This post is a companion to this month’s water story. Thanks to Ken Molli of Veolia Water for providing this concise history of water meters.
Manual Read Meter. Meter reader reads register dials and records reading in ledger book. Billing clerk computes usage from previous reading, then calculates and issues bill.
1950s Visual Read Remotes. Meter register in basement connected by wire to outside register, which is read by meter reader without entering the building. Readings recorded in ledger.
1970s Scan Read Remotes. Meter register in basement connected by wire to outside coupler. Meter reader attaches battery operated handheld reader to coupler to obtain visual reading of register dial. Reading recorded in ledger. Later improvements allowed reading to be collected and processed electronically. Electronic meter book developed to manually enter readings from visual read remotes and manual read meters to automate reading processing and billing.
1980s Telephone Fixed Network Reading. Meter register wired to interface device that was connected to phone line. Utility could either phone the meter to get its reading or the interface device was programmed to call the utility on set schedule to provide meter reading. Reading information electronically processed for billing.
1980s Radio Frequency Mobile Reading. Meter register wired to radio frequency transmitter. Handheld or mobile collector used to obtain meter reading. Readings downloaded from collector into billing software for electronic processing of bills.
1990s Radio Frequency Fixed Network Reading. Meter register wired to radio frequency transmitter. Transmitter sends reading to stationary collector. Collector sends readings from meters to utility by cell phone or other communication methods. Readings uploaded into billing software for electronic processing of bills.
2000s Two-Way Communication. In addition to the meter sending its reading to the utility, fixed network collectors and meter transmitters upgraded so that the utility can send signals to the collector and meter to reprogram reading frequency, or obtain additional meter reading. Other devices being added to communication network to identify leaks in service lines, obtain temperature and pressure information or shut off service.