Fusion aims for fairness in metering
Fusion Meters has extended its brief beyond the manufacture of water metering products and has taken a broader view of water distribution to develop a system that offers fairness for both the utility and customers.
System Equity meters under test
While the system of water metering which allows customers to pay according to consumption is now well established, Mr Hall and his colleagues, including Dr Neil Furmidge, Fusion's research and development manager, have invested time into looking at ways to enhance and improve traditional metering methods.
Two new products include Talisman, claimed to be the world's first system for reading any make or type of meter and the System Equity meter, which has no moving parts.
They are also working with water companies on schemes to help optimise resources such as the development of cell networks linking meters to a telemetry system. Such networks can be used to cover any number of individual districts, or even a complete metering system.
Demand for a fair system can only become more acute believes Fusion. The high level of water usage coupled with the continuing low level of rainfall in many parts of the country has made the introduction of tariffs as part of the water charging system look increasingly likely.
"Everybody agrees that fairness must be at the heart of any new charging system and this means more frequent and more reliable readings," said Dr Furmidge.
"At Fusion we believe that the most consistent, accurate and reliable way forward is based on Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology. Talisman enables us to sample data to individual meters as often as required, increasing reader efficiency and ensuring accurate readings."
Because it makes use of Open Systems architecture, Talisman is able to integrate all the elements within a charging system, from the meter right through to the customer billing system, regardless of the make of the individual items of equipment and the hardware and software used.
"Adopting an Open Systems architecture by modern microprocessor control in both our AMR technology and in our meters reduces the utility's long-term investment and also the risks it would be exposed to without it," said Mr Hall.
Talisman has universal probes with 'smart' software that overcome propriety issues and allow them to 'talk' to any type of meter. If the meters in an existing network are upgraded or new ones installed, Talisman's Open Systems architecture is designed to ensure that it can talk to these too. It interfaces with any encoded, pulse output or electronic/solid state meter.
For pulse meters only, a Talisman pulse reader unit accumulates the pulses and stores the reading and an identification number. The serial probe in Talisman is capable of interfacing to any handheld computer for a meter reading collection.
Alongside the Talisman AMR system Fusion has also introduced System Equity, a new water meter which it claims is accurate to around one per cent over its lifetime. The meter, which has no moving parts and will not jam or wear out, is capable of distinguishing between air pockets and water.
Like Talisman, System Equity makes use of microprocessor communications technology, providing utilities with much greater flexibility and versatility. Designed from the outset to be compatible with advanced AMR technology it has multi-system programmable communications protocols which ensure that it is easily integrated with existing systems and with new technology.
Fusion also sees System Equity as a flexible water management tool. Its microprocessor technology is capable of detecting leaks or air ingress, can detect no-use periods, such as fraudulent bypassing, and also record instances of tampering.
Just as Talisman can read any meter, a key feature of System Equity is that the meters can be read using a variety of AMR systems, the AMR capability built into the system means that a remote unit can be used to obtain meter readings from as far away as is required.
"From the point of view of the utilities, the most practicable and cost effective charging system they can implement will be to employ metering systems based on Open System architecture," said Mr Hall. "Equitable billing is a prime concern for both customer and water company - and ultimately, water metering will become the touchstone of fairness in the water services industry."