Meter Reading Scanning Best Practice Guide
Measuring electricity and gas consumption is something that almost everyone has to do, once, or several times a year. Not only the consumer, but also the utility companies offering the service must periodically check on the consumption. Having a large workforce manually scanning hundreds of meters is time consuming and expensive.
For the individual client, having a bunch of small papers thrown around with no timeline is confusing and does not offer a clear consumption history, with highs and lows, and average consumption.
What’s the solution?
Today, many utility providers are solving this issue with apps where each user has an individual profile and an overview of their electricity and gas consumption.
However, a key drawback, is that these apps still use manual entries, with no way of verifying which meter has been scanned nor any way of preventing mistakes. Here is where Anyline comes into play.
Anyline is a market leader in meter reading and our solution took years of research and development to implement. We created several demo scenarios to showcase exactly how the life of a utility workforce and also the life of the user can be simplified. These scenarios are available in our Meter Scanner Demo App.
The next steps in helping our customers fully benefit from meter scanning OCR technology is this best practice implementation guide of Anyline. We break down the value that Anyline brings and also general considerations to keep in mind when integrating the meter scanning functionality! We also provide mockups of the ideal scenario, and a real life example from a client.
VALUE OF ANYLINE IN METER READING
Faster meter scanning: user just points and scans, and the meter is read instantly
Better customer engagement: in B2C use cases, customers can scan their meter easier
Cost-reduction: less workforce required to scan meters
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN INTEGRATING ANYLINE
Who is the user? Employee or customer
What is the ultimate goal? Higher accuracy, more meter readings, customer engagement
How prominent should the scanning feature be within your app? The main feature
Are you educating the user? Do you need to teach the user how to use this feature
POSITIONING OF FEATURE
Make sure the users have access to the scanning feature – do not hide it in menus. Have a guide briefly explaining what the new feature is; it can be a pop-up, an overlay, or small text. The value can fully be exploited if users find the feature; repetitive usage teaches users but also helps you to improve the experience. In the below mockup, the Submit Reading button takes you directly to the scanning screen, so with one single click, the user can already start scanning meters.
The cutout is the rectangle in the top half of the screen. This helps guide the user for a faster and more accurate scan. Have an overlay or help text to explain how the user should use the cutout the first time they use the scanning feature. We recommend having help text displayed most of the time or easily accessible to the user.
Visual feedback is made up of the colored lines, rectangles or dots that appear within the cutout before scanning.
As the name, it is meant to tell the user that Anyline is scanning and to tell them how to position cutout.
There are various types of visual feedback that you can choose from, depending on your use case. For meter scanning we recommend CONTOUR_RECT to outline each digit of the meter.
In the mockup, the blue rectangle is the visual feedback which will guide the user and tell him/her whether the meter values are being recognized. The black rectangle around the meter is the cutout.
Often the meter is identified through a Barcode which contains the serial number of the meter. As you can see in the mockup, Anyline scans the barcode automatically and gives a small visual cue to the user when the scanning is completed. This data, together with the result and a full image of the meter is sent to the utility company, allowing it to verify if the correct meter belonging to the user in their database has been scanned. In case the user would simply not like to scan, there is an option on the bottom which allows them to switch to manual entry.
Here you have a handy checklist with the most important things to keep in mind:
- The scanning feature is the default data entry mode
- Explanations are available about the scanning functionality
- Proper visual feedback is implemented to guide the user
- Help text on the scan page is available
- The scanning feature fits the corporate identity (colors used on scan button, on visual feedback, correct fonts applied, etc.)
Below you can see an example of a customer implementation:
Here you have the home page, where the user can see a summary, and the breakdown of the expenses for electricity and gas consumption, respectively.
After clicking Submit Reading, the user goes to the Gas Meter and Electricity Meter view. The only option available is the scanning feature. This step is only necessary if the company wants to make sure the user understands that submitting a reading means scanning the meter. However, this step can be skipped.
After clicking Use Camera, the user opens the scan view, where the meter can be scanned. The serial number of the meter is already available, so the barcode can be scanned only to double check that the serial number and the value truly belong to this meter. The Help text is always on display to reassure the user that they are using the feature correctly.
Since Anyline SDK 3.11, we have an Automatic Analog/Digital Meter scan mode available, so the two switches on the bottom are no longer necessary.
As shown in our mockup, the user still has the option to switch to manual entry.
QUESTIONS? LET US KNOW!
Sign up for our Newsletter!
Be the first to receive the latest news, release notes and updates!
Content Manager at Anyline | I write blog posts, emails, social media posts and everything else that helps people to learn about mobile OCR. Also happy to talk about it too!