In December 2015 RCM and its sister company Meter-MACS were involved in installations of smart meter bollards at the Canal and River Trust’s waterside moorings. The project to replace the electricity bollards (both pre-pay and others) at CRT’s directly managed moorings with new technology has been in progress for a number of years.
In 2015 alone, 366 bollards were installed at 52 sites in seven waterways. This brings the total number of sockets at CRT waterside moorings to 1,334.
We were directly involved with implementing new IT systems to manage and facilitate customer use of the smart meter bollards.
» Meter-MACS console allows remote management of the smart meter system. The mooring team can now create and review smart meter accounts for customers from any office. The system also helps on-call M&E engineers to manage faults remotely, and save on call out costs.
» Customer payment portal allows customers to login and manage their accounts, top-up, view their usage records and update personal details.
The new system really is ‘SMART’. Not only can it remotely read the meter, but it can diagnose faults and even notify the boater that their credit is running low or their vessel has been unplugged.
Moorings support supervisor Jackie Self said: “Although the project has been completed, the work doesn’t stop there. While we have transferred 1,067 customers to prepay, we still have 110 customers without access to a computer or smartphone who need quarterly bills. We also help customers on a daily basis with connections, top-ups, providing refunds and deactivating accounts when they leave.
“It’s good to see how happy the customers are with the new system, they like it and see it as an improvement to the service we provide. During the project we kept them up to date with any changes, however minor they were. And I made sure all customers were contacted on installation day and that no one was left without power.”
» The procurement process was challenging given the separate hardware suppliers involved, as was the installation and electrical commissioning of the bollards, which was undertaken by separate contractors
» We needed a long communications lead time to let customers know about the changes and the impact it would have on them. Flexibility was needed in case of a programme delay and dates had to be changed. This gave rise to an eight week communication process which evolved from emails to phone calls and text messages
» A six month installation programme for 52 sites offered customers a fixed date when their power would be out while installation took place and suffered no delays.
» We had to look at a number of legal and data protection issues relating to the provision of the system by MeterMACS. New terms and conditions relating to the provision of the service –which customers sign up to when they access the portal – had to be drafted. A new site specific Data Protection Policy for the customer payment portal, and an independent assessment of the website and its payment process had to be introduced to ensure our customers’ personal data was secure.
» The Meter-MACS system will be used for the Trust’s electrical vehicle charging points to be installed in the South Wales & Seven Waterways to support new commercial fleet vehicles (Gloucester, Lincomb, Tardebigge, Diglis and Upper Lode) and at our offices in London Docklands, Hatton, Fazeley, Newark, Northwich, Leeds and Stanley Ferry.
» Discussions have begun to modernise the payment system so that it can link to the Trust’s 90 pumpout and 11 visitor moorings with electricity.
Facts & figures:
» 83 sites
» 626 bollards
» 1,334 sockets (one per customer) installed
» 96% reduction in call-outs to faults
» £80,000 in the right place at the right time to pay our electricity bills
Benefits for CRT:
» Customers now pay in advance for their electricity and the Trust receives the cash immediately
» Remote meter reading is more efficient (resources and CO2 emissions)
» Changes in the price of electricity can be actioned immediately through the portal
» Obsolete equipment and technology has been removed
» Remote monitoring of faults and fixes results in a drop in reactive call-outs
Benefits for the CRT customers:
» Customers get advantage of our national purchasing power: eg we recently negotiated a rate reduction from 12.7p down to 11.10p per kW
» They can top up online
» They don’t have to hold a stock of cards or travel to an outlet to buy them
» They get ‘low balance’ and ‘unplugged’ email alerts
» They can review their consumption history
» They can do this on their smartphone any time of day or night