Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Steve Howa » Sat, 11 Feb 1995 02:43:59




: In three weeks my water company (Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.) will be
: installing a remotely readable water meter in my home.  The details they
: give are sketchy, except that the meter will be read over the telephone
: line, and that its installation will not interfere with normal telephone
: service, including voice, answering machines, fax, modem, etc.

: Can some knowledgeable person fill me in on the operation of these units?

Well, I don't consider myself that knowledgeable....  But I do work with
this stuff occassionally...  Note that my answers are based on products
made by Sensus.  We buy Sensus for most of our meters and reading equipment,
they make some neat stuff.  (No, I don't get any money from them, we are
just an end user!).

: Some questions:
: Is the unit telco-line-powered, battery powered, or powered by my powerline?

The MIU (Meter Interface Unit) is completely telco-line powered.  I
wonder what the telco thinks about this? :-)

: Is the unit polled by the water company, or does it dial-in itself?

The device is programmed to dial after X amount of sleep time (this
can be varied so that the utility can gather statistical information
as well as billing information).  No special equipment is required
at the CO.  When the user disconnects phone service, you have to
get a manual reading.  Typical off-hook time for an MIU transaction
is about one minute.  If the user picks up the phone while the
MIU is off-hook, the MIU detects the voltage drop and disconnects
immediately (it retries again later).  When the user hangs up again,
they get a dialtone.

I wonder what happens if you have three way calling.  Lets say the
MIU is calling in a reading and I pick up the phone and place a
call (effectively creating a hook-flash).  Will the utility be
connected to the person I called after I hang up?  Hopefully, the
utility will disconnect upon loss of carrier.

What about call waiting?  Do you think the utilities are polite
enough to NOT dial *70?  This way a call waiting could cause the
MIU to disconnect and the phone to start ringing -- thus the customer
would not miss a phone call.

: Does the unit have an visible digital or analog meter that can be
:     read by the homeowner?

Yes, you still have a standard meter on your line, however, the
electronics in the base of the meter are a little different.


: PGW just installed a remote reading meter in my ba*t this summer.
: It's not wired to anything in the house (AC or phone lines).  My gas
: bill has been showing actual readings instead of estimated readings,
: so it works.  But I still haven't figured out how it works.  Does anyone
: know?

Assuming that they have not installed a remote readout on the exterior
of the building...  This is probably a radio based system.  It is
battery powered.  The device responds to a request from a truck driving
down the street and responds with your meter ID and your reading.  The
batteries have to be replaced  every ~5 years.  (A major disadvantage,
IMHO).


: There are two kinds. One has already been discussed (it is interrogated by
: radio by a meter reader either on foot or in a truck). The other is a
: regular meter with the dials mounted outside the building and attached to
: the meter by a small wire.

This is a remote readout.

There is also a slightly different remote that we install whenever possible.
It is a black device that is mounted on the building exterior.  It has an
oval base that is about 2" x 3" and a "knob" that extends about 1/4" from
the base.  The knob is about the diameter of a quarter.  This is generally
called a "touch pad".  To read the meter, a device called a "touch read"
is placed against the touch pad and a trigger/button is pushed.  The device
then queries the meter for its ID and the reading.  The power to read
the meter comes from the touch read equipment.  (I'm not really sure how
this happens -- perhaps a magnetic field is generated in the handheld
device that is converted by a coil to the miniscule amount of power
needed to read the meter?).  

A big advantage to the utility is speed, accuracy, and the
meter ID.  The employee doesn't have to be concerned with the address
and/or previous readings to insure that they are at the correct location.
With the touch read, they just go to every house in any order, the
handheld system puts the correct address with the meter reading before
it is downloaded at the end of the day.

The handheld device (called an "Interogator") is actually a small computer
of some type.  It can hold about 1500 readings as well as information
about the individual locations (expected Meter Ids, previous readings,
address information, meter location (on building), dog name(s), key
locations, etc).  They also have the ability to enter predefined codes
to indicate various problems, (remote broken/missing/painted over,  
vicious dogs, leaks, vacancy, call customer, etc).  These are then
acted upon when the Interogator is downloaded at the end of the day.

