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Case Study

The Netherlands’ Largest Drinking Water Company Turns to FlexNet for Reliable and Secure Meter Reading

The FlexNet™ communication network pilot in Leeuwarden demonstrated the benefits of using utility-grade technology

Vitens delivers drinking water to 5.6 million people and companies in the Netherlands. Annually, they deliver 350 million m³ of water through 100 water treatment plants and 49,000 km of water mains. As the biggest drinking water company in the Netherlands, Vitens understands the importance of setting and successfully meeting high standards within the industry and the region. For this reason, they undertook extensive research to find a technology solution that would not only meet the EU mandate of reducing Co2 emissions by 2020, but also guarantee the safety of their employees.

Challenge: How to keep customers and employees safe whilst collecting accurate meter data

One of the main challenges Vitens experienced was centred around the safety of those reading the meters—either utility employees or the customer. In 20,000 locations, the meters were located in hard to reach locations which lead to the technicians either working in unsafe circumstances, or not being able to take readings at all. The level of safety when collecting data from the meters is such an important factor for the utility, that it became a board-level mandate to reduce in-work accidents to zero. Without a suitable technology that could help, Vitens often had to rely on estimated meter readings to try and ensure its employees and customer’s safety.

We needed a technology solution to address the dangers our employees face when trying to manually read meters in hard-to-reach locations.

Rik Thijssen

Manager, Business Development for Vitens

Vitens also needed to find a technological solution that would help reduce its carbon footprint. Implementing a two-way communications network would increase operational efficiency by enabling the utility to carry out ongoing maintenance like identifying leaks and possible meter faults. Being able to pinpoint exactly where in the network the fault exists, means the utility would not only reduce the number of truck rollouts, but also the amount of water that was pumped around it. These factors are vital when trying to reduce Co2 emissions.

Solution: Proven technology increasing safety and operational efficiency

Vitens decided to carry out a trial with Sensus’ advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution to see if they could increase their employee’s safety and operational efficiency. Sensus’ FlexNet utilises utility-grade Long Range Radio technology within dedicated spectrum to ensure that meter readings can be achieved across all types of terrain; from deep basements in urban and crowded settings to rural surroundings. This smart network ensures full duplex two-way communication tailored to the utility industry which enables utilities to prioritise traffic, like alarms notifying of leaks; broken pipes or even changes in pressure within the network. FlexNet uses a dedicated mission-critical communications network to ensure the reliable and encrypted transmission of data to Vitens’ internal systems. Once the technology was installed, it was proven that FlexNet was able to reach smart water meters placed underground and under metal covers in the city of Leeuwarden—even at a distance of 5km. The meter casing itself functions fully in under water locations, as well as in extreme temperatures. Vitens was pleased with the design of the network, which has overlapping coverage ensuring that the meters can always be heard and data is reliably and securely transmitted.

Smart Results

The FlexNet communication network trial that was carried out for Vitens highlights the benefits of deploying technology that has been specifically designed for the utility sector. The fact it operates within licensed spectrum enables reliable, near real-time data transmission, which would otherwise not be guaranteed within unlicensed spectrum. In order to deliver near real-time data, 24/7 to the utility, the meters were read every 15 minutes and achieved 100% read success rate.

The installation of water meters and smart points was flawless. Reading the meters through the FlexNet system worked smoothly from the first moment. All visited addresses could be connected and read out via the network, which was not possible with our previous pilot. Thanks to the headend system, the installation could be followed closely. Each newly installed water meter automatically appeared in the portal.

Rik Thijssen

Manager, Business Development for Vitens

This was a taxing trial for the technology and not only did it successfully deliver the desired results, but FlexNet also guarantees the Dutch market’s requirements of 16+ years of asset life whilst maintaining those frequent data reads. A further result of the pilot project provides insight into the reliability of the network, as well as demonstrating the speed and method of installation.

Sensus’ FlexNet system has proven that it can help Vitens improve its operational efficiency through actual readings, rather than relying on estimated readings, as well as providing a tangible way in which the utility can meet the EU mandate of decreasing Co2 emissions by 2020.

Based on the success of the trial, Vitens is now investigating how the FlexNet communications system will benefit the rest of Vitens’ network.

Keeping customers and employees- safe whilst collecting accurate meter data

Proven technology increasing safety and operational efficiency

Reach Farther:
Project provides insight into the reliability of the network

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