Streamline - Spring 2015 - (Page 31)

How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Future of Water Utility Management BY KRISTIE ANDERSON WATER UTILITIES ACROSS the country are more and more moving past manual and touch read devices in exchange for Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and most recently, Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA). This transition allows utilities of any size and location to move from capturing a monthly or quarterly meter reading for billing purposes only, to a more data-driven approach for improved decision making. This evolution began with walk-by, drive-by technology. Next came AMI technology, which provides hourly meter reading data that can be used proactively to improve customer service, increase operational efficiency and provide the end-water user with an understanding of their water consumption. For rural water utilities, shifting to an AMI fixed network system can also yield a dramatic decrease in labor requirements specific to meter reading, reductions in meter reader injury-related costs, and can often increase the accuracy of the recording of meter readings. AMI systems also provide reductions in vehicle expense and fuel, and very often provide a faster resolution of customer calls and complaints about high bills, because more detailed information is now available to the utility personnel. While this technology evolution can provide great benefits, it has historically presented utility staff with a new set of operational challenges, particularly related to the management of AMI communications infrastructure and analytics software and hardware. New technologies and business models, however, are making the move to AMA, the next step, far easier for rural water utilities. Cloud-Based Software Web-based software services, more commonly called cloud computing or Software as a Service (SaaS), are being implemented globally by users in virtually all types of organizations, including manufacturing, government, services, retail and water utilities. Cloud-based software services are bringing about rapid and diverse changes to how a water utility operates and how data is used. As new systems often require new technology resources to operate and support, utilities are finding cloud computing to be a viable alternative to investing in server-based meter data management systems (MDM). Cloud-based or SaaS platforms share several major characteristics: *  uick to deploy Q *  o hardware to purchase N *  xperts maintain the system so utilities E can focus on their core competency *  utomatically implemented software A updates *  apid elasticity or expansion capability R as utility's needs change *  ubscription pricing provides a pay-asS you-go option These characteristics allow organizations to rapidly build IT resources through cloud-based software services, making it easier and less costly to adapt to changing utility requirements and technology advances. The software applications are "hosted" by the solutions vendor in secure data centers, eliminating the need to install and maintain computer hardware and software at the utility. The utility simply has to provide a personal computer with a web browser to access the secure application software via the Internet. Having the software and data hosted off site also leaves the utility's critical metering data less susceptible to natural disasters. Historically, MDM systems often required software updates, and on occasion, a completely new version of software to be purchased and installed. With the increased functionality, more users within the utility may require access, often meaning additional licenses to be purchased. However, with cloud-based systems, software improvements are automatically updated by the solutions provider, eliminating any effort being required within the utility. In addition, the costs of these software improvements are included in the base subscription, meaning the utility can always be current with the most 31

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Spring 2015

From the President: Power Failure
From the Executive Director: Highlights from 2014
The Sustainability Managed Utility
Communication… Say What?
Flushing Away the Ebola Threat
Hazard Communication Standards – Guidelines for OSHA Compliance
State Water Control Board Approves Controversial Permit
VRWA Said Goodbye to Past Executive Director
USDA Rural Development
The RATES Program
Adequate Rates versus Affordability
NRWA Recap
Debt Refinancing: An Alternate Source of Capital
How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Future of Water Utility Management
Southern Corrosion Supports Victory Junction
Throwing My Loop: Call Me Anytime
Wastewater Math
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
VRWA Mailbag
New Members
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Spring 2015