposes, accounts can be summarised and zone metering is possible.The technology has a flexible tariff system which can be customised according to the client’s requirements.

AMR provides cost saving benefits

Platinum Global is no new-comer to AMR technology. Spencer says that they already have 93 installed units up and running on the AMR system. Commenting on the benefits that the company has seen with using this technology, Spencer says.

“While the initial outlay is expensive, a substantial cost saving has been realised in time, by not having to travel to the site to physically read the meters. Also, being able to print out a monthly graph with the account has been very effective in allying residents’ fears about incorrect manual readings and calculations”.

Van der Linde says, “Overall this project has provided a cost effective solution that eliminates unnecessary water consumption and provides the client with a complete and effective water consumption management facility”.

Pic 2 - Dorotheahof flats.jpg
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Issue 68