Drive-by meter readings on tap
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 02, 2001
In Plano, Texas, technology is changing the tedious and time-consuming
ritual of walking from house to house to read water meters.
By September, the city plans to attach 7,300 small electronic units to existing
water meters. Developed by Richardson, Texas-based Data-matic.com, the units
would electronically transmit data as city meter-readers drive by.
Johnny Kemp, the city's meter-reading supervisor, said a worker can
gather data from 200 meters in about an hour by driving by at about 20 miles
per hour. It would take a worker on foot more than half a day to check all
those meters, he said.
Although gas and electric utilities have used radio-frequency meter-reading
for about 15 years, automated devices for water meters have only been developed
in the past six years, said Todd Onsa, marketing director for Datamatic.com.
In the past year, Onsa said he's seen a growing interest among municipalities
in such technology. At least 50 municipalities from St. Helena, Calif.,
to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., have ordered the company's product, which can be
attached to any existing meter. The devices send out a radio signal every
three seconds to an antenna affixed to the top of a vehicle, Kemp said.
A laptop computer within the vehicle logs the data.
Datamatic.com's product can store 74 days' worth of hourly usage data.
So if a customer disputes a bill, the city can check a digital paper trail.
Located about 20 miles north of Dallas, Plano has 71,000 water meters.
One part-time and seven full-time readers monitor them in business and residential
districts covering 73 square miles, Kemp said. City workers do about 830,000
readings a year.