field service management records meter readings for utility companies

Why utility field service management need an OCR meter reading solution

Ebin Thomas

Account Executive at Anyline

Nov 24, 2022

Most aspects of life are now covered by apps or other digitized solutions, but many utility providers are still struggling with outdated processes when it comes to meter reading. Utility companies rely heavily on field service management to read meters the traditional way, but recording consumption is time-consuming and prone to errors – not to mention, a dull task that excites no one.

Luckily, OCR technology can come in to streamline meter reading processes, and empower customers with self-meter reading along the way. That’s what we will discuss in this blog.

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What’s field service management and what does it do?

Utility providers usually have a field service management department whose job is to take action in the field to make sure every operation goes smoothly and meet the quality standards customers are expecting from their energy provider.

One of the key tasks of field service management is to ensure that the consumption of each customer is measured accurately and on time in order to deliver bills and take action if any issue or anomaly are found.

A properly functioning field service management team consists of many moving parts, which means the work is complex and any failure can have large impacts on the whole operation. A single worker can upend the process and result in interruption of a tightly knit work plan.

Issues utility workers face in field service

There are numerous problems workers can encounter in the field, including:

  • Scheduling conflicts and delays – Field service involves travel from property to property, and this can often involve traffic. Other factors include mechanical trouble or a flat tire, road closures and poor weather conditions.
  • Customer absences – While companies may have achieved a relative level of control over their own workforces, their reach doesn’t extend to customers. It’s a common scenario for field workers to arrive at a property only to have the customer fail to show. No-shows may originate in problems with the scheduling process, which modern field service technology solutions can alleviate.
  • Time-consumption and errors – Even when every other aspect of their job goes well, with both utility workers and customers showing on time, traditional meter reading processes can be the cause of additional problems in the operations of field service management and the utility company in general. Recording meter readings takes time from workers, and more importantly, it’s prone to errors, where even the most conscientious employee can make typos or record the wrong value.

Technological solutions to streamline utility field service work

One of the best ways to improve the efficiency of the field service workforce is to reduce the necessity of visiting customer sites. While workers will always need to travel to install or repair devices or software, consumption measurement, through meter reading can be done remotely in most cases.

AI-based optical character recognition (OCR) technology offers two compelling possibilities to automate the process:

  • Workers can use OCR technology and visit households to scan the meters using handheld devices. The scanning process speeds up the work order and eliminates the possibility of data entry errors.
  • Customers can be enabled by their utility provider to scan their own meters using a customer app supported by OCR scanning technology. Customers can use any devices equipped with a camera, like their smartphone or tablet, to record and share meter readings. OCR technology identifies the value displayed on the meter within a second and the digitized data can be sent to the utility securely and without the interference of any third-party. This eliminates entirely the need for a field worker to visit a property for the purpose of meter reading.

How to integrate Anyline meter reading technology

Anyline’s data capture technology can be integrated directly into any utility company’s existing field service management system or customer-facing mobile apps. By integrating Anyline’s OCR technology, utility companies can both save resources and guarantee easy use for workers or customers.

Anyline utility mobile meter reading technology is easily integrated into apps using its SDK (software development kit). It works with Android and iOS smartphones and offers support for common integration frameworks including Flutter, Xamarin, React Native and Cordova. It’s also possible for utility companies to offer the same experience on their website or through a browser-based platform, as Anyline meter reading solution is fully supported with JavaScript. It’s also backed up by hands-on support from customer service teams.

Discover if mobile meter reading is the right solution for you by downloading our Demo App to test its capabilities.