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“Smart meters are the basis for digitisation”

Discover the interview with Mr Christian Meier, Vice President Head of Sales & Service at INTEGRA Metering, in the SVGW’s magazine!

Christian Meier, Vice President Head of Sales and Services at INTEGRA Metering AG, was interviewed by the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association (SVGW) on the subject of smart meters and digitalisation for their magazine Wasserspiegel. Below you will find the SVGW interview with Christian Meier, alternatively you can read the entire magazine in German directly on the SVGW website: Link.

Christian Meier has already assisted several water suppliers with the migration from mechanical water meters to electronic radio water meters and is familiar with the possibilities and pitfalls of the new technology. In this interview, he talks about what is possible with smart meters and when they are worth using.

Water meters have a simple task. They measure the flow rate. Why do meters suddenly have to be “smart”?

Traditionally, water meters were actually used as so-called water meters for the sole purpose of billing water consumption. What makes “smart” water meters different now is their ability to record additional data such as maximum flow rate, temperature, key date values or daily values and to transmit this data to the water supply company by radio or cable. This enables accurate billing to the reporting date and relieves the well manager from having to manually read the meters in the supply area. This not only avoids errors, but also simplifies the data collection process. The more comprehensively the water supply company uses and analyses the additional data available, the more targeted data-based expansion and maintenance investment decisions can be made.

What can smart meters do that mechanical water meters can’t?

Smart meters are water meters with an integrated computer and communication interface. The recorded flow rate can already be evaluated on the meter according to various criteria and transmitted for further analysis. It is also possible to upgrade a mechanical meter with corresponding “smart” modules. The data is then analysed in downstream software solutions. This allows, for example, the early detection of leaks, the creation of temperature profiles and the generation of consumption trends. Longer-term data series can then be used for grid optimisation. Smart meters thus form the basis for the digitalisation of the supply.

What are the differences in the technologies that are used?

In terms of the measuring principle, a distinction is made between static meters, which mainly use ultrasonic measuring technology, and mechanical meters, for which dry-running technology has become established in Switzerland. Secondly, the meters differ primarily in terms of communication technology. The most frequently chosen solution today is radio transmission, in which the data is read out by means of “drive-by”. This means that a radio receiver is driven past the buildings and the smart meter data is read out by radio. However, if the data is collected by drive-by, it is usually only logistically possible to read the data once or twice a year. The data collected in this way is suitable for billing, as it also transmits key date values, but it is not sufficient for further grid status analyses for distribution grid optimisation. This requires a higher readout frequency. This is achieved by direct connection to wide-range communication networks such as LoRaWAN or via the electrical smart meter. With higher readout frequencies, it is essential to take data protection into account.

Christian Meier studied electrical engineering at the ZHAW, completed a Master’s degree in economics at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and an E-MBA at the University of Zurich. He worked at Landis + Gyr for many years, where he was responsible for metering products, among other things. Today, as Vice President Head of Sales and Services, he is responsible for INTEGRA Metering’s business in Central Europe. Formerly known as Aquametro AG, INTEGRA Metering has been the market leader in complete metering solutions for almost 100 years.

How are smart meters being received by the public? Are there often complaints?

It is important to communicate well and comprehensively in advance and, in most cases, to amend the water supply regulations. It is worth making the purpose and benefits of smart meters transparent. Nevertheless, it may be the case that owners do not wish to have them installed, either because they have data protection concerns, are sensitive to radio radiation or generally reject smart meters. Suppliers should provide an alternative solution for these customers. In the simplest case, a mechanical meter will continue to be used or the smart meter’s radio transmission will be switched off. However, a separate reading process is then required for these meters. Under data protection law, only the collection of earmarked data is permitted. The consent of the persons concerned is required for further data collection. The SVGW published important information and advice on the use of smart meters in leaflet W10034 in June 2022.

What role do well supervisors play in digitalisation?

The well managers are the most important contacts for us when it comes to initiating, procuring, installing and operating smart meters in a supply system. In most cases, they are the ones who initiate the introduction and convince the municipality of the benefits. They are also important when it comes to determining what purposes smart meters should fulfil. This is not just about no longer having to read the water meters manually, but also about being able to make data-based decisions in the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about INTEGRA Metering AG, why not visit us at the upcoming aqua pro in Bulle from 7 – 9 February or at the SBC (Swiss Water Master Association) conference in Sursee from 10 – 18 April.

Source and interview: Christos Bräunle SVGW


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