Remote metering takes water billing to a higher level in prestigious ‘Walkie-Talkie’ skyscraper

Overall, CBRE has streamlined the management of the building and reduced its overheads
Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash

20 Fenchurch Street is one of the most prestigious office blocks in the City of London and also one of the most recognisable, being known colloquially as the ‘Walkie-Talkie’. Construction was completed in 2014 and the 160 m tall, 38-storey, skyscraper makes extensive use of technology for the benefit of tenants and the management company. However, there was a missing link: water metering was done in the traditional way, with traditional analogue meters read manually. CBRE, which manages the building on behalf of owner Lee Kum Kee Groups, therefore commissioned Deer Technology to retrofit its ‘smart’ LimpetReader automated meter reading system to all of the water meters in the building.
This was not the first time Deer Technology had installed LimpetReaders in premises managed by CBRE. Previously Deer Technology had upgraded water meters at five AXA sites, 44 sites at Milton Park, 20 sites for IM Group, six sites in Orchard Street and seven in Wellington Place. When CBRE wanted to automate the water metering in 20 Fenchurch Street, the team had no hesitation in asking Deer Technology to retrofit its unique system.
A total of 68 LimpetReaders have been fitted to analogue meters in the building. These devices are connected wirelessly to AutoReaders that take the information from the LimpetReaders and transmit it to Deer Technology’s secure servers. AutoReaders installed above ground use Wireless Transmission . In the basement, where there is no mobile network availability, the AutoReaders are connected to the building’s WiFi network via a firewall, so the meter information is sent over the internet.
CBRE benefits from the upgrade by having access to accurate, timely meter readings which mean tenants can be billed accurately, monthly. This avoids having to issue bills based on estimates, as well as the need to reconcile payments once meter readings are available. Furthermore, CBRE no longer has to request access to tenants’ meters in order to take a reading, and the company makes significant savings by not requiring someone to read 68 meters periodically. When CBRE receives bills from the water retailer, it is also in a far better position to check the accuracy of the retailer’s bills thanks to the data from the LimpetReaders. Overall, CBRE has streamlined the management of the building and reduced its overheads.
At the same time, tenants much prefer receiving accurate bills, particularly now working patterns have changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If tenants wish to, they can use the data to help reduce water consumption with the aim of saving money, reducing their carbon footprint or both. 20 Fenchurch Street was designed and built to be an energy-efficient building, with a BREEAM rating of Excellent, so it is a logical step for CBRE to provide the means by which water efficiency can be improved.
Installing the LimpetReaders was straightforward, as all the water meters in this recently-constructed building are internal and accessible. There are two meters on each floor, and the remainder are in the plant room in the basement. It only takes around 15 minutes to fit a LimpetReader to a meter using optically clear tape or adhesive, and there is no need to disconnect the meter or interrupt the supply. Once the battery-powered LimpetReader is in position, its array of micro-cameras captures images of the analogue meter’s register at defined intervals. Nevertheless, the register remains visible in case the meter needs to be read manually.
Each AutoReader communicates with the LimpetReaders via Bluetooth. The AutoReaders take the date- and time-stamped images and transmit them to Deer Technology’s server. Once on the server, the individual images from the micro-cameras in each LimpetReader are stitched together using image processing software. This creates a single, distortion-free image of the meter’s register for each reading. Further processing interprets the register image as a numerical value.
Deer Technology can provide the meter data to customers in a number of ways, ranging from raw data to an API (application programming interface). In the case of 20 Fenchurch Street, CBRE accesses the database so it can view and analyse the data, and use it for billing tenants automatically.
For more information about Deer Technology’s LimpetReader for converting analogue water meters to smart meters, go to telephone 01639 363146 or email