Kamstrup is a company providing metering solutions for water, electricity, heating and cooling. In addition, they have applications for smart networks, smart metering systems and meters: without a doubt, good tools to adapt and stand out among the leaders of the technology revolution taking place in the water sector. One of the most important solutions the company offers is Water Intelligence and Incidents; we talk about it with Ramón López Farías, Kamstrup's Commercial Director for Spain, Portugal and Latin America since 2017, with more than 15 years of experience in the smart-metering sector for electric, thermal energy and water utilities.
Question: What is the Water Intelligence and Incidents platform, and what are its applications in the water sector?
Answer: Water Intelligence and Incidents are the two applications that make up Kamstrup's data analysis platform for water utilities. The platform is aimed to utilities with a READy® Drive-by o or fixed network remote reading system, and allows processing and visualising metering data in order to optimise processes and asset management.
The remote reading system READy enables digitlising the usage data collection process, and optimising the utility's billing process. With analysis systems, these same data can be used to control water losses, optimise maintenance tasks, and improve asset management in the distribution network.
'Water Intelligence and Incidents are the two applications that make up Kamstrup's data analysis platform for water utilities'
Q: Please tell us about their main features and how they work.
A: Water Intelligence provides a general vision of the distribution network by district or section. For each district, we obtain accurate data on inflows, internal consumption, and water losses. These data, shown dynamically as maps and graphs, enable us to address leaks and cracks in pipelines quickly and efficiently.
Application use is user-friendly and safe: Districts are defined graphically in a map of the distribution network, and the system verifies and validates the information automatically.
It is an event manager based on the different warnings reported by smart meters, such as leaks, dry meter, tampering and many other things. The huge amount of information that a smart meter fleet provides can be overwhelming. Incidents turns gross data from meters into coherent and structured information with which the utility can establish a priority rank of the events detected and manage maintenance and repair orders efficiently.
Similarly to Water Intelligence, Incidents has a user-friendly graphical interface that shows the events on a map. You can then select there the events, assign them to a working team and even assign automated rules, for example: send an urgent SMS if a pipeline break is detected.
Q: How do they differ from other similar solutions in the market?
A: The main difference is that they work directly with data and warnings from residential smart meters, not with computer models. Computer models, even if they are very sophisticated, are still an estimation based on statistical data. Because they work with data and warnings from smart meters, the digital processing is distributed, and you obtain a more robust, precise and efficient system.
Q: What did the launch of this product mean for the water sector? What about for the company?
A: Event analysis and management solutions for water distribution networks have been in the market for many years, but none of them was using consumption and warning data at the residential level, nor with the level of detail of Water Intelligence and Incidents.
Our customers, once smart meters were implemented in their fleet and billing issues had been addressed, were missing being able to integrate the data from the meters with existing analysis solutions. For example, we were finding situations where there was real time information from flow meters and other sensors in the network, but the data from residential meters was only updated twice a year, with limited and unreliable data provided by commercial systems.
Water Intelligence and Incidents, aside from integrating flow meters and sensors with real time connectivity, extract consumption and warning data from smart meters directly from the reading data management system (MDM). This allows working with more data (consumptions, warnings, historic data), more reliable data, and more frequently. It is possible to update the data up to every 5 minutes, although commonly companies work with hourly or daily data.
Kamstrup vouches for ultrasound technology, which it has been developing for over 25 years
Q: Out of the new technologies that are driving the evolution of the water sector, which ones do Water Intelligence and Incidents use?
A: Talking about Water Intelligence and Incidents means talking about smart meters, because the information these systems analyse comes directly from those sensors.
Kamstrup has always been at the forefront of the field of water meters, both in metering technology and in communications and computer processing technologies.
Concerning metering, the market trend is toward solid state technology, with digital sensors that do not require moving pieces to detect water flow. In this regard, Kamstrup vouches for ultrasound technology, which it has been developing for over 25 years and is the technology of choice for residential meters given the cost, reliability and resistance to external effects such as magnetic fields or water quality.
Concerning communications, Water Intelligence and Incidents can integrate any protocol and communication, from GPRS or 3G connections to SCADA systems, to new IoT technologies such as Sigfox or NB-IoT for network sensors. For residential meters, the current technology of choice is Wireless Mbus, the only option with a standard protocol that allows almost real time readings (every 5 minutes) while it maintains a useful battery life of up to 16 years.
Concerning computing, Water Intelligence and Incidents integrate the latest in big data, machine learning and distributed processing.
'The trend in the utility sector is towards digitalisation and integration of meter data into smart systems, like a smart city'
Q: Of all the projects where Water Intelligence and Incidents has been used, which ones would you highlight due to their impact on the water sector?
A: Maybe the best example is the Assens water company, in Denmark. Assens has chosen smart meters and fixed-network reading since 2013, and was one of the first clients that highlighted the lack of analysis systems to make use of the data compiled hourly.
Assens was one of the first clients to use Water Intelligence and Incidents, and positive results were obtained right away.
Thanks to these tools, Assens was able to reduce Non Revenue Water down to 6%, while, oddly, it also reduced significantly its maintenance and field work expenses. With Water Intelligence and Incidents, Assens was able to eliminate costly night shifts to detect leaks, and was able to eliminate a large portion of emergency repairs thanks to preventive maintenance.
However, what Assens highlights is the improvement in customer service: From being a utility that received complaint calls, it became a utility congratulated for the notices they started sending clients warning them about internal leaks and anomalies that may affect their future consumption.
Q: What are the business and development expectations for this type of platforms in the water sector?
The trend in the utility sector is towards digitalisation and integration of meter data into smart systems, like a smart city. With regard to water meters, this trend is hardly starting, due to the low price of the service and the usual installation conditions for meters (difficult access, lack of power sources, aggressive environments due to temperature and humidity), which have delayed the implementation of smart meters in comparison with the electric or thermal energy sector.
Nevertheless, smart metering is already a reality in the water sector and analysis platforms are an essential tool to make the best use of the advantages these solutions offer. With these premises in mind, we believe that Water Intelligence and Incidents will be gradually implemented by those utilities that implement smart metering solutions.