Automated meter reading is a communications service that permits the transfer of data from utility meters to a utility company’s metering collection system. As such, AMR automates the previously manual process of reading meters. Also, it allows the collection of much more and different types of information to benefit the utility and customer alike.
When connected to a wireless network, AMR systems become a low-cost, two-way communications interface between customers and their utility companies. Some systems allow customers to control and maintain desired temperature levels in their homes at the lowest cost; monitor electricity usage; receive daily updates on community information; pay bills electronically; and ultimately integrate and control lighting and home security systems.
AMR Benefits to Utility
Utilities that use AMR benefit in several ways. First, AMR reduces the labor costs of individually reading each meter. It also improves the safety of personnel who previously had to enter high risk or difficult to access areas on a regular basis.
Other benefits include reduced field visits, faster bill processing, and elimination of special reads and estimated bills. Customer service is also improved by:
• The ability to answer billing questions quickly and accurately by checking current and historical usage while the customer is on the phone;
• Specialized billing and information services, such as summary billing to consolidate billing for multi-site operations and best rate analysis to help customers choose the optimal rate plan for their needs;
• Improved bill accuracy due to a decrease in estimated bills; and
• The ability to let customers select billing dates, and/or to receive summary bills.
The more detailed, customer-specific usage data available through AMR makes it easier for utilities to develop new products and services. This data is also key to developing targeted marketing strategies for attracting and keeping customers.
The lower operating costs and increased specific data made possible by AMR may help smooth a utility’s transition from regulated to deregulated markets. Lowered costs can increase the resources available for product development and other needs.
More, and further detailed, data provides better insight into an increasingly complex power market, as well as an opportunity to differentiate service via options such as on-line daily usage information, outage status, and customer outage notification.
AMR Benefits to Customer
• Flexible rate programs designed to reduce energy costs.
• Energy usage information to help manage energy costs and better allocate usage.
• Reduced outage time and fewer outages.• Consolidated billing services and flexible billing dates.