                                    Steve
--

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of my employer.

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by John Deari » Fri, 10 Feb 1995 06:23:51


: PGW just installed a remote reading meter in my ba*t this summer.
: It's not wired to anything in the house (AC or phone lines).  My gas
: bill has been showing actual readings instead of estimated readings,
: so it works.  But I still haven't figured out how it works.  Does anyone
: know?

For those outside the Philadelphia Metropolitan area, PGW is the
Philadelphia Gas Works. Probably one of the worst run gas utilities in
the nation. Used to be a city owned operation and a patronage hangout,
now just a patronage hangout since it was privatized. 8-)

There are two kinds. One has already been discussed (it is interrogated by
radio by a meter reader either on foot or in a truck). The other is a
regular meter with the dials mounted outside the building and attached to
the meter by a small wire.

I have #2 at my house. I went to a PGW garage and spoke with a foreman
and asked about the possibility of getting a meter with the "outside
head". He explained that PGW was in the process of testing the new
radio-read meters but that he would see what he could do. About 2 weeks
later I got a phone call from the foreman asking if I still wanted the
new meter. A few days later he showed up with a mechanic and they
replaced the meter, drilled a hole in the wall and mounted the new "head"
outside. After connecting a few wires they were all done.

That was about 4 years ago (at least!).

Just my $.02

John Dearing



 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Chazwor » Wed, 08 Feb 1995 15:13:04


I have seen remote reading of power meters, the data is transmitted over
the power line to a collection point in the neighborhood then landlined or
microwaved the center or even more collection points.  The company was DAC
Domestic Automation Corp. or SAn Carlos CA, Now known a CellNet. They have
since moved into Cellular WANs
Chaz Holmes, Portland, OR
 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Bruce J. Mill » Wed, 08 Feb 1995 00:08:18


In three weeks my water company (Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.) will be
installing a remotely readable water meter in my home.  The details they
give are sketchy, except that the meter will be read over the telephone
line, and that its installation will not interfere with normal telephone
service, including voice, answering machines, fax, modem, etc.

Can some knowledgeable person fill me in on the operation of these units?
Some questions:
Is the unit telco-line-powered, battery powered, or powered by my powerline?
Is the unit polled by the water company, or does it dial-in itself?
Does the unit have an visible digital or analog meter that can be
    read by the homeowner?

Enquiring minds want to know......

Respond via email or post if you think this is of general interest.
adTHANKSvance-
--
 |   Signature Under Construction   |  Bruce J. Miller


                                    |  Unisys Valley Forge Engineering Center

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by George Jefferso » Wed, 08 Feb 1995 04:57:01


:In three weeks my water company (Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.) will be
:installing a remotely readable water meter in my home.  The details they
:give are sketchy, except that the meter will be read over the telephone
:line

I dont know about that, but in some places they have a system that
uses a short-range radio transmitter.  The meter guy reads the meter
with his equipment out on the sidewalk.

:Can some knowledgeable person fill me in on the operation of these units?
          ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
oops, will I'll make a guess anyway :-)

:Some questions:
:Is the unit telco-line-powered, battery powered, or powered by my powerline?

I would guess it is AC powered.  The telco really frowns on devices drawing
any power from the phone line, and of course if it was battery powered they
would have to come in to change the battery which would sort of defeat
the purpose.  Then again maybe they do an in-person reading once a year
or so anyway, in which case maybe they do use a battery...

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by John Levi » Tue, 07 Feb 1995 15:54:57



Quote:>In three weeks my water company (Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.) will be
>installing a remotely readable water meter in my home.  The details they
>give are sketchy, except that the meter will be read over the telephone
>line, and that its installation will not interfere with normal telephone
>service, including voice, answering machines, fax, modem, etc.

>Can some knowledgeable person fill me in on the operation of these units?

