As I sit here today, August 2020, it feels like the world has been living in the “New Normal” for quite a while, even though it has only been since March that everything changed in our lives.

I was talking this week with some friends about how it was always a tradition to walk family and friends out to their departure gate at the airport when they were flying off somewhere. Then came 9/11, and airports changed forever. We say our goodbyes at the check-in counters before our friends and family go through the airport’s security checkpoint.

It feels like we may be going through another seismic change in how we accomplish our job responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I reflect on how my life has been impacted, I spend a lot of time thinking and being thankful for the hard-working women and men that keep our water flowing, lights and power on, and gas going. These essential services that many of us take for granted are only available through the hard work of so many. With so much change, the people making it happen every day at gas, water and electric utilities are under more strain than ever.

I also thought of how an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system, or smart utility network, helps utility workers complete their assignments. Everyday.

Recently, we were discussing this topic with a utility based in the Midwest. With the unknowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to fast-track the deployment of an AMI system to help their workers. This utility executive continued by saying, “…through the pandemic and ‘work from home’ orders, we realized how much more efficient we could be working remotely had we had a metering system in place.”

…through the pandemic and ‘work from home’ orders, we realized how much more efficient we could be working remotely had we had a metering system in place.

– Midwestern-based utility executive

Here’s How an AMI System Can Help You Through the Pandemic:

  1. Get things done remotely
    One of the best features of an AMI system is its ability to provide two-way communication to utility equipment in the field. Information can be gathered remotely from across your service area and reported to the appropriate utility personnel – fast. You can save truck rolls and speed up your utility’s ability to complete many jobs more quickly.

  2. Saves truck rolls
    Speaking of truck rolls. Being able to save trips to the field saves time and money. Your system is your eyes and ears across your service area, helping to monitor and report issues when they occur. These systems don’t need to sleep or rest. They will work for you – day and night.

  3. Remote meter reading for billing
    By collecting billing information remotely, you’ll save truck rolls, time and money. Collect the data you need to produce the bills for your customers without stepping foot on their property.

  4. Expand your SCADA system’s eyes and ears
    A sound AMI system does much more than help you with billing. It should provide an excellent communication network for a wide variety of applications. Enabling your SCADA system to monitor and control new points across your entire service area expands its value.

  5. A cleaner, greener you
    Businesses of all types are becoming greener, and utilities are helping lead the way. By identifying and targeting the specific area in your system to address, you significantly reduce truck rolls and CO2 emissions. Less waste, faster resolution of out of bounds conditions, and better solutions for your customers – it’s all in a day’s work.

  6. Find leaks
    Water is a precious resource. You know it, and I know it. But water leaks occur, and finding them is not easy. You can now identify leaks and get them fixed before they do more damage and waste more water.

  7. Better monitoring of your gas pipelines
    Gas pipelines are periodically tested to confirm their cathodic protection is adequate to make sure they are in good shape. Instead of the traditional once or twice a year testing requiring field crews to be deployed for extended periods, you can automatically receive hourly alarms for unsafe readings. Monitor this information remotely and watch for any areas that need corrective action – building a safer community.

  8. Two-way communication to meters and other smart endpoints
    Systems today can tie into many different kinds of devices.  These include stream, reservoir, and lake level monitors, street lights, demand response units, reclosers and capacitor banks, pipelines, gates, motors, and lift stations – just to name a few. Use the power of your network to connect to devices of all types – remotely.

  9. Find needles in the haystack
    If you think of meters and other endpoints as sensors, then your system can be the ultimate solution for finding needles in the haystack across your entire service area. Be it an empty pipe, leaking pipes, the reverse flow of water or electricity, a gas pipeline whose cathodic protection has eroded, day burning street lights, overloaded equipment, tampering or outage events these conditions and many others can be identified and reported in to your team for appropriate action.

As the heroes at our water, gas, and electric utilities continue to do their jobs, it’s essential to give them the tools for success. In this “New Normal” time, we can all use a little help. Deploying a smart utility network is a step in the right direction.