By Akhil Nair
Water conservation cannot be watered-down to regulating flowing taps or showers and optimizing urinal & toilet flushing. Also, water conservation is becoming increasingly relevant and urgent, given the broadening gap between the dwindling water supplies due to climate change and the rising demand from the increasing population.
Moreover, the integrated policies and initiatives of the current times encompass several water-efficient technologies and appliances. In this regard, smart water meters are projected to offer a respite over traditional ones. A smart water meter is a regular water meter linked to a device that facilitates continual electronic reading and display of water consumption.
Why Smart Water Meters?
Smart water meters eliminate the need to manually read the meter dial and show water consumption in real time. Also, they enhance a utility’s ability to accurately bill consumers for the amount of water used. Additionally, the remote reading capability enables shorter intervals between billing reads, allowing the regular flow of capital or enhanced business planning in terms of future revenue streams.
Furthermore, they offer consumer protection in terms of identifying and controlling leakage and continuous billing, planning future bill amounts, and malfunctioning meters. Such benefits of smart water meters are among the key growth drivers of the global smart water meter market, set to project a CAGR of 8.39% by 2030, as per Inkwood Research. Additionally, the smart grid and smart city initiatives offer growth opportunities for smart water meters in regions like North America, which is estimated to project the highest revenue share of 46.11% by 2030, as per our evaluation.
The two advanced technologies with regard to smart water types in the water industry today are Automated Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
Smart Water Metering: Understanding AMR and AMI
Automated Meter Reading (AMR)
Automated meter reading (AMR) is the communication technology used by water utilities to autonomously collect water consumption data from water meters. The AMR systems can be drive-by or walk-by. The endpoint, connected to the meter’s encoder register, records water flow and alarm data further collected by utility personnel by driving or walking by with a data receiver close to the device.
Furthermore, automatic meter reading systems entail three primary components. These include a meter interface module with a communication interface, meter sensors, and power supply; communication systems used for telemetry or transmission of data and regulating signals between the central office and meter interface units; central office systems equipment that include controllers, data concentrators, receivers, modems, host computer, and host upload links.
Advantages of AMR:
AMR is less expensive and offers resource- and time-saving benefits. One of the key benefits of AMR is that it can be retrofitted onto existing meters, enabling a smooth transition to a smart solution.
Data from AMR can help businesses and households to use less water. Also, it gives consumers a record of their usage, enabling close monitoring of output. This will help them better understand usage patterns, facilitating changes to minimize consumption. This becomes crucial in places with increasing water stress. With regard to utility companies, integrating smart meter data and acoustic logger data aid in better targeting of leakage across networks.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is an integrated system of water meters, data management systems, and communication networks that facilitate two-way communication between utilities and meter endpoints. At the same time, AMI does not require utility personnel to collect the data, and instead transmits the data directly to utilities at predetermined intervals. Further, the data is sent through a fixed network, which can be used for enhancing operational efficiencies and sustainability through effective monitoring of water usage, recognizing irregularities, and detecting malfunctions.
As per the UN World Water Development Report 2019, the global water demand is expected to account for an increase of 20-30% above the current water use levels by 2050, attributed to surging demands from domestic and industrial sectors. Similarly, utilities and government agencies are opting for AMI solutions as part of their ‘smart grid’ initiatives. As per our assessment, such aspects contribute to the residential segment’s largest revenue share of 86.67% by 2030 in the global smart water market.
Advantages of AMI:
Timely Notification of Leaks
Replacing conventional water meters with data-centric AMI meters can offer consumers uninterrupted readings and alert irregularities that may indicate leaks. Also, consumers can see changes in water usage and monitor long-term patterns with internet access to data in real-time.
Supplements Water Conservation Efforts
Several consumers self-impose certain standards to conserve water. AMI meters ease the setting up of conservation goals and personal budgets. Additionally, they enable experimentation to determine the difference and impact on water usage.
With regard to future investments and developing emergency response plans and stronger risk assessments, having a reliable, clear understanding of their systems allows utilities to make strategic decisions. This is enabled by AMI meters. For instance, according to the Water Finance & Management Magazine, Bedford almost witnessed a 20-25% increase in meter accuracy after implementing AMI solutions. Such accuracy levels help utilities minimize non-revenue water (NRW).
As per our analysis, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is the fastest-growing and largest revenue-generating type in the global smart water meter market, with a revenue share of 66.01% in 2021.
AMR or AMI: Which is the Answer?
Smart water metering is robust and inexpensive when done correctly. Any technology’s feasibility and long-term use are dependent on how it reduces operational costs, automates manual processes, and improves data quality.
As for the feasible and ideal option between AMI and AMR, the latter has a higher installation percentage due to low costs. However, it does not provide extensive data. Accordingly, its limitations have made utilities want more from their investments. This has further led to increased demands for AMI meters, given their data gathering capacities. Such aspects of AMR and AMI are projected to set the course for the global smart water meter market growth during the forecast period.
Which is the leading country in the global smart water meter market?
The United States is the leading country in the global smart water meter market.
Which is the leading end-user in the global smart water meter market?
Commercial & Industrial are the leading end-user in the global smart water meter market.