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Smart meters: making life easier for consumers with remote meter reading

Remote meter reading is a solution introduced by Saur to help consumers control their water consumption. But the equipment being installed goes far beyond simply the remote transmission of a reading by a smart meter. It also introduces a range of innovative services for customers.

Saur offers all its customers, from local authorities to homeowners, an effective and efficient range of services based on remote reading of water consumption figures. The solution currently deployed uses so-called second generation technology or 2G remote metering. This solution has proved to be not only reliable and efficient, but also simple to install on consumers’ premises. “These days, all we need to do is to replace the existing meters with new ones containing a radio frequency module”, explains Saur Remote Metering Manager Frédéric Brunner. “The volumes of water consumed are recorded daily and transmitted directly to our operations control centres (OCCs) via a network of transmitters and receivers called concentrators”.

Benefits for homeowners and local authorities

G2 remote metering delivers many different services to the consumers and local authorities that opt for it. For both groups of customers, this package of services is provided completely free of charge. As an added bonus, there’s no longer any need for the account holder to be on the premises to enable Saur technicians to read an indoor meter. “Over and above the fact that our customers can see their precise readings on a day-to-day basis, they now receive two six-monthly bills based accurately their actual consumption”, emphasises Frédéric Brunner. “They also receive immediate alerts by e-mail or text message if we see any unusual pattern of consumption”. So no more estimated bills, and no more nasty surprises as a result of undetected leaks.

Local authorities also benefit significantly from G2 remote metering. These benefits are concentrated mainly at three levels:
● greater control of water consumption as a result of daily readings transmitted by shared meters, and consumption alerts
● more effective supply network monitoring as a result of more detailed tracking of sectorised network efficiency and water returned to the network
● these services are made possible by the implementation of an interoperable technology fully compliant with the current AFNOR standard So if a local authority changes supplier, it can continue to use the existing remote reading network just as it has before, without having to reach any kind of agreement with the previous supplier.

Zero-hazard, secure operation

G2 remote metering relies on a daily radiofrequency transmission lasting less than one second, and using a signal power measuring less than 0.65 V/m at 1 metre from the water meter. This value is well below those generated by other devices that are now part of our daily lives, such as mobile phones, microwave ovens, induction hobs and even computers. So given the very low power used for extremely short transmission times, the equipment itself poses zero health risk to subscribers. It also complies fully with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), as well as the provisions contained in a French decree published in 2003 regarding personal protection against electromagnetic fields and the measured specific absorption rate (SAR). “Added to which, all the data transmitted are fully encrypted from end-to-end so that the transmission process is 100% secure”, continues Frédéric Brunner. “It’s also important to know that the batteries installed in smart water meters have a lifespan of around 15 years, which is about the same as a traditional water meter”. So there is zero risk of accidental failure of the system due to lack of power: the ‘Made in Saur’ G2 remote metering solution is designed for long-term reliability.

Radio metering or remote metering?

Saur offers a remote metering alternative to respond to the requirements of certain local authorities or for use in rural areas where the normal remote metering solution is difficult to deploy due to the low building density: radio metering. The choice of technology may also depend on the services that the local authority wishes to provide to its consumers. Remote metering is able to offer a broader range of services, because it gathers a much wider spectrum of data.
With radio metering, water meters are read by a technician driving around the areas concerned in a specially equipped vehicle. The smart meters installed in consumers’ homes are automatically activated whenever the ‘radio meter reader’ is nearby. Normally, radio metered readings are taken twice a year at the point of billing. But Saur is also investigating partnerships with local operators (the post office, household waste collection services, etc.) to intensify their frequency as the basis for offering additional services for consumers and local authorities.