Making Sensus of remote reading

Sutton and East Surrey Water is trialling the new Sensus Scout automatic meter reading system at one of its biggest housing projects. We take a closer look at the technology.

The £22M Well Farm Heights apartment development in South Whyteleafe is one of the UK’s largest housing schemes, and is aimed exclusively at key workers in Surrey.

The development, being built by Dominion Housing Group, is divided into ten three- and five-storey blocks. Each flat is small and includes carpets, a bathroom suite and all white goods.

Well Farm Heights incorporates environmentally friendly initiatives such as sedum grass roofs, which absorb 70% of water run-off, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

It is also the development chosen by Sutton and East Surrey Water to trial the Sensus Scout Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, which has been launched recently by Sensus Metering Systems (SMS). Sutton and East Surrey Water has installed Sensus Scout technology initially alongside 60 Sensus 620 residential meters at Well Farm Heights.

The radio AMR system enables all the meters to be read remotely and simultaneously from a single location on the site using a hand-held unit. The meters, for each apartment, are located either in pits or in central meter cupboards.

According to Jeremy Heath, development engineer at Sutton and East Surrey Water, the trial is in line with the company’s stated policy of evaluating technology that can add value both to customers and to the company.

He says: “As a company, we have been using encoded meters for 20 years. We

have about 70,000 meters installed at present, with a programme in place for a further 30,000 over the next five years. We envisage that a number of these meters will be radio read – particularly in multi-occupancy developments such as Well Farm Heights, and also in difficult-to-read locations.

“For Sutton and East Surrey, the main drivers behind adopting radio AMR technology are efficiency, accuracy of read and cost-effectiveness.

We want to reduce the time to read as much as possible, and we also want to ensure that any system we adopt has in-built flexibility, so that should we decide to change the read method in the future we do not need to throw away the meters.”

At Well Farm Heights, the Sensus meters feature separate HRI units that connect to Sensus Scout radio transponders, which in turn transmit data remotely to the hand-held units.

Sutton and East Surrey Water also sees major advantages in using radio read for meters in hard-to-reach

locations, such as in fields. This not only makes reading much more time-efficient, but also addresses health and safety issues associated with carrying heavy tools to access meter pits.

“As a company, we are very keen to be at the cutting edge of technology and always moving forward,” says Heath. “We are always looking for better ways of doing things and lowering cost. For us, radio read will be one of the ways of achieving our objectives for meter efficiency, accuracy and longevity.”

GSM gateways

So what about the system itself? Sensus Scout is one of Europe’s first true single-source radio AMR systems. It is designed to deliver an end-to-end solution for utilities and water companies.

In effect, Sensus Scout offers an unbroken and seamless data chain from the meter point via the IT system through to the billing process, says SMS.

Sensus Scout has been specially developed to provide mobile and remote reading of meters in high-density residential areas and in lower-density industrial locations.

Each water meter is equipped with an integrated or plug-and-play transponder, which sends consumption information to external data collectors.

A hand-held unit is then used to read meters simultaneously from the same point as part of a mobile walk-by system. In larger urban schemes, the meter information is forwarded from the data collectors to GSM gateways via a repeater network. In this configuration, each Sensus Scout network can read meters remotely and automatically. The solution is also completely scalable depending upon topology.

The system is suited to commercial and industrial areas where meter access can be difficult, in flooded pits for example, or can be obstructed by traffic. Uwe Gross, product manager systems at SMS, says: “For the first time, water supply companies can rely on true end-to-end system integrity that comes from the ability of Sensus to control every element of the process.

“Not only does Sensus Scout drive up operational efficiency through reading technology, it also adds value by delivering real-time information about business critical issues, including leakage and broken-pipe detection, tamper alerts and reverse flow volume measurement.”

Sensus Scout is available to new applications but is equally effective through backwards compatibility using the company’s HRI sensors, which provide a data interface for the remote reading of conventional meters.

SMS says that the new AMR system “has already proven its effectiveness” in Germany, where an original trial of the technology has been significantly expanded. A similar programme is about to start in the UK, France and South America.

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