What is the next generation view for Automated Meter Infrastructures (AMI) currently being placed into service?
Have utilities fully optimized the benefits of these systems and the networks that support them?
Most utilities are very familiar with the value AMI systems have brought to utilities. Points such as improved financials from the billing and customer service perspective deservedly get front row seats. Another benefit that has been realized is value added services to both the utility and customer such as better system non-revenue management and customer consumption awareness.
Yet, can there be more derived from these systems? The short answer is yes but, that would be no fun to stop there!
Currently, discussion across the utility industry has centered on bringing more functionality across the AMI system networks; leak detection has matured as one example of additional functionality within AMI systems. Others being discussed include pressure, residual monitoring and hydrant flow monitoring. In some cases, creative uses like monitoring sanitary sewer overflows and underpass water levels are a reality.
So yes, more can be derived but what does the new AMI system look like and how would it be operated?
The full system architecture still requires definition but there is certainty that a variety of data points can be delivered through these systems to both utilities and cities seeking to better understand their environment. At a very high level, the system architecture would be comprised of a unified communications layer that delivers the data points from a variety of sensors to a data warehouse accessible to both utility and city decision makers. Data could reside either within an already owned IT footprint or in the cloud depending on a variety of considerations.
How is the network constructed and operated is another question to be answered. In working with utilities across the country, West Monroe Partners has embraced the perspective of collaboration between public and private utilities building singular telecommunication networks and developing service level agreements that support data hosting and operational efficiencies. Of course, the devil is in the details and how the actual architectural diagram may look and who owns and operates what remains to be defined and is customizable to the specific environment. In brief summary, a singular network would be reflective of a working together model that benefits rate payers, addresses ecological concerns and favorably aligns with business case principals.
Requirements to realize the singular network architecture include developing regulatory support, driving interoperability through all levels of the system and provisioning strong oversight through inter-agency agreements and detailed cost/revenue sharing models. All of which are manageable with appropriate direction and a will to succeed. The result mitigates redundancy in cost that ultimately passes to the rate payers and provides communities with a system that delivers data for utility and city decision makers.