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What is Automated Meter Reading?
Automated Meter Reading (AMR) is a technology which allows for consistent and accurate collection of information from a natural gas meter. The technology has been available for more than 40 years, and has continued to evolve into the reliable systems that are commercially available today. Collected data is transferred to a centralized database for billing purposes and/or usage analysis.
Readings are captured on a daily basis by an AMR device, a unit mounted on the natural gas meter by a trained installer. The AMR device constantly monitors and registers a customer's natural gas usage. This information is then used to calculate a monthly bill for the customer.
AMR eliminates the need for a meter reader to enter a customer's home or business to manually obtain a natural gas meter read, allowing for enhanced customer convenience and more accurate data collection. Over the years, as AMR technology has been refined, a number of local distribution companies (LDC's) throughout the country have converted to AMR use. Laclede Gas has a long history with AMR systems and has been using remote meter reading technologies on a limited basis since the 1960s.
How it works
Laclede’s AMR system employs radio transmitting devices that are attached to the meter sets of existing Laclede Gas customers. Reads from each meter are transmitted to local network receivers that are mounted on poles and buildings and then transferred to Laclede’s customer billing system, resulting in timely and accurate bills based on actual natural gas usage.
In March 2005, Laclede Gas entered into an agreement with Cellnet Technology, Inc., at the time, a leading provider of wireless fixed data communication networks for utility companies. In 2009, Cellnet Technology, Inc. was acquired by Landis + Gyr, the world's leader in smart metering and energy management solutions. Established in 1896, Landis + Gyr (originally known as "Electrotechnishes Institut Theiler and Co.") has operations spanning more than 30 countries and serves all of the major utilities in every continent.
During the installation phase, AMR devices were installed on nearly all natural gas meters in the Laclede Gas service area (approximately 630,000 customers). Once installed, Laclede no longer needed appointments to access and/or obtain data from meters located inside homes or businesses.
Benefits of AMR
- Enhanced customer convenience – natural gas meter reads are transmitted automatically without a need for a technician to access meters. This is especially important for Laclede, as nearly 240,000 of our meters are located inside a home or business. Plus, with AMR, there is no need for our customers to have to read meters due to inaccessible natural gas meters. Customers no longer need to take time out of their busy days to accommodate Laclede Gas. And AMR also provides our Customer Service representatives with the ability to obtain a meter reading on a "real-time" basis if necessary to answer a customer inquiry.
- Improved billing practices – customer billing is based on actual natural gas usage, not an estimate based on past consumption. Customers no longer are subject to the fluctuations that can result from estimated billing.
- More frequent and accurate measurement – AMR takes frequent and regular readings, allowing for a more efficient monitoring of natural gas usage and billing based on actual consumption. The AMR system offers a 99 percent accuracy rate, which is considerably higher than the typical accuracy rate for manual reads. In addition, diagnostic flags are transmitted with readings to help Laclede Gas monitor the correct operation of each unit.
- Controlled meter reading costs – the automated technology helps Laclede Gas minimize operational costs, while accurately collecting readings on natural gas usage. Laclede entered into a long term contract with Cellnet (now Landis + Gyr). Meter reading costs are fixed and essentially locked in for the duration of the contract. Also, an accurate reading eliminates the need for a manual read or usage verification, which requires company resources. In addition, the 99 percent accuracy rate of the AMR devices minimizes any human error associated with manual meter readings.
- Estimated bills virutally eliminated - through our Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system, the need for us to estimate a monthly gas bill has been virtually eliminated. However, there are circumstances where we may occasionally issue an estimate, such as emergency situations or no access to an inside meter. If you have an inside meter and your last two bills have been estimated, please contact us at (314) 621-6960 or 1-800-887-4173 (Missouri Natural customers should call their nearest District Office) so we can investigate and resolve the issue.
Misconceptions About AMR/AMR Devices
- Gas leaks - attaching an AMR device to a natural gas meter does not increase the likelihood of a gas leak. In fact, to date, the installation of an AMR device has served to raise customer safety awareness.
- Interference – AMR devices transmit at a power level of less than one watt. The technology will not interfere with the operation of televisions, radios, stereo equipment, garage door openers, wireless Internet connections, or other electronic devices commonly found in a home or a business.
- Security – customer information is protected at all times. Personal information is not transmitted during the AMR process. The technology only transmits the natural gas meter reading and the meter number for the home/business. Once transmitted, the information is matched to our customer database in a secure setting.