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Texas city dives into water monitoring technology

Matt Hamblen | July 22, 2016
Cedar Hill, Texas, relies on wireless meters and customer software

Fathom's software and systems support about 4 million water meters in about 200 utilities in the U.S., said Fathom President Jason Bethke. Municipalities run about 85% of all water utilities in the nation, he estimated.

"Our primary mission is to help utilities adopt technology to be more financially stable, and the benefit is that customers use less water," Bethke said. Fathom's utility customers see an average increase in revenue of 10% while also seeing a reduction in water usage of 10%. "They are making more money with less water."

Bethke said Cedar Hill is fairly typical of other utilities where the water loss is not a function of actually leaking water into the ground but of losing track of the data, such as when a customer is billed for 50 gallons instead of 500 gallons.

Bethke said Fathom has found a sweet spot in serving the many smaller water utilities that couldn't afford to create and install new software to analyze water usage data and provide billing. With a SaaS approach, Fathom has brought "an economy of scale to a fragmented system," he said.

Valadez-Cummings said one environmental perk of the Fathom system is that the meters send their data wirelessly to 24 data collectors that are solar powered, keeping them off the energy grid. The data collected is then sent to the cloud, managed and analyzed by Fathom.

Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan evaluated Fathom's performance for a group of its customers in a recent white paper and found an increase of 20% in revenues, while decreasing water consumption by customers by more than 20%.

"Fathom has been able to achieve this success in many ways due to its organized development with the water utility industry and its strong IT-focused understanding of the smart water landscape," Frost & Sullivan said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research who researches Internet of Things technology, said wireless meters for measuring both water and electricity usage are emerging on the technology scene and offer substantial advantages.

"That technology is in its early stages, and utilities are seeing how it saves money," he said in an interview. "A little awareness by consumers of waste can change a behavior. And with water shortages, that's a good thing to do."


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