Elster Electricity has announced new features for its UNICOM™ III optical probe, which communicates with electronic meters by using the meter's optical communications port. When used with the appropriate meter reading software, it allows users to read or program many electronic meters from different manufacturers.

The new features include a universal serial bus (USB) connector, longer thumbscrews and a stronger magnet. The USB 2.0 connector makes it possible to use the UNICOM III optical probe with PCs and laptops that no longer use RS-232 9-pin ports. USB 2.0 is compatible with USB 1.1, and the probe can work on any Windows-based PC and laptop with a USB port. The thumbscrews allow easier connection to the PC, and from June 2004 all UNICOM III probes will be equipped with a stronger retention magnet for an improved fit and hold on the meter's optical port.