Apparently it uses dedicated equipment at the telco central office to poll
the remote meter over your phone line.  It uses funky signalling that normal
phones won't notice, and hangs up instantly if someone picks up the phone or
an incoming call arrives.  (They try later.)

Regards,

Primary perpetrator of "The Internet for Dummies"

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Michael Donnel » Thu, 09 Feb 1995 05:10:56



Quote:>I have seen remote reading of power meters, the data is transmitted over
>the power line to a collection point in the neighborhood then landlined or
>microwaved the center or even more collection points.  The company was DAC
>Domestic Automation Corp. or SAn Carlos CA, Now known a CellNet. They have
>since moved into Cellular WANs
>Chaz Holmes, Portland, OR

PGW just installed a remote reading meter in my ba*t this summer.
It's not wired to anything in the house (AC or phone lines).  My gas
bill has been showing actual readings instead of estimated readings,
so it works.  But I still haven't figured out how it works.  Does anyone
know?

md

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Steve O'Nei » Thu, 09 Feb 1995 21:32:32



>    ...(stuff deleted)

>PGW just installed a remote reading meter in my ba*t this summer.
>It's not wired to anything in the house (AC or phone lines).  My gas
>bill has been showing actual readings instead of estimated readings,
>so it works.  But I still haven't figured out how it works.  Does anyone
>know?

As I understand it, from an article in one of those pieces of paper PGW
likes to include with your bill, the device on your meter is a wireless
transceiver. It's read by a meter reader in a truck, or on foot, who stops
in front of each building and interrogates the meter. The transceiver then
sends the reading back by radio to the reader's interrogator, where it's
stored in memory. One thing the article mentioned is that the order of
installation will be such that the most difficult to reach meters will be
upgraded first, then everybody else. Is your meter hard to get to?

Steve O'Neill

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Frederick A. Fur » Fri, 10 Feb 1995 04:05:30




Quote:

>I would guess it is AC powered.  The telco really frowns on devices drawing
>any power from the phone line, and of course if it was battery powered they
>would have to come in to change the battery which would sort of defeat
>the purpose.  Then again maybe they do an in-person reading once a year
>or so anyway, in which case maybe they do use a battery...

Seeing this makes me curious.  How much power IS available from telephone
lines?  I've always wondered that.  For instance, most phones can be lit
up and have extensive memories while plugged into the phone jack, but
those with an answering machine or anything of that sort always need to
be plugged into an electrical socket.  Anyway, you get the point.

Does anyone know how much power comes from the phone lines?

Fred

--
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Frederick A. Furia, Jr.                          CS Grad Student  -- U. of Penn

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Roger Atkins » Sat, 11 Feb 1995 17:12:28



Quote:>Seeing this makes me curious.  How much power IS available from telephone
>lines?  I've always wondered that.  For instance, most phones can be lit
>up and have extensive memories while plugged into the phone jack, but
>those with an answering machine or anything of that sort always need to
>be plugged into an electrical socket.  Anyway, you get the point.
>Does anyone know how much power comes from the phone lines?

On hook, Part 68 allows 5 MOhm across the line, and 5 MOhm either side to
ground.  

Off hook, use whatever you can get of the (usually) >20 mAmps, while still
keeping the loop resistance of your device below (I believe) 430 or so Ohms.  
Strictly speaking, you could get away with, but maybe not get Part 68
acceptance for, using as much power as the line would provide, and still
supervise, that is, not disconnect due to low loop current.  The closer to the
CO you are, the more resistance you can introduce while still drawing the
15 to 20 mA required to reliably hold the line off hook.  

I would be very interested to read comments trom others with experience in
this area!

--Roger Atkinson

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Jim.R.. » Sun, 12 Feb 1995 01:32:38



  How much power IS available from telephone lines?

Here are some relevant specs.  I forget if these are Bellcore or FCC.
Someone posted these to the net, so don't take them as authoritative.

