Energy meters aligned on a wall

Mobile meter scanner vs optical meter reading device – what’s best for you

Ebin Thomas

Account Executive at Anyline

Jun 17, 2022

Whether it’s for electricity, gas or water, utility companies strongly rely on manual meter reading to invoice bills to customers and to monitor consumption across their network. Utility workers need to physically read the value displayed on meters, record it and communicate it to a billing system.

However, new technologies can help with this meticulous work, improve efficiency in the processes and reduce overall mistakes that can result in billing errors. In this blog, we will see what are the pros and cons to optical meter reading devices and mobile meter scanners and how they can be used by utility workers in their everyday routine.

Why should utility companies rely on technology for meter reading processes?

According to a recent study, utility companies globally tend to lose between $90 and $100 billion per year to non-technical losses (NTLs) alone. This is when people simply don’t get billed, get billed incorrectly or they’re dealing with situations like meter tampering. While some of these losses come from fraud, much also come from the inefficiency of meter reading processes.

Manual meter reading is not efficient

Manual meter reading and recording might still rely on paper-based documents where utility workers write the numbers displayed on each meter. The data needs to be then recorded into a system to be used afterwards. Even though more companies now use digital devices for these readings, there are still issues with manual meter reading processes:

  • It takes time to type in each meter value, and that time adds up each day.
  • When typing meter readings manually, workers will make mistakes every now and then. Even when focusing, people tend to make these mistakes – it will just happen.
  • If mistakes happen, customers may be wrongly billed which results in an increased need for customer support and a lower customer satisfaction.

By removing the need for manual data entry and manual meter reading, utility companies can fight these issues and improve the efficiency of their processes.

Mobile meter scanners and optical meter reading devices

There are two key technologies that can help utility workers and companies with their meter reading processes: mobile meter scanning and optical meter reading. While both technologies accomplish the same result – capturing meter data – they are not working the same way and you may want to use one more than the other depending on your needs.

What is an optical meter reading device?

An optical meter reading device can come in multiple forms:

  • As a probe that can be plugged into a utility meter and that is linked to a device, such as a smartphone or a laptop, via a cable or bluetooth. Probes communicate with the meters via infrared optical waves to gather the data utility companies need. Optical meter reading devices using probes need to be compatible with the meter they read though, through the IEC 62056-21 international standard.
  • As a small device equipped with a camera that can be placed in front of a meter to capture data and send it to a device through bluetooth.

One advantage of optical meter reading devices is that they are quite autonomous, as they don’t need an internet connection to work – all the data is transmitted by bluetooth or by a usb cable.

Optical meter reading devices vary in price, going from $30 for the simplest probes, to $200 for camera-enabled devices.

What is a mobile meter scanner?

A mobile meter scanner is a software solution that relies on OCR technology to scan and capture meter data. It means that a device equipped with a camera takes photos or videos of the meter workers need to read, and a software is able to read and register the characters displayed on the meter.

Mobile meter scanning is also available to your customers

With more utility companies relying on a strong relationship with their customers to gather meter readings, instead of dispatching their workers to do this laborious job, mobile meter scanning comes with the added benefit of being available to customers. It is not likely that customers will own an optical meter scanning probe, but they will certainly own a smartphone with a camera.

Integrating a mobile meter scanner to a utility customer app gives the same advantages when customers scan their own meter as when utility workers do: it’s fast, it’s accurate and it’s secure.

How to integrate Anyline’s mobile meter scanning technology?

It is simple enough that you can start using Anyline’s OCR meter scanning solution within a week and begin to reduce the cost of investing in smart technology for meter reading.

Thanks to the smart SDK (Software Development Kit), Anyline’s OCR scanning solution is easy, fast, and exceedingly secure to integrate. It works on iOS, Android as well as Windows devices, and our SDK actively supports common integration frameworks including Xamarin, React Native, Cordova, and Flutter.
If you need help, our support team is at your disposal, so the integration of our mobile meter scanning technology goes as smoothly as possible!

Check to see if our mobile meter reading is the right solution for you by downloading our Energy & Water Demo App to test its capabilities.