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Automatic Meter Reading: Debunking the Myths

Advanced Meter Reading
Fortnightly Magazine - March 2005

you just might find a way around the sand traps and water hazards.

In the advanced metering arena, for example, the best-of-breed/end-to-end dilemma revolves around whether to deal with a single company or multiple hardware, software, and network services providers. Go the best-of-breed route and you face a litany of integration challenges and inevitable finger pointing should problems surface among the vendors. Pick an end-to-end vendor and you could be at their mercy if it doesn't perform. We believe a technology can accomplish both. Settle for nothing less than best-of-breed and end-to-end in the advanced metering arena. Avoid the either/or route and you just might find a way around the sand traps and water hazards.

Myth 2: "Real time" is an absolute term in advanced metering.

What the heck does the phrase "real time" mean in the world of business? Everyone talks about business moving in "real time." Real time this. Real time that. It's assumed everyone intuitively understands what "real time" is and that everyone operates under the same definition.

But, in fact, "real time" means different things to different people. To some it means "close to now." To others it means "when we can make it happen." To still others it means "whenever we get stuff done." "Real time" has morphed into a relative term, not an absolute one."

Well, I'm no dictionary, but to me "real time" means "real time." I know you're not supposed to define something using the same words, but I'm an engineer. We deal in absolutes. We leave the fuzzy stuff to the marketing folks.

"Real time" means now. Immediate. It means currently. "Real time" should mean real "real time."

For example, you are reading this page in real time. Your eyes are moving across the page from left to right. The letters form words. The words form sentences. Information flows through the optic nerve to the brain, and the brain processes and understands.

All of this is happening now. Currently. In real time. Real time is now, not later. Not over a period of many minutes or hours or days or weeks. Real time means when you want it and need it most.

In my opinion, real time is only accurate when describing how any connected meter can be read in as few as five seconds. During this real-time period, our systems are designed to initiate a wireless connection to the meter, capture data located anywhere in the meter's ANSI tables, relay the data to our secure meter management data center, and update our advanced meter portal. All of this is completed in as few as five seconds. Not three minutes. Not once a night in batches. Now. Immediately. Currently. In real time.

The advanced metering and AMR landscape is full of real-time hype. Check under the hood and you'll discover that real time is in the eye of the marketer, not from the well of reality. Utilities are facing a number of business challenges that demand an increase in the velocity of their operations. If you're seeking to move to real-time operations, find