Advanced Metering Infrastructure and Smart Meters

What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (aka "smart meters)? 

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), also known as “smart metering” systems, are wireless communication networks that provide two-way communication between a meter and a utility supplier.  Smart meters can be electric, gas, or water.  These meters store usage information in either the meter head or touchpad (called a meter transmission unit, or MTU in the industry) and transmit this information to a nearby antenna.

   Traditional touchpad

Sample “smart meter” touchpads or MTUs

The AMI system that the City of Wyoming is testing uses a fixed, FCC licensed radio frequency.  The smart meters do not communicate with each other or with repeaters as some AMI systems do, but instead communicate with one of several dedicated antennas spread throughout the City.  The information is then sent to a data management repository where it is used for billing, customer engagement, or proactive water monitoring.

What information is transmitted?

Generally, the only information that is transmitted is the water meter reading at a predefined frequency, often hourly.  Some water meters are “smarter” than others, and can detect water temperature, pressure, backflow, high or low flow events, low battery or tamper.  This information can also be transmitted over an AMI system.

How and when is the data transmitted?

The information is transmitted over an FCC licensed frequency to one of several antennas located throughout the City.  These antennas are located on water towers or other tall infrastructure.  Residential water meters can transmit water usage information up to 6 times per day or once every 4 hours.  Commercial water usage information may be transmitted more frequently.  When the transmission occurs, it is a fraction of a second in length.  Throughout the course of a year the total transmission length should be less than 2 minutes.

Where else are smart meters installed?

AMI and smart meters have been installed in the United States since the late 1980’s.  The US Energy Information Administration estimates that there are over 70.8 million AMI electric installations in the United States as of 2016. Click here for more. Some reports estimate that, as of 2014, 14% of all water utility customers have AMI water meters. Click here for that report.

Locally, the cities of Battle Creek and Holland have AMI systems and smart water meters, as does Georgetown Township.  The City of Wyoming and Grand Rapids are currently jointly exploring AMI systems.

Is the transmission harmful and are smart meters safe?

Numerous studies have been conducted to address public health concerns.  In general, exposure to a smart meter radio frequency is significantly less than exposure to other emitting products such as wi-fi networks, cell phones, walkie-talkies, baby monitors, or microwaves.

Following are several sources of information related to radio frequency health impacts:

Federal Communications Commission:

Radio frequency safety

Radio frequency safety - FAQ

Electric Power Research Institute:

Radio frequency exposure levels from smart meters (2011)

A perspective on radio frequency exposure (2010)

California Council on Science and Technology:

Health impacts of radio frequency exposure from smart meters (2011)

What will the City do with my information and is it secure?

The only information that will be transmitted will be water meter readings at certain intervals.  This information will only be used to determine water usage and your water bill.  This information will be transmitted to the same utility billing software that is currently used, again in an effort to see if AMI is compatible with existing infrastructure.

Where will the new touchpad be located?

The new touchpads will be installed either over the existing touchpad, in place of the existing touchpad, or inside the house near the water meter.  We are testing a variety of locations to make sure that the touchpads will communicate properly with the antenna.

How is the new touchpad powered?

The new touchpad is battery powered, with an expected life of 20 years.

Will I have to pay extra for the new touchpad?

No.  Equipment and installation costs will not be charged to a customer.

Can my water supply be turned off remotely?

No.  None of the current water meters installed are equipped with remote shut-off capability.

What are the benefits and disadvantages for the City?

The City is exploring the potential for AMI application and needs to determine if this system will be compatible with existing water meters as well as if it is an appropriate and cost-effective alternative to manual meter reading.

Can I look up my information on my computer or smart phone?

Not yet, but if the City decides to implement a full AMI system there will be a user interface or app available.