Automatic meter reading (AMR) has become a buzzword across the whole metering universe. AMR is a term applied to the collection of technologies that enable utilities to read electric, gas, water meters more efficiently. Utilities in the Southeast Asian (ASEAN) region have started considering investment in large scale advanced AMR systems, while a few of them are already running small pilots on remote meter reading.

The full extent of AMR’s value is still evolving, with new benefits constantly being realised. Some of the most prominent on which the utilities are focusing include faster revenue realisation, lower reading costs, improved reading accuracy, elimination of estimated readings, instant access to new streams of data, quicker identification of outages and tampering, and value-added service such as customer load profiling.

Some of the utilities have considered point solutions for commercial and industrial (C&I) AMR to start with. Presently circuit switched communication is being used where the PC/server connects directly to the meter to retrieve energy registers and load profiles. An example of circuit switched communication is the use of a dial-up phone circuit (PSTN/GSM/CDMA) to connect the master meter to the meters. When the master modem calls the meter modem, it tells the telecom network provider to switch a circuit in place.

Utilities are charged for the time the circuit is in place, irrespective of the amount of data that is sent and/or received. With the revolution in digital cellular technology, all modern wireless networks use Internet Protocol, which are packet-switched communication. Under IP, the data exchange is done by sending data across the Internet, which happens quickly and does not require massive modem banks at the central station.

As metering technology continues to evolve, utilities as well as vendors need to consider the migration path for the existing products while responding to these changes, otherwise the product will reach a dead end in a few years. In the ASEAN region, the AMR market potential is yet to be tapped and will be nurtured over the next 10 years.