There’s plenty of room for confusion in today’s marketplace when it comes to defining advanced metering infrastructure (AMI)—the industry has yet to come to consensus on exactly what AMI means. Automated meter reading (AMR), on the other hand, is well defined and well represented.
As the industry leader in advanced metering technology, Itron provides its customers with a clear choice of both AMR and AMI technology. Itron’s AMR offering, ChoiceConnect™, provides proven performance and value along with the flexibility to migrate to more advanced capabilities as business needs change. OpenWay® by Itron is an entirely new generation of metering, communication and control technology designed to support a more expansive set of business and technology requirements for AMI.
To decide which technology is better suited to meet your business needs, it’s important to review the differences between AMR and AMI technology.
What is AMR?
Generally speaking, AMR refers to the ability to collect data from electricity, gas and/or water meters remotely and automatically via different communications networks. AMR is used primarily for monthly customer billing and reduced operational costs. AMR systems typically comprise meters fitted with communication modules, collection systems and supporting software to manage collection of the data. Some fixed network AMR systems, including ChoiceConnect, can also provide interval data collection and outage detection and restoration notification capabilities.
What is AMI?
Most often, AMI refers to systems that are capable of collecting detailed energy usage data frequently. Collection of more timely and granular data enables utilities to support time-based pricing and demand response programs, educate customers on energy consumption and alter usage patterns. AMI data is collected much more frequently, and the type of data collected is much more complex than in a typical AMR system. With AMI systems, this data is key to successful deployment and must be effectively managed.
AMR and AMI in the Marketplace
The business case and technology behind AMR are well-established in the marketplace. The cost savings, efficiency gains, customer service improvements and revenue cycle enhancements provided is the reason why many leading utilities of all types and sizes continue to deploy AMR technology in record numbers—according to the latest industry statistics, traditional AMR technologies still constitute the vast majority of new deployments.
OpenWay by Itron sets a new standard for AMI technology—both in form and function. Fundamentally, AMI represents an infrastructure that utilizes smart meters with advanced two-way communications for collection, querying and meter management. AMI systems empower utility customers to actively and frequently participate in demand response and energy conservation, while supporting movement toward the Smart Grid of the future.
Ultimately, business needs and regulatory conditions drive appropriate technology selection, and AMR technology continues to be a smart choice. Itron’s ERT®-based AMR technology provides the most cost-effective solution for automating collection of meter data for customer billing via drive-by AMR. Yet the system also enables utilities to deploy fixed network collectors over the same population of meters to enable more advanced capabilities such as interval data collection, positive outage and restoration notification. This combination of flexibility, reliability and cost optimization will continue to drive robust AMR system sales well in to the future.
As AMI technology matures, open standards are adopted, costs come down and the business case solidifies, AMI deployments will garner an increased share of the market. But for the foreseeable future, AMR and AMI technology are complementary offerings that will co-exist in the marketplace, with each utility’s unique combination of needs and objectives driving the selection of the most appropriate technology.