Whether Town of Cary, North Carolina residents or businesses are concerned about monitoring water leaks or are interested in using water more wisely, the data they need is now at their fingertips with their new Aquastar Web Portal. This secure web application allows more than 60,000 Cary utility customers to see how many gallons of water they’ve used, right down to the exact hour of every day. Residents can even set up text or email alerts to be warned if they have gone over a self-set threshold or are within a certain percentage of a tier.
The portal is the final step in the Town’s Aquastar advanced meter infrastructure project that replaced monthly manual meter reads with a wireless system that collects multiple remote meter reads each day and radios them to Cary Town Hall. Cary is the first municipality in the area to complete and maintain a fixed wireless meter reading system, a system that will conservatively save utility customers more than $10 million over its 17-year life when compared to traditional manual water meter reading.
Before the system was created, citizens already had the ability to pay their utility bill online. The new system allows seamless integration with existing payment accounts. More info on that can be viewed by searching “My Utility Bill” at www.townofcary.org.
“The Aquastar Web Portal is one more example of how the Town works to help citizens maintain a high quality of life through cost-effective, innovative programs,” said Karen Mills, Finance Director. “While we’ve designed the portal to be user-friendly and intuitive, we encourage utility customers to either watch or read our online tutorial prior to accessing their data so that they can get the most out of Aquastar.”
Enhancements to the portal, such as increased functionality and analytical capability, will be considered as part of the Town’s annual budget process. PlanetJ Corporation used the Web Object Wizard (WOW) and WOWFusion charts to create the application, saving the Town weeks of development and the cost of many development hours.
The Town of Cary’s advanced metering system consists of a Sensus FlexNet system operating in a VMware Virtualized Windows Server environment. This system reads meter hourly and data is uploaded four times a day to a regional collector and sent to a server housing a MS SQL Server DB. The utility billing system resides on an IBM i5 in DB400 format. Sungard, Inc. system stores personal account information such as names, addresses, account numbers and meter types used by customers. The new application also integrates with Sungard’s Click2Gov E-Government application - which was the existing customer-facing front-end to the utility billing database. This was used to allow customers to view monthly usage and pay bills online. A single sign-in allows access to both Aquastar and Click2Gov.
Further, an administrative application was created to allow Town’s staff the ability to simultaneously sign in to a customer account and assist residents if there are issues to address.
As mentioned, Aquastar provides charts and graphs to allow citizens to visually see how much water they are using by the month, week, day and even hour. The monthly chart shows a rolling 12 months of data and allows users to compare most recent month with the same month from the previous year. Here are what they look like:
Daily usage can also be evaluated next to daily high and low temperatures and rainfall:
Citizens in Cary also have the ability to monitor for any water leaks that may occur. By setting alerts that automatically text or email them when they reach a certain gallon or tier threshold, they will certainly be able to see whether there are immediate issues that need to be addressed. The city has a tiered rate structure system where the cost increases as the different tiers are reached. By accessing the alerts from “Take Action” tab, it is a very easy and immediate process.
It is now very easy for citizens in the Town of Cary to monitor their usage of a very valuable natural resource. This is projected to save the Town several thousands of dollars over the next few years and puts the power in the hands of those able to control conservation, the home and business owners. More and more, municipalities are implementing water saving initiatives and PlanetJ has the right tools and resources to provide the proper data!