Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Smart, efficient and flexible meter reading

Researchers have developed a new automatic meter reader to boost energy efficiency efforts. The innovative system is independent of electricity networks and adaptable to different utilities, particularly gas and water.
Smart, efficient and flexible meter reading
In the last five years, 53 million automatic electric meter readers have been fitted in Europe. These provide customers with real-time data on their energy consumption and can help them to reduce their electricity use, and bills, by up to 15 %. Such automatic meter reading also helps utility companies to acquire more accurate and regular readings and billings and to reduce wastage across their networks.

However, current metering systems are powered by the electricity grid and send consumption data from the home to the utility company via power line communications. This means they cannot be directly applied to other networks such as water and gas.

The EU-funded 'Ultra-low power wireless sensor network for metering applications' (SYNCSEN) project developed a new concept for remote meter reading adaptable to all utility networks. At the heart of the new equipment is wireless 'M-bus'-based technology, which transmits metering data to a central data collection point.

SYNCSEN wireless nodes are battery powered and boast ultra-low power consumption of less than 400 mAh per year, meaning that they last for 10 years — equal to the lifetime of the meter itself. The low level of power was achieved by using external synchronisation through free radio time clocks, novel joint routing strategies and network scheduling mechanisms.

By helping to cut energy and water use, SYNCSEN technologies can help boost efficiency and bring significant environmental benefits. With demand for smart meters rising steadily and a huge potential market, the economic prospects for manufacturers are also substantial, with over 2.8 billion meters in use worldwide and more than 500 million in Europe alone.

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