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