AMR Trial Begins in Portland
One of the nation`s first tests of automated utility meter reading over the public telephone network has begun in suburban Portland. GTE, in cooperation with Schlumberger and Lucent Technologies, is testing the automatic retrieving of electric meter readings over existing phone lines in an effort to bring new services to its customers and reduce operating costs.
Starting with 100 to 200 residential and small business customers in the trial, GTE plans to expand the service over the next few years if the system works as anticipated. Expanding the number of participants is accomplished by simply installing the AMR units at the home and connecting them to the phone lines. No additional utility or phone equipment is necessary to add customer AMR units. The AMR units will permit the utility to access the meter whenever the phone line is not busy. In about 2-6 seconds, up to four meters at one site can be read and the data sent back to the utility over the phone line.
In the trial, GTE is providing the phone lines and central office switches, with Schlumberger providing the meter-reading equipment and central data collection computer. Lucent Technologies is providing the network switching system.
“We are pleased to be offering a highly efficient method for meter reading and service monitoring to utility companies,” said Eileen O`Neill Odum, GTE Northwest`s regional president. “By using this new technology over the public switched network, utility companies now have an attractive alternative to both traditional meter reading methods and to the prospect of investing in new network assets.”
David Smith, Lucent`s Intelligent Pathway service manager said, “The phone system offers integration to the Internet and with deregulation, a utility customer may be anywhere. Using the Internet and phone lines to communicate with the customer is the future of communications.”
This technology is an improvement over older methods of telephone-based telemetry systems. Intelligent Pathway uses a unique capability in the telephone switch that knows to treat the call to the meter as a “no-ring” data call, enabling a utility computer to communicate with a small device at the home or inside the meter and obtain the information needed to bill the customer, or check for tampering or even detect service outage.