To plug data leaks, Neptune adds Sprint 3G to smart water meters

Sprint and Neptune Technology Group are partnering to add the former's wireless broadband technology to the latter's automated metering infrastructure for water systems.

U.S. wireless carrier Sprint and Neptune Technology Group announced on Monday a partnership to improve automated metering infrastructure, or AMI, for water systems.

The deal marries Sprint's wireless and machine-to-machine ("M2M") experience with Neptune's 120 years of utility expertise to help utility companies (and municipalities, and even application developers) better collect consumption and diagnostic data from customers.

It's much like a smarter electrical grid, but water is the commodity.

Specifically, the partnership adds a 3G network communications backhaul to Neptune's ARB FixedBase automated metering infrastructure and reading systems, allowing them a new way to communicate the data they aim to collect.

The use of an "always-on" broadband wireless network allows the operator to monitor hundreds of thousands of digital water meters, frequently, in real time. Through this centralized management structure the operator can quickly detect and localize leaks, allowing them to quickly send out a maintenance crew, notify customers and plan for new demand constraints.

When there's no emergency, the system allows the operator to provide customers with personal water usage data.

With data, utilities and municipalities can bill customers without estimating (eliminating surprises on both sides of the bill) and more efficiently deploy maintenance workers. Since time is money, operators hope that the system results in savings over the long term.

Photo: Neptune's T-10 water meter. (Neptune)

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