TYPE                            MIN (Ohm)       NOM. (Ohm)      MAX. (Ohm)
====================            =========       =========       =========
  ---------------------------OFF-HOOK---------------------------------
DC                              100                             200
  ---------------------------ON-HOOK----------------------------------
DC                              20,000

TYPE                            MIN             NOM.            MAX.
====================            =========       =========       =========
Voltage DC (T=R)                47 V            48 V            105 V
DC current                      20mA            30mA            120mA

So the maximum power you can reliably draw on-hook is 110 mW, and off-hook
is 80 mW.

However, I suspect that if you actually tried to draw 110 mW on-hook, you'd
raise some eyebrows, if not alarms.  And you'd have a hard time using the
full 80 mW off-hook, because the voltage isn't constant, and you'll have
some power loss in the hybrid.

 
 
 

Remote Reading Water Meter (over TELCO line)

Post by Mark Robert Smi » Mon, 13 Feb 1995 01:10:21



Quote:>In three weeks my water company (Philadelphia Suburban Water Co.) will be
>installing a remotely readable water meter in my home.  The details they
>give are sketchy, except that the meter will be read over the telephone
>line, and that its installation will not interfere with normal telephone
>service, including voice, answering machines, fax, modem, etc.

My parents in Northern N.J. have had one for at least 10 years.  It's a little
box connected to the phone line and water meter.  When it was installed, it
looks like they just replaced the visible dial part of the meter.

Quote:>Can some knowledgeable person fill me in on the operation of these units?
>Some questions:
>Is the unit telco-line-powered, battery powered, or powered by my powerline?

Their's isn't plugged into anything but the phone line and meter.

Quote:>Is the unit polled by the water company, or does it dial-in itself?

I think it dials in itself.  I've never heard the phone ring.  My parents have
never had a problem with phone service due to this either.

Quote:>Does the unit have an visible digital or analog meter that can be
>    read by the homeowner?

It still has a dial and/or digital reading on the top of the water meter.

My parents are happy with it.

Mark

 
 
 

1. Phone Line Attached to Water Meter

My water meter is connected to the telephone line and thus somehow
reports my usage to headquarters.  My assumption has always been that
the meter periodically calls the water company.

Something has been knocking me offline between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
most any time I happen to be online at that time of day.  Thinking that
this might be caused by the water meter phoning home, I called the water
company myself.

After being knocked offline three times (they are breaking in some new
telephone hardware or software), I got through to an actual human.
This person assured me, against blistering cross examination, that it
was the water company who called the meter, not the other way around.
This is said to be done only once per month, in the wee hours of the
morning.  And somehow it is accomplished without ringing my telephone.
And if I should be online when the call is placed, it will simply not
go through, and I will not be knocked offline.

Can anyone explain how this might work?

Fred L. Malan                           o                   610/644-1274


      At MP 22 on the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Public Works.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I do not have any idea based on what
you said about what causes the disconnects when online. However the
water works is correct in what they told you about reading your meter.
There is equipment in the telephone central office which is part of
the process. It makes its way through all the water customers, going
to each once a month. It tests your line for busy; if busy it comes
back later. If not busy, it causes a change in voltage on the line
which resembles a phone being taken off hook. This change in voltage
makes your line 'appear to be busy' should someone call it at the
same time. This equipment then reads the meter, records the data on
its end, and exits from the line. The whole process takes about two
seconds, and is is done between three and five in the morning. If
you pick up your phone while it is happening, it also goes away and
comes back later. It is really no different than the tests that telco
does on phone lines during the same hours of the night. I do not
think that is causing your other problem.   PAT]

2. Announce: Pixel-perfect collision detection - Allegro Sprites

3. Printer paper.

4. Meter Reading via Phone Line (was Silent Night)

5. Changing text limit in SLE.

6. Meter Reading via Phone Line (was Re: Silent Night)

7. CD-ROM

8. Distinctive vs. Selective Ringing (was Phone/Water Meter)

9. Water, Water, Everywhere (NC & NJ)!

10. water water everywhere !!

11. telco sees "remote line seizure"

12. Utility Meter Reading Switch