Communications is Key to Ensuring AMR Longevity

Kinsman, Carolyn
September 2003
Utility Automation;Sep/Oct2003, Vol. 8 Issue 5, p36
Mitigating the risk of the overall automatic meter reading (AMR) capital investment when selecting a system type is probably the foremost concern when purchasing AMR. Keeping this perspective in mind, one can review past AMR buying behavior and see a split in how utilities have dealt with risk-mitigation. On one hand, utilities have found that the risk can be contained by purchasing a drive-by system to replace manual monthly meter reads. More aggressive utilities, on the other hand, acknowledge that if an investment must be made to automate meter reading, then the incremental cost to acquire more data, more frequently, should be considered. This article focuses on the financial aspect of investment for an AMR system among companies in the U.S. utilities industry. Depending on bandwidth, one-way systems may suffice for acquiring data for profiling, rate analysis, forecasting and asset optimization. Many utilities, however, question when, and if, a two-way link is necessary for an AMR system. Long-term, the communications option for AMR should be selected based on its ability to act as the customer link or “last leg” in the total utility communications infrastructure. Furthermore, public networks enable utilities to build out enhance data collection capabilities without the associated infrastructure cost, which is beyond the cost of the base AMR system. Private networks, on the other hand, enable the utility to control the entire communications architecture but require a higher level of investment by the utility. A middle ground appears to be emerging where AMR systems are integrated to facilitate long-haul and backhaul of meter data over utility networks with infrastructure currently connected to utility substations. Still other AMR systems use a private network option to connect to the meter and the first collection node.


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