The 21st Century has witnessed a wave of technological innovations, with many businesses shifting their operations to digital platforms. This development is increasingly gaining currency among small and medium enterprises [SMEs] owing to ease of mobile transactions besides also offering smarter and efficient management options for most operations.
At Earthview Management Limited, we are committed to making use of developed smart solutions and simplified software applications to provide efficiency and reliability to ease the flow of operations for our clientele base.
We are actively also involved in the water sector with our main efforts channeled to revolutionize the functions of water meter, and in the long-term initiate smooth relations between the Water Service Providers (WSPs), their customers and water regulation authorities through smart metering.
What is smart metering?
Smart metering is more than just the equipment and rather a combination of four main components used to develop smart metering application. Smart meters are tools and ccommunication channels that ensure efficiency in data aquisition and water flow data management systems. All the information gathered is then used for consumer billing and a hassle-free payment module.
Smart metering benefits?
Our digital platform offers unlimited advantages compared to alternate methodologies previously available. These include but not limited to reduction of non-revenue water, effective water and waste management, enhancing customer awareness on water conservation and monitoring of water leakages. In addition, the application also enhances efficient, real-time billing, improved equipment proficiency, which can disconnect and remotely restrict the flow of the meter.
Smart meters are digital gadgets and equipment designed for use in smart metering architecture, meant to collect data constantly on basis of clientele consumption. There are two main categories, namely bulk meters: these are linked to the main abstraction points, can also be connected to the main WSPs service lines or for use by high-consumption water bodies. They effectively monitor data with relative ease and reconcile the rate of water abstraction by an individual or organization.
The multiple gains accruing from smart bulk meters include:
• Real time monitoring for water produced by supply units and subsequent consumption within a specific zone.
• Collected data automatically sent to the client/WSP and water regulation body such as Water Revenue Authority. This translates to almost no margin of error or conflict in monthly billings.
• Ability to calculate non-revenue water, as the total domestic usage should also be equal the bulk meter reading.
• Daily reconciliation of gathered data to identify leakages and possible pipe or tank bursts.
As an option, domestic meters can be mounted at clients’ premises to monitor the daily water usage. Smart meters are ideally, meant to improve water management and ease consumer services. The meters also help provide data on water availability in a specific region, track down faulty meters and monitor reverse flow.
Other benefits for domestic smart meters include:
• No manual reading is required, for convenient and efficient billing the meter data is consistently uploaded to the system.
• All readings are real time and accurate; this eliminates estimate usage projections in cases whereby the field meters are inaccessible for instance, owing to the gate being locked or a client is unavailable.
• The daily reconciliation of figures and data collection ability to promptly identify possible pipe bursts or leakages.
• These meters are cheaper to maintain, they hardly require any repairs.
There are different types of smart meters, for instance the mechanical meters, which utilize moving mechanical parts and gears to record the volume of water passing through. These are however highly limited for use as unfiltered water can result to blockages.
Also available are ultrasonic meters; these function by sending sound waves through water to measure its speed in order to derive water volume readings. Mostly utilized in large-volume applications, they also compensate any known resistance associated with the meter’s construction, as well as the impact of any piping set up.
One advantage of this ultrasonic design is that when installed externally, the meter does not have to disrupt or slow down the rate of flow through the pipe.
The Faraday’s law of induction guides the use of electromagnetic meters – also designed to determine the volume of water that flows through the meter based on speed of the supply. Owing to the fact that the electromagnetic meters do not rely on mechanical components to measure flow, their ability to operate in either direction is a surplus benefit. In addition, they are ideal for situations wherein unfiltered water flow has to be measured, as there is a limited risk of build-up harming the water meter. To facilitate its smooth functionality, smart meters are largely dependent on multiple communication channels and protocols used by meters to consolidate reading of data for processing into the billing system. These include the GSM, Low Power Wide Area Network [LPWAN], Narrowband Internet of things [NB-IoT], Sigfox and the LoRa Communication protocol.
GSM communication software sends data to a mapped IP address. Most of the other protocols such as LPWAN, NB-IOT and Sigfox use consolidation towers or masts, which then forward the data to a central unit. In turn, this collection center provides the details gathered to the meter data management system and other client systems as illustrated below. GSM PREPAID meter – uses a sim card, no base station needed. As seen below, payments are done with mobile money therefore there is no need of user interface units [UIU].
In order to understand how smart meters operate, it is important to learn the functions of the Meter Data Aquisition and Meter Data Management Systems. The metering software has two main parts – both the basic meter and its billing segment. Most metering systems operations are linked to the meter data acquisition system (MDAS) and the meter data management system (MDMS).
Our firm’s Cascade meter system – integrates both the MDAS and MDMS, which utilize wireless user datagram protocol (UDP) to capture data and convey the data directly to our server. The MDMS analyses and organizes the data for ease of readability and transactional processes.
The benefits of Cascade are numerous, and inclusive of real-time alerts for instance, whenever a faulty setbacks are detected; availability of numerous water consumption reports and statistics provided on optional daily, weekly or monthly quotas based on the desired area, sub-are or customer preferences.
Cascade system ensures calculated updates for water supply loss from leakages, an easy integration to our billing system, wireless water data collection besides enabling bilateral communications between utilities and customers.
Smart meters facilitate provision of customer care services on basis of automatic meter reading (AMR) or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). The Cascade uses the AMI for data collection, with varied benefits such as improved clientele service by providing analysed usage data and reduced operational costs.
For water utilities, it is easier to trace and reduce non-revenue water wastage while at the same time increasing revenue through accurate meter reading billings. In addition, collected data provides an accurate water distribution projections, remote connection and disconnection of customer water supply.
Our firm is also proud and confident in regards to the tamper-proof, automated Majisoft billing system, which captures and uploads clientele data on server using an Android mobile application. The benefits of the Majisoft system range from timely, efficient billing to work management reports for customer accounts and their local water data projections. Our MDMS is equipped with a dashboard tailored to monitor the smart meters real-time performance.
Ideally, the end game for the measurement of domestic water usage meters is to ensure a faultless billing and payment module for smart meter users. It is thus imperative that smart meter data is integrated with a hassle-free billing system for our post-paid clientele.
Consequently, over 15 Water Supply Providers [WSP] have embraced the Earthview’s MAJISOFT, which so far, has been credited as one of the leading water billing software systems available in the local market. The integration of the system with the MDMS, guarantees effective billing, as well as computing payments on the bills generated as per the data collected from installed smart meters.
Our clientele have an option to subscribe to the smart meter prepaid or the postpaid options to settle their monthly billings. The mode of payments also varies: prepaid bills can make use of meter tokens, which are ideal for mobile money.
Clients can use either cash, cheque or Mpesa mobile payment to clear postpaid bills.