Segways and rugged laptops afford new levels of convenience—and protection—for mobile workers.
Christian Hamaker is managing editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Advanced metering may be the future of meter reading, but as utilities grapple with implementation costs and technical issues, it’s in their best interest to maximize meter reading done the old-fashioned way: on two feet.
Even then, meter readers don’t walk their entire routes, which can measure up to 10 miles in length. They usually get to their appointed routes in a company vehicle, then walk from home to home, or, if the distance between houses is lengthy, they get into their vehicle after reading each meter and drive to the next location.
“There’s not a lot of innovation in [manual meter reading],” says Gene Dimitrov, managing consultant at PA Consulting. “[But] route optimization is clearly important when you’re doing manual reading. Manual meter reading is a highly labor-intensive process.”
Enter the Segway Human Transporter—an upright device that drivers operate while in a standing position. Powered by a battery, the Segways are environmentally friendly and allow meter readers to cover their terrain more quickly than two legs would carry them.
The city of Seattle uses six Segways to read water meters, and Southern Co. affiliate Georgia Power has seven of the units for its meter readers.