Meter Readers go Hi-Tech

March 5, 2018

Don’t be alarmed if you notice City of Brownfield meter readers on their smart phones during working hours. They’re using the pocket devices to keep up with the usage of the city’s more than 3,000 utilities customers.

Administrators informed the City Council on Thursday that the modern system has been in use since just before the new year and it is working well for the readers and everyone in the billing department.

Meter readers are issued city-owned smart phones equipped with the proper software to record the key information vital to the municipal power and water departments.

“We are really enjoying the new system and I think it is going to be very beneficial to the city,” said Kelly Burris, City Secretary. “We have had residents notice the change and ask about it. It’s neat technology and a much needed upgrade over what we were using.”

Brownfield’s meter readers were using 20-year-old equipment that was no longer serviceable or upgradable.  

The smart phones, just like the one you most likely carry, are used to record meter information and relay it instantly to City Hall where billing software inputs the figures into customer accounts.

The SPMR (Smart Phone Meter Reading) technology was purchased for just under $10,000 in the current budget from Datamatic.

The meter readers take photos with the phones for a visual record of the meter reading and also to verify they were at the site.

The phones’ GPS features also mark the location of each meter and also directs the readers to the next address.

“The meter readers really like the system because it helps them find meters and makes sure they’re in the right place and it also verifies what they enter in case there is a customer complaint of any kind. We can pull up the pictures and the maps and show what we found.”

Burris said the new system improves accuracy, as well as efficiency in the department, which is good for employees, as well as customers.

“Several other cities in our area are already using this and I think most of the rest will adopt it before long,” she added.

Another benefit is the ability to send work orders or other directions through the smart phones directly to the employee, rather than having to travel to City Hall for instructions numerous times each day.

“It’s kind of an all-in-one system and we are liking it so far,” she said.

Brownfield’s two meter readers monitor roughly 3,300 water meters and the same amount of electric meters every month.

The pair of employees alternates even and odd addresses each month, for an added level of verification in the readings they report.

“We read every meter every month and we want to get it right and be as accurate as we possibly can be,” she said. “It’s a full time job, but this system makes it easier for everyone. It was definitely time for a change and we think this is a good one. ”

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Category: Updates