The tech we use to monitor our water usage is advancing at lightning speed. Learn what distinguishes two grades of “smart” meter and discover what it takes to truly streamline the efficiency of your property’s water usage.

In the past, consumers had one option when it came to how they measured their water usage: the traditional water meter. Most people can remember the days of the recent past when checking your usage meant going to the basement to find the meter, manually reading the numbers it displayed, and writing it down. As recently as a few years ago, utility companies would have to check for leaks and inefficiencies by digging through vast spreadsheets comprised of data from manual readings without any guarantee of accuracy.

Today, our options have expanded — to the extent that many people are confused about which of several different metering techniques do what. The main distinction exists between the technology that facilitates communication between a meter and a reading device (automatic meter reading, or AMR), and meters that enable communication between endpoints throughout the water system and a fixed internet network ( IoT-enabled metering).

Let’s break down these two distinctions a bit further to help you determine which is more likely to streamline water usage and prevent leaks.

AMR and AMI

AMR offers greater accuracy and convenience than traditional meters because it automatically transmits a digital reading of your water meter to a connected device. That reading is what’s used to generate your water bill, so it’s only gathered once a month, once a week, or however frequently your municipality charges you for your water usage. While this offers greater precision than a manual read and saves you a trip to the basement, it represents only a small step above traditional metering.

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) represents an additional step above AMR because it allows two-way communication between an entire network of endpoints that are installed across a water system. The technology also enables users to generate usage reports at any time, allowing for them to detect leaks, adjust inefficient usage practices, or compare the performance of various fixtures at any time.

The benefits of AMI over AMR are considerable: because you can check your system for anomalies whenever you wish, you’re much more likely to prevent or stop disastrous leaks before they cause too much damage. Property managers can also leverage AMI to monitor and tweak their usage habits for optimal efficiency. This is especially critical in areas where usage levels are regulated by the state or local government in order to deal with droughts or shortages, like California.

Bringing AMR and AMI Into the Future

While both AMR and AMI surface raw usage data, that information can be difficult to interpret for those of us without backgrounds in data analysis. Despite the opportunity the technology itself represents, unintuitive interfaces are rendered unhelpful to an untrained eye.

Alternatively, IoT-enabled monitoring systems are not only more intuitive and comprehensive — they’re actionable. A cutting edge water intelligence program does more than churn out numbers about a single property through which an owner or property manager must sift to find meaning. It allows you to compare your usage data to that of similar properties in your portfolio, state, country, or around the world in order to identify inefficiencies in your own property or portfolio. It’s far easier to notice if, say, a particular cooling tower is performing inefficiently when you can easily compare it to the performance of similar equipment nearby.

What’s more, IoT-enabled platforms like WINT can be configured to automatically shut off water flow the moment meters detect a leak or abnormality. This is critical because, as most property managers can attest, most major leaks take place during nights and weekends, when many buildings are uninhabited and no one is around to notice or report them. The ability to be made aware of leaks in real- time — and not the next Monday morning when someone walks through the door to find a flooded office building, lab, or production facility — can save you hundreds of thousands in repair costs.

The Internet of Things — and the technologies enabled by it — is paving the way for a new generation of water intelligence technology. By harnessing technology, property managers have the opportunity to leverage the data their properties produce, detect inefficiencies in real-time, meet and exceed conservation goals, and save money.