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Olea Aims for User Community Approach for Water Meter Tech

After realizing that pointing out faulty water meters is only half the battle, Olea Edge Analytics has announced a new product that comes with more training and professional support for workers in the field.

Olea water meter sensor installation
Olea Edge Analytics
In May, Texas-based company Olea Edge Analytics unveiled a new version of EdgeWorks, a system of hardware and software for detecting faulty commercial water meters intended to help cities to generate revenue at a time when they’re expecting a budget crunch in the wake of COVID-19. In the intervening three months, it became clearer to the company that merely selling technology to government isn’t enough if successful implementation requires an uncommon level of expertise. As with so much new technology, the user is a defining variable in whether or not it works. In light of this, Olea Edge Analytics has incorporated EdgeWorks into a new platform that comes with training, a blog, education credits and other resources aimed at creating a professional community around the job of replacing water meters.

The company has branded its new product CityEdge, according to a news release last week, and like its predecessor it requires putting sensors on water meters that feed back into a platform. It then uses AI and machine learning algorithms to determine if and how a meter is inaccurate, and how it might be fixed. But the company’s CEO Dave Mackie said the other side of making the product work is building personal relationships with city customers, which means “people, training and evangelism” to make customers better at completing repairs.

“We’ve become de facto experts on the whole installation process surrounding meters, and the whole repair process … so we’ll get calls from cities all the time wanting to talk to our meter experts about how they make certain repairs, how they go about managing things effectively, and we’ll help them with that,” he said. “It turns out that most of the repairs being made on these meters, even if you’re very specific about what needs to be repaired, usually aren’t done correctly. It requires a second or third trip, and it creates a lot of (getting) inside the utilities themselves, so we really are working hard on the evangelism, the education and socialization of what we’re doing within the city ecosystem, to help them be better at what they do, and as they get better at what they do, they drag us along with them.”

Specifically, the company is offering continuing education credits for repair workers to advance their careers, centered around familiarizing them with the ecosystem of water meter technology, tips for making repairs and how to use the platform. Olea Edge Analytics is also incorporating route-mapping software and maintenance tips into its user interface, and it’s building a community forum for city workers, with features such as “meter of the week,” “installer of the month” and writeups about different local crews. The company plans to unveil a full website in a matter of weeks with information about meters, repairs and safety.

Mackie said safety is a major part of messaging around the new product, including COVID-related and other training about equipment and procedures.

“Sometimes it’s not just about the repair you’re making. You might be changing out a turbine on a meter, but you forget to clean the strainer, which is sitting upstream of the meter, and it traps all the dirt and particulates coming down the pipe. If you don’t clean the strainer, that can get clogged, it can force dirt to go around it. So a generalized education of how they can work with their assets is a lot of what we’re doing now,” he said. “The prime motivator is that we discovered that we have to do, and have been doing, a better job working with the operational people … any time you can get them excited about working with something new that makes their job better, that’s a real win-win.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.