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Access to near real-time water meter data presents opportunities for significant improvement in water and asset management, billing and customer service. However, it also brings with it a range of challenges.

Taggle Systems has worked closely with councils and water utilities for over ten years delivering smart water metering solutions and has gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience in best practices, from pre-installation planning through to data delivery.

Business transformation project

It is important to understand that smart water metering is not purely an IT metering project, it’s a business transformation project. The workflow, processes, decision-making and activities of many teams across the organisation can be improved through analysis and understanding of the data collected from the new meters.

The water and wastewater team, GIS and asset management teams will experience a wide range of benefits and improved processes in water and asset management.

The customer service team will have access to new tools and additional information available within the Customer Portal and be better able to assist with customers’ enquiries, improve customer relations by informing them of leaks, and easy updating of contact information.

The finance and billing team will benefit from better management of customer accounts, with simplified special reads, reduced insurance claims, and improved revenue forecasting and recovery.

For the marketing and social media teams, they will have the opportunity to benefit from good customer stories flowing from bill shock avoidance and water savings initiatives, as well as using the data now available to better target messaging around water savings and education campaigns.

The marketing team will be key to driving customer engagement regarding the availability of the Customer Portal for self-help monitoring of water consumption and identifying leaks.

If any of these key teams are not included in the planning, development and training, or are dragging their heels, it will affect the success and benefits realised across the entire project.

For this reason, and from the outset, Taggle implements Project Working Groups across the key departments to ensure that the utility maximises the benefits from its investment.

The evolving journey

To unlock the full potential of a smart metering project, it is essential to understand that it is an evolving journey. The data collected in the first few months after installation provides a wealth of insights as to the reticulation network health and where existing leaks and issues are located.

This creates a flurry of enthusiasm and activity. Once these issues have been addressed, and identifying leaks and breaks as they come up becomes business as usual, it is then that the next steps in the journey should take place.

The data provided by the smart water meters should then be used to target specific problems experienced by the council or water utility. This could be to inform infrastructure decisions, network planning, improved forecasting for water and sewer or by monitoring the effects of tourism, seasons or events.

Then perhaps look beyond just utilising smart meter data and explore other sensors. Taggle provides solutions for pressure, level, weather, water and air quality, all of which can provide valuable insights for better water asset management.

Involving your water modelling consultant in deciding deployment of extra sensors helps define what kind, where and how many extra sensors and is an excellent tactic to bring maximum benefit.

Due to the relatively small cost of IoT sensors, you will find that your SCADA team now has an opportunity to deploy more sensors to gain more field data and make even better decisions.

Significant increase in data

Where previously a water meter was only read once every three months, new smart water meters now provide 2,190 reads in the same period – you can understand how the sudden increase in data can present a challenge. Dedicated software is required to crunch those numbers, and up-to-date records are important to ensure a smooth rollout.

Taggle has a range of tools to ensure the correct data flow, including a field operations app to assist with installation and maintenance in the field. It also offers its Aqualus Water Meter Data Management software which can import customer data from your CRM, export meter data to your billing and SCADA systems, and to the Customer Portal for end users. A seamless flow of data between these systems is essential to avoid  data mismatch and the resultant headaches.

Customer service potential

Customer service should be treated as a mobile experience rather than simply a paper bill. The opportunities provided by the new data enable customer service to not only answer concerns regarding high water bills, but to additionally educate water users in how to better manage their water consumption via the Customer Portal.

If the customer service team is not comfortable with the software or isn’t driven to assist in reducing water consumption, then the divide between the water services team and end users can be hard to bridge.

Dedicated customer service personnel, focused on water, can prove invaluable in driving engagement with both domestic and commercial customers, helping them to better understand their water consumption.

While the system automates leak and high consumption alerts, triaging extreme events or persistent non-responders can prove highly worthwhile in reducing lost water and improved customer satisfaction.

In summary

So, when considering a new smart metering project or evaluating an existing one, it is important to look at the wider picture, beyond just the water services team, and consider any next steps in the evolving journey of the project.

Are all the potential players involved? Have they had adequate training? Are they continually challenging the data to find new value and insights? There are real nuggets to be found, you just have to look for them.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Taggle Systems. Visit www.taggle.com.au for more information.

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