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Utilities Bullish on Meter-Reading Technology

Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1995

of Itron's portable and network data collection systems has been installed at more than 1,100 electric, gas, and water utilities worldwide.

Itron has deployed its wireless transmitters, which it calls ERT (encoder, receiver, transmitter) modules, in the meters of over 70 utilities. To date, Itron has shipped more than 3.2 million ERTs and signed contracts for the purchase of more than 6 million.

Itron began public trading of

its stock in November 1993, employs 600 people, and last year had sales in the neighborhood of $100 million.

Several competing technologies are available to utilities seeking to automate their data systems, such as the more expensive fiber optics and coaxial cable that would enable utilities to enter a number of unregulated businesses, from television and video communications to home security businesses.

But fiber optics requires a large initial investment to justify the expense, and there are a number of competitors, such as telephone vendors, in that business already. "Cellular technology is much cheaper," KCPL's Cole observes, and can be integrated eventually into a fiber, cable, telephone, microwave, or other fixed-network system.

For KCPL's meter-reading needs, hopping onto a fiber-optics network right now would be "like trying to drink water out of a fire hose," Cole notes. t

W. Lynn Garner is senior writer of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY.

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