18.12.2020 1617

Optical modules for water meters: operating principle, installation, and advantages

Utility consumption tracking is a genuine concern for a good deal of water service and property management companies. Many suppliers still do water accounting manually, i.e., the readings are submitted by consumers themselves or recorded by inspectors. This impractical method is becoming a thing of the past, though. Let’s dive in and see how utility accounting can be optimized.

Manual water accounting is still a common practice nowadays: operators collect readings from consumers through call centers and then enter them into their database by hand. As an additional measure, inspectors periodically visit tenants to record meter readings personally.

However, this system is long obsolete and causes a multitude of inconveniences for suppliers:

  • Delays in data submission: consumers often forget to submit readings on the specified date.
  • Dedicated personnel is required for the collection and recording of readings.
  • No guarantee that inspectors will have access to the meters: consumers may be out of the house or even refuse to let the inspector in.
  • No guarantee of data accuracy: consumers may understate readings or disregard the inspector’s request to send a photo of their meter.
  • Possibility of fraud: consumers may tamper with the device, using a magnet, or altering the readings on the dial.
  • Suppliers don’t get notifications about leaks.

How can data collection be optimized?

There is a much simpler and faster way of collecting readings. Suppliers and property management companies may choose to go with a semi- or fully automated accounting system.

Semi-automated accounting

Utility suppliers are guaranteed access to metering devices: the readings are collected from external meters.

It simplifies work for inspectors, enabling them to collect readings at any time: no need to persuade tenants to let them in, leave notes asking to submit readings/a photo of the meter, or return to consumers that weren’t at home.

As a result, the supplier or property management company is guaranteed to get accurate readings within the specified time. However, they will still need inspectors.

Fully automated accounting

 Devices collect readings by themselves and send them to the supplier’s software via a wireless reading collection system.

This system has additional advantages:

  • On-demand availability of accurate data
  • Automated tracking (no need to send inspectors to collect readings)
  • Smart devices not only send readings but alert the supplier about other events, e.g., water leakage or magnetic tampering.

There are multiple ways of optimizing water accounting. However, the best method depends on the goals and financial capacity of the utility supplier and consumers. The following devices can simplify water accounting:

Meters with remote displays — water meter models that support wired connection to a remote display. The display can be installed in a staircase to enable easy access to readings for utility companies’ inspectors.

Smart meters — devices with built-in radio modules that automatically collect readings from the water meter and send them to the water services company.

Radio modules for water meters. These devices are attached to the meter to send readings over radio waves. With radio modules, regular meters can be converted into smart ones at a fraction of the cost.

Why radio modules are the future

Most houses are equipped with older water meter models — analog devices unable to collect and transmit data. To replace them with new smart meters, the supplier will have to:

  • Purchase expensive new devices
  • Install them, interfering with the water supply system

However, you don’t have to replace your entire fleet of meters to optimize water accounting. That’s where radio modules for Novator water meters will come to the rescue. These devices grant smart functionality to older meter models.

Infomir currently produces radio modules for Novator’s ЛК-15Х and ЛК-15Г meters. The devices can be easily attached to water meters and activated within minutes.

Smart water meter covers are an optimal solution for utility and property management companies, developers, and housing cooperatives. Jooby’s solution enables the automation of data collection, provides accurate readings saving them in a piece of software, and detects fraud and leakages.

Advantages of radio modules

  • Radio modules are on par with smart meters in terms of features but are priced much lower. The installation of the devices is quick and straightforward: no need to modify the water supply system.
  • Unlike meters with remote displays, radio modules truly automate the transmission of readings without the involvement of inspectors or call centers.

Information sent by the devices

The purpose of the radio modules is to collect and transmit readings from water meters. However, built-in smart sensors enable the device to send alerts about other issues:

  • Unsanctioned removal
  • Magnetic tampering
  • Low battery charge
  • Flow reversal

How wireless reading collection systems work

Radio modules are attached to the metering equipment and record readings at a preset interval. Jooby devices achieve this with optical sensors that collect readings from the water meter dial. This way, the data collected is guaranteed to be accurate.
The device stores readings (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly) in its temporary memory. Meanwhile, radio modules send the data to a base station over radio waves using LoRaWAN® technology. From there, the readings are sent to the main server via internet channels.

How to install and activate the water meter radio module

Radio modules are installed on water meters by the utility company’s specialist. To install and activate the device, the following needs to be done:

  • Take a photo of the meter without the radio module to document the initial readings.
  • Shut off the water supply: no water should flow through the meter for the system to get an accurate initial data reading.
  • Scan the QR code on the radio module body with the Jooby mobile app.
  • Position the radio module on the water meter so that it doesn’t obscure the dial. Then, fasten the module with a screw.
  • In the app, input the consumer information: address, utility type (hot/cold water), meter serial number, and current readings.
  • Take a photo of the meter with the radio module attached.
  • Add a comment (optional).
  • Put a magnet to the radio module’s sensor and hold it for a few seconds. The indicator will flash a few times to signal the activation of the radio module.
  • Once the installation is complete, tap the ‘Done’ button in the mobile app. In several minutes, the radio module data will appear in the admin dashboard.

Once installed, the module is firmly attached to the water meter and will be difficult to remove or shift accidentally. If the consumer attempts to remove the device, an alert will be sent to the admin panel. The supplier will also be alerted about any magnetic tampering and attempts to reverse the flow.

After activation, the radio module will send meter reading data at the default interval of 4 hours. The supplier can change the interval from the Jooby RDC Dashboard: it can be as short as one hour or as long as one day.

Unique body

Infomir uses an HP Jet Fusion 5210 3D printing line — the only one in Europe. The company, therefore, has in-house capacities to develop and produce bodies for its wireless modules for water meters.

  • The bodies are printed from PA12, a durable and water-resistant polymer. This material has the following advantages:
  • Thermal resistance: module bodies can withstand the temperature of −50 °C … 150 °C without warping or degradation.
  • Out of the different types of nylon, PA12 has the highest moisture resistance, soaking in the amount of moisture equal to no more than 5% of its weight.
  • PA12 is resistant to the effects of grease, oil, petrol, lubricants, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and alkalies.
  • PA12 is environmentally friendly and causes no contamination while decomposing.
  • IP65 ingress protection rating: the module bodies are resistant to dust and water jets from any direction.

Radio modules are a simple and affordable solution for the optimization of utility accounting. They are easy to install and require no servicing. The sensors regularly transmit accurate readings and alerts about leaks, flow reversal, low battery, and attempted tampering. The integration of radio modules doesn’t require the replacement of the entire fleet of meters and costs much less.

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