Smart Metering Introduction

A water meter is a device used to measure the amount of water consumed in a building.  A "smart" water meter is a measuring device that has the ability to store and transmit consumption data frequently.  Sometimes "smart" meters are referred to as "time-of-use" meters because in addition to measuring the volume consumed, they also record the date and time the consumption occurs.

Traditional water meters are read monthly or bi-monthly by a person and a water bill is generated from this manual reading of the meter.  "Smart" meters can be read remotely and more frequently, providing instant access to water consumption information for both customers and water utilities.  "Smart" water meters are one component of an automated meter infrastructure (AMI) system that water utilities may choose to deploy.  The simple graphic below shows how an AMI system transmits information and data in two directions - both to and from the customer and the water utility.

 AMI and smart metering 

AMI systems using "smart" water meters are capable of measuring, collecting, and analyzing water use information and then communicating this information back to the customer via the internet either on request or on a fixed schedule.  AMI systems include hardware, software, communications, consumer water use portals and controllers, customer associated systems, Meter Data Management (MDM) software, and supplier business systems.

Water utilities are implementing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems as part of larger “Smart Grid” initiatives that may also including electricity and natural gas services. AMI extends current advanced meter reading (AMR) technology by providing two-way meter communications, allowing information and commands to be sent toward end users for multiple purposes including: Real-time usage and pricing information, leak and abnormal usage detection, targeted water efficiency messaging, measuring changes in water use, and even remote service disconnects. 

The network between "smart" meters, utility business systems, and information portals allows both customers and utilities to take advantage of the usage data and information created through the AMI system. AMI differs from automatic meter reading (AMR) in that it enables two-way communications with the meter and the customer. Systems only capable of remote meter readings without two-way communication do not qualify as AMI systems.