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Hexagram, Inc., the leading supplier of fixed-network automatic meter reading (AMR) systems for water utilities, announced that the Atlantic City Municipal Utility Authority (ACMUA) is installing a Hexagram STAR AMR System. Although the installation will be ongoing for the next five years, ACMUA is already using the Hexagram system with some customers, putting the utility among the rapidly growing group of progressive utilities benefiting from truly automatic meter-reading.
The STAR AMR System, which is part of a $1 million improvement project currently under way at ACMUA, will improve both customer service and utility operations. Because the STAR AMR System provides two reads per day from each of ACMUA's 8,000 meters, the utility will eliminate call-backs and estimated reads, provide "virtual" disconnects, control leaks and theft, and accelerate billing. In addition, ACMUA will benefit from improved customer service, substantially reduced meter-reading costs, and enhanced management of its distribution system.
Because most of the meters in the ACMUA system are installed in pits located along the curb line, ACMUA selected the STAR Meter Transmission Unit (MTU) that features easy, unobtrusive installation in steel pit lids. Twice each day, these MTUs interrogate each meter and transmit usage information over a licensed, UHF radio channel.
The MTU transmissions are received by a network of Data Collection Units (DCUs) that provides coverage of the ACMUA service area. These solar-powered collectors are mounted on rooftops, and do not require connection to telephone or power lines. The six collectors gather and store the meter reading data and then use the public cell-phone network to automatically transfer the information to the utility's billing and customer service systems.
By providing two readings per day from every meter, the STAR System delivers timely, comprehensive information that is invaluable to modern utility managers. Neil Goldfine, Executive Director of ACMUA, believes that the customer service benefits of the STAR system would, by themselves, justify its installation. "With a fixed-network AMR system, we can reduce meter- reading costs and better manage our distribution system. However, the most important benefit of the STAR system is the improvement in customer service. With twice-daily reads we can provide our customers with usage profiles, alert them of unusual consumption patterns, and offer convenient billing options."
ACMUA evaluated several meter-reading technologies before selecting the STAR system. Touch-pad products or drive-by and walk-by systems were unacceptable because site visits would still be necessary and frequent reads would not be possible. Other fixed-network systems were not suitable because they had not been proven in large-scale installations, or because they operate on the unlicensed "part 15" channels and are subject to interference from other wireless devices. Finally, ACMUA wanted to reduce its total cost of operation, and thus rejected per-read fee based systems.
The ACMUA selected a proven, economical STAR Fixed Network AMR System. STAR systems have been in operation since 1996, and are servicing hundreds of thousands of meters. The STAR MTUs operate on licensed UHF channels, and their long-range transmissions permit the use of a simple, low-density network of receivers. Star MTUs are available for indoor and outdoor gas and electric meters, and for basement, outdoor and pit-set water meters.