AUTOMATIC METER READING
Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) is a one-way communication
system, usually, but not restricted to low-power radio using
frequencies such as 916, 868 and 433 MHz. It is designed to
capture the data required for billing purposes, usually as a walk
or drive-by solution. Fixed network solutions, which use a mesh
of repeaters and concentrators also allow these data to be
collected without the need for site visits. In some areas of the world, multi-utility concentrators (MUC’s) are also employed using a variety of transmission types including ZigBee, wireless M-Bus protocols, low-power radio and power line carrier (PLC) to collect the data. In most cases, these are true AMR solutions with one- way communication only.
In addition to collecting billing data, some other information is often available including monthly volumes, leak alarms, tamper alarms, back flow alarms etc. AMR is an older technology that is largely proven but brings only a few of the benefits identified from AMI.
Some AMR systems have the ability to implement limited DMA management, this would be achieved by transmitting the same read time for all meters (e.g. all meter will transmit 10:00AM reading).
Since most AMR systems used as walk or drive-by, the software is relatively simple and mostly used to transfer the data to the billing system. Some management software are hosted in the cloud, but most systems installed on premise. When used as fixed network, the software is often more advanced and includes MDM features (such as reports, alerts, charts and analytics).
Some of the benefits of using Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems include:
Reduced operational costs (meter reading)
More accurate billing (reduced chance of human error)
More frequent meter reading with more information
Alarms to give early warning of issues
Less security issues due to the one-way communication
A few of the weaknesses of AMR systems, include:
Typically use short range radio requiring many repeaters and concentrators
Information from the meter is limited mainly to billing
DMA implementation and management is limited
AMR fixed networks are harder to manage and require more resources
Meter reading equipment for drive or walk-by solutions typically involve a similar hand-held solution to that used for manual meter reading. For some systems, a separate module with areal may be required, especially in the case of drive-by.
For fixed networks or mesh solutions, a series of repeaters or concentrators will be required. These are normally fixed to street furniture such as lamp posts often as high up as possible to capture as many meter transmissions as possible.