We speak with Fernando Gascón, Commercial Director at Sensus España; he analyses the water industry sector, current metering systems, and their evolution. In addition, he highlights the characteristics of Sensus that help this company satisfy the current and future needs of their clients.
Question - What has been the evolution of the water sector with regards to metering?
Answer - For many years, water supply companies told us that there had been very little progress in the area of metering, noting that a water meter, for more than a century, had been based on the same hydraulic design concept, with a mechanical device working and sending data to a totalizer. In the Spanish market, the water meters used have always been single jet meters. Over the past few years the situation remained the same, but there was a tendency towards products with a wider working range (higher metrological ratio) and volumetric technology became established as another valid option. The situation is not the same in the different European markets, where the volumetric option prevails.
However, the evolution we had been asked for became a reality in recent years, with the use of composite material to manufacture meters, the design of volumetric meters that allow the flow of water qualities which were unimaginable a few years ago, and finally, a step with a greater impact, the development of solid state technology for domestic uses, which is here to stay.
Q - Currently, what are the most significant needs of water managers with regards to metering systems?
A - Water managers have always needed metering equipment to measure as best as possible, and consistently over time. So, in other words, they need reliability and productivity. These aspects are very important, because with them it is posssible to verify that the performance of water networks is as it should; additionally, they can invoice the customer for the volume they really consume.
Apart from that, we can also emphasise other aspects that add value to the water supply sector, such as the flexibility of metering solutions, so that they can be adapted to the changing patterns of users, and the ecological sustainability of solutions, with increasingly lower environmental impacts.
Also, nowadays there is something else that is gradually gaining importance: the need to automate water meter readings in order to advance in the future towards automated and smart water networks, what is known as Smart Water Networks and Smart Metering. Communication is a requirement inherent to the 21st century.
"The iPERL metering sensor was the first solid state technology meter introduced in the market"
Q - Do you think that the water industry is adapted to those needs? Why?
A - To a greater or lesser extent, the industry that provides metering solutions is adapted or is adapting to the new needs, in order to offer what the market demands or will demand.
Sensus has a broad range of solutions at the global level in this line of products, and is present in the main ground-breaking initiatives in collaboration with clients.
We have traditionally been known as an innovative company that sets the trend that the industry will follow for years to come; recently, launching into the market the first solid state metering sensor meant for water applications and, before that, introducing meters with composite technology or Woltmann type, high precision industrial meters.
Q - There is a large fleet of metering elements that are ageing, with outdated technology. What factors hinder a faster replacement?
A - According to the survey done by AEAS, the Spanish Association for Water Supply and Sanitation, in 2016, 24% of meters are more than 10 years old, out of an estimated fleet of 21 million, thus representing about 5 million meters.
The truth is, any company would like all of its assets to be of the best quality possible, but in practice, this situation is not achieved mainly because of lack of resources, and the need to prioritise investments; urgent issues often prevent actions which are important for management and can result in higher efficiency and effectiveness.
Q - What are the most compelling arguments to drive the change?
A - The reasons that should drive a change in the metering equipment could be many, but I would highlight the following one: correct metering with quality products.
This is an essential issue for any water supply network: without correct metering you cannot manage properly. The decisions have to be based on reliable, correct data. The products have to be high quality products; it is not enough for them to measure well initially if after a while this performance is not maintained. Data should continue to be reliable and correct over time.
In order to achieve this, it is highly advisable to choose your travel partner wisely, because if you do not do it properly and choose technology providers that do not posses the necessary experience and technical expertise, you could end up facing huge costs to repair any damages that may arise.
Q - From your position as Commercial Director, what does Sensus offer to the water sector?
A - Within its broad portfolio of solutions, Sensus offers cutting-edge technology for water metering, as well as remote reading systems for that equipment and software to analyse the data collected. Correct metering is considered essential, and will be a basic element of Smart Water Networks. Without metering, there is no management.
Aside from those solutions, we also offer our expertise. We have been in the market more than 170 years, of which 42 years are in the national market in Spain; that allows us to offer an added value of professionalism and knowledge endorsed by our clients. In fact, Sensus has clients with whom our business relationship dates back to 1872, and more than 79% of our clients have been with us for more than 15 years.
Q - Let us talk about one of your company's leading products. Why is the iPERL a revolutionary and unique metering device in the sector?
A - The iPERL metering sensor was the first solid state technology meter introduced in the market that was conceived for drinking water applications, providing water companies many features that were not available with other technologies. Among them, I would highlight its spectacular working ratio R800, innovative solid state technology, composite material manufacture, integrated radio communication with two standard communication protocols, inbuilt data logging, different alarms to detect events, long service life, etc.
In essence, a large number of tools integrated into a single piece of equipment that allows water companies to improve the management of their networks in a simpler way.
Q - What do you think about the evolution of the iPERL sensor since it was launched into the market? What does iPERL contribute to the market that other devices do not?
A - As any other new technology reaching the market, iPERL has had a period of introduction, during which clients have learned about the advantages of this equipment. After that, iPERL has evolved positively, with a gradual increase in the number of clients that trust the product; in fact, all water supply companies that have installed this technology have decided to expand their fleet of meters with this solution.
iPERL is different from other technologies because it has a series of functions that were not available in a water meter before, and that allow companies to improve the management of their networks. In addition, this product entails a significant technological leap, in line with the current trends in Smart Metering and Smart Water Networks.
"The challenges today and ahead of us will concern all aspects of the need to manage water better"
Q - How is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) affecting your business?
A - Well, I would say it is such a broad term that it affects many different sectors. It is a technological challenge that comprises many sectors at once and where other actors may be involved.
The IoT is here to stay and Sensus will be part of this new era.
Q - What are the major challenges concerning water metering in the medium and long term, and how do you think the water industry will evolve in this regard?
A - The challenges today and ahead of us will concern all aspects of the need to manage water better. This will imply better metering and Sensus, and the water industry, will adapt their offerings to be able to respond to the needs of the market. The connectivity of equipment will become even more important, as I mentioned earlier, leading to changes in current processes within companies, and, therefore, will make the sector evolve and improve.
The technical competence and the willingness of staff at all levels within water supply companies is as important as choosing the right technology provider. To ensure a smooth process from beginning to end through this evolution, it is essential to have a wide range of highly qualified professionals.
Q - What is Sensus doing about this?
A - We listen carefully to the new demands of the market, so that, harnessing the experience of Sensus in the sector, we can respond suitably with global solutions, not only concerning metering, but solutions that facilitate implementing the new trends. This is our vision and our mission.