Roll over wireless, tell your meter the news.
AMR has come full circle - from industry darling to problem child and now back again to the next new thing. For this latest reincarnation, thank the Internet.
Early AMR efforts focused on how to recoup costs through lower operating expenses and more accurate usage data, but infrastructure startup costs proved a stumbling block to modernization when industry uncertainty over deregulation made companies wary of whether they'd ever see a return on their investment.
Now deregulation has matured enough to remove some uncertainties. At the same time, the Internet offers a ready technology to provide enough of a cost incentive to justify abandoning a system that's been functioning long enough to become an institution.
The Internet offers an alternative to wireless radio frequency, which has seen a lot of pilot activity but that involves an extensive initial investment. The new Internet approach utilizes existing infrastructures - shared phone lines as well as the increasingly ubiquitous cable modem and digital subscriber line, or DSL. The result is an immediate lowering of startup costs as well as truly remote data monitoring capabilities (no drive-by vans or wands).
And there's a larger incentive. Communications via Internet protocol (IP) that use home telemetry gateway with open architecture can link an entire range of services - metering, load control, appliance monitoring and home security, for example. The opportunity to spread AMR infrastructure costs across multiple applications creates an even more compelling business case for deployment.