Patricia Cortés Celada graduated in Chemistry from the University of Alcalá de Henares and specialises in Polymer Chemistry. For 5 years she was in charge of large accounts at an innovative company with headquarters in Barcelona, managing several successful environmental projects for the public and private sector. Now at Kamstrup she is responsible for Water Solutions Business Development at the national level in Spain, a position where she can learn about and present to clients advanced water metering solutions by the company, such as MULTICAL® 21, a smart water meter than integrates the most advanced ultrasonic technology.
Question: Can you please tell us about MULTICAL® 21 and its applications in the water sector?
Answer: At Kamstrup we believe that information and a transparent distribution network are key factors to overcome current challenges in the water sector, and so we would like to share our vision and knowledge.
With this in mind, we developed Multical®21, a smart compact water meter with ultrasonic measurement technology, suitable to measure cold and hot water use in residential and small business settings.
It is a meter designed by and for water operators and local authorities, due to its advantages versus a meter using mechanical technology.
Its precision and minimum operating costs make the Multical®21 meter the best solution, and the most cost-effective in the long term, to measure cold water use in homes, water works and industry.
Photo: Pablo González Cebrián/Smart Water Magazine
Q: What are its main features?
A: MULTICAL® 21 is a solid-state meter with no moving parts: there is no wear and it is resistant to any impurities in the water. It does not lose accuracy throughout its service life, which reaches 16 years.
It offers low flow accuracy to guarantee the measurement even with the lowest flows. This, in turn, ensures fair and correct billing, improves data quality and helps reduce non revenue water.
The meter's smart alerts allow detecting any leaks or breaks, in addition to any irregularities like tamper attempts or reverse flows. This limits water loses as well as collateral damages.
At the same time, with MULTICAL® 21 you can monitor outdoor temperature and water temperature. It warns about any risks of pipelines breaking due to freezing or changes in water quality. Moreover, it features integrated wireless communications to enable remote reading, with no need for any additional devices.
Q: Why would one choose this solution over a similar one in the market?
A: A smart meter solution starts with the meter itself. Therefore, the first thing to take into account when choosing a meter is the technology it uses, because, even though big data is very important, we cannot forget about data reliability. For us, completely reliable data are paramount, so we can trust the data in case of any incident.
MULTICAL® 21 is a water meter with ultrasonic solid-state technology, developed thanks to Kamstrup's 25 years of experience in the development and manufacture of ultrasonic solid-state meters.
This measurement technology has many advantages compared with mechanical meters:
- There is no wear. Because the meter has no moving parts, it stays the same throughout its service life, without losing precision nor accuracy.
- It can be installed in any position. A mechanical meter loses precision and accuracy unless it is installed horizontally: if it is installed at an angle, the mechanical meter does not measure properly.
- They are not affected by water hammers. When a mechanical meter experiences a water hammer, the meter stops working correctly because the pressure surge damages the mechanical parts. This is not the case with non mechanical meters like this one. The meter would detect it, would warn about it, and once the pressure surge is gone it would continue to work properly.
- The mechanical meter also measures air flow, because the meter will measure anything that moves its blades, turbines, etc. Our meter only measures water, because solid state technology measures when the pipeline is full of water.
- Magnetic fields. A quite widespread fraud uses magnetic fields to interfere with or halt mechanical water meters, without leaving any traces or evidence. In our case, sound waves are not affected by magnetic fields; sound waves propagate through air or water, but there are no magnetic fields involved. Thus, the meter is immune to magnetic fields.
Having explained why the first thing to consider when choosing a meter is the measurement technology, the next thing to look at would be remote reading.
Nowadays, and increasingly more and more, water operators choose remote reading given all its advantages. In our case, communications are integrated within the meter. That is, there is no additional module to be attached to the meter. There is only one data field, a single record: the number recorded is shown on the meter's display and it is the same data point sent outwards. Hence it is 100% reliable.
On the other hand, attached modules have a battery, which usually does not last long, and the length of battery life is directly related to the reading frequency. With Multical®21, that would not happen, because the battery life is at least 16 years, regardless of the number of readings.
Finally, if we compare our meter with another similar solution in economic terms, we can substantiate that, if you perform an appropriate economic assessment comparing it with a mechanical meter, purchasing a solid state ultrasonic meter is more advantageous, because it will not have the following problems: loss of accuracy (less water billed), more fraud (magnetic fields), meters that stop (lime), battery changes (radio modules). It is a reliable meter, with zero maintenance.
Photo: Pablo González Cebrián/Smart Water Magazine
Q: Out of the new technologies that are driving the evolution of the water sector, which ones does MULTICAL® 21 use and how so?
A: The journey of a water supply company towards smart metering has plenty of communications options. One of those options is the Internet of Things (IoT). Our meter allows remote reading using Wireless M-Bus, wired M-Bus and IoT communications protocols.
Wireless M-Bus is a mature technology, tested across Europe. It is a European standard. That is, it is not Kamstrup's proprietary protocol. Nowadays, all solid-state meters in the market have it, so water managers can use multiple manufacturers and choose the meters they wish, and they can be read.
Wireless M-Bus has a low output power, allowing for a large amount of data, so the battery has a long service life. This is useful for most applications: billing, analysis and monitoring almost in real time.
Moreover, within smart water metering, Sigfox is the most mature and widespread IoT technology, with coverage in many parts of the world; many new networks are constantly being implemented.
Our MULTICAL® 21 meters are available with Sigfox communications. They offer the same exceptional precision, durability, alarms and smart functions as our other meters, but they include a Sigfox radio instead of a Wireless M-Bus radio, for example, and emit a different data package.
Aside from what Sigfox already includes, Kamstrup adds another layer of security to our meters: individual encryption keys for each device, accessible only to our clients through My Kamstrup, our online portal.
Data from the meters have to be retrieved from the Sigfox cloud using an API, and are visualised using a back-end solution. This solution can be supplied by third parties, or else can be developed by utilities themselves.
Q: What did the launch of MULTICAL® 21 mean for the water sector?
A: Multical®21 provides water utilities a reliable, precise and accurate water meter that does not require maintenance and can bill every single water drop. It simplifies managing the distribution network, minimising or eliminating problems, such as fraud using magnetic fields, administrative management derived from estimations or user complains due to incorrect billing, etc.
As a meter, it has everything a water distributor may need. In our web we show several successful cases of companies and local authorities that confirm these data. One of them is the municipality of Canillas de Aceituno (province of Malaga, Spain). It is a town in the Axarquía region, with approximately 1800 people, and with a specific problem: they wanted to reduce the time spent reading meters, increasing the effectiveness of the system. The solution was installing the Multical®21 smart water meter together with the READy reading system.
Previously, the town had mechanical meters which were read individually and manually. When it came to reading the meters, the local authorities faced several problems, particularly the time required to do it, and the fact that mechanical meters were easy to manipulate. Hence, they contacted us, knowing that we had experience solving similar problems. Deputy Mayor Álvaro Hurtado Muñoz confirms that after one year of using our meters, they have realised a €50,000 benefit.
Another success story is Gotland, in Sweden, where limestone rock led to lime deposits in 12,000 mechanical meters. So the water department started to replace some of the meters after only three years of service life, instead of the usual ten. Gradual replacement with Kamstrup ultrasonic meters, which are resistant to lime deposits, is expected to result in considerable savings.
Q: Finally, let us look at the future; what are the business and development expectations for this type of product in the water sector?
A: At Kamstrup we are sure about one thing. The future is the ultrasonic solid-state meter.