Throughout the cooperative system, old-fashioned mechanical meters with spinning dials are being replaced with the latest digital technology.
Although highly accurate and reliable, the drawback to the mechanical, clock-like meter is that a human must read the numbers on the dials and enter that into a billing system. That takes a lot of time, and with each step there are many chances for humans to make mistakes.
The first improvement to mechanical meters was the simple addition of an electronic module that can sense the rotations of the meter’s dials and capture that data in memory. At regular intervals, this module reports (via the power lines or radio signals) electric usage to the co-op’s offices for automatic entry into the billing system. That eliminates human error and greatly reduces costs for the cooperative.
Today, all-digital meters are coming into widespread use. Relying completely on electronics, these new meters measure electricity use, store data, and report it like the electronic module, but without gears or rotating disks. Some also feature a graphic display that marches across the face of the meter as electricity consumption changes. Others include a button that co-op members can use to cycle through the display to read basic service data and other information.
As more household appliances, electronic devices, and even light bulbs become accessible via the Internet, the next innovations may make it possible for consumers to interact with their electric meter through a smartphone, computer, or tablet. Co-ops are always on the lookout for meters that will make the best use of available technology to control costs, render accurate bills–and keep service quality high.
—National Rural Electric Cooperative Association