Yarra Valley Water is Melbourne’s largest retail water utility, providing essential water and sanitation services to more than 1.8 million people. Yarra Valley Water's service area covers most of Melbourne’s northern and eastern suburbs, from Wallan in the north to Warburton in the east, across approximately 4,000 square kilometres.

Yarra Valley Water recently completed an audit of a statistically significant sample of its water meter fleet across its service area to confirm the condition of the water meters and to identify any potential safety issues associated with access. The information collected will allow Yarra Valley Water to plan their resources more effectively for future activities such as meter exchanges.

Yarra Valley Water's trained meter readers used the ORDITAL solution on a smart phone to take classified photographs of water meters. The meter readers were not required to enter any data about the water meter, but simply locate the meter and take a minimum of two photographs of the water meter.

The result of this collection effort was a large photo archive of indexed and catalogued photographs of the water meter fleet sample. The act of capturing the photos was the information capture exercise. Turning that information into structured data utilized ORDITAL's patented crowd sourcing solution.

The ORDITAL mobile app classifies photos of the water meter as they are taken. This project utilized two classifications - a SITE photo that showed where the water meter was located on the property and a PROFILE photo that showed how the water meter was installed. All photos are geolocated and time-stamped for accuracy.

 

Geolocated and time-stamped 

By classifying photographs we are in a position to understand what attributes we are likely to obtain from a photograph of that class. The classified photograph is then processed with jobs in a crowd sourcing network with multiple independent judgments sought to give us a measure of confidence in our attribute. This is an important differentiation between a traditional audit where the auditor enters data in the field without providing evidence of the device, its condition and location.

The example below shows the results from processing the above photographs. We have generated structured data from the photos that tells us whether there is any obstruction in accessing the meter, whether we have clear access to the meter, what sort of surface is below the meter, what colour pipes are connected to the meter (i.e. copper pipes are easier to work on than galvanized pipes), whether the meter is higher or lower than 150mm (6") above the ground, and whether or not the meter is buried.

 

SITE ATTRIBUTE CONFIDENCE
OUTDOOR METER NOT IN CONFINED SPACE 100%
METER CLEAR OF VEGETATION/BUSHES 100%
0 METER(S) VISIBLE IN PHOTO 100%
METER IN PIT 100%

These factors can be used to assess the degree of difficulty in replacing a meter. For example, if a technician arrives at site to replace a meter and finds that it is buried he will generally have to leave the site and call in someone to raise up the meter then return after that work has been completed. Having this information allows the right trade to be called in to execute the work as there is no ambiguity about what conditions will be found at site.
When taking photos the meter readers are careful to only take photos that assist with management of the meter fleet and ensure that photos do not include the owner's property, personal effects, or anything which identifies the address such as the street number on the letterbox. Most often this is achieved by taking the photo backward toward the street, thus ensuring privacy considerations are strictly adhered to.

 

PROFILE ATTRIBUTE Confidence
PARTIALLY BURIED** 67%
EARTH-GRASS-GARDEN BELOW METER 100%
SIMPLE T HANDLE 100%
LOW METER 100%
METER IN PIT 100%
PIPE END PIPE NOT VISIBLE 100%
VALVE END PIPE NOT VISIBLE 100%

**Multiple independent judgments drive confidence levels. In the above example we have an attribute with 67% confidence. If we examine the individual judgments we can see there was a slight disagreement between whether the meter is fully or partially buried.

JUDGMENT
FULLY BURIED
PARTIALLY BURIED
PARTIALLY BURIED

Information gained from the meter audit will be able to be used to inform future Yarra Valley Water budgeting and meter replacement programs.