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After the warm weather this winter, cold has hit with a vengeance in the more northerly states in the US.  One of my relatives above the frost belt was telling me to be happy I lived in South Florida—turns out they lost water to their house over the weekend because the water at the meter itself became frozen.  A technician came out to fix it, and let them know the meter itself would be replaced in the spring.

That started me thinking about the people who read meters each month.

There are jobs posted right now to be a meter reader in Broward County, Florida—home of the City of Ft. Lauderdale– and you can see them here.

Let’s look at some scale metrics and do some ‘back of the envelope’ calculations:

Broward County, home of Ft. Lauderdale has a population of about 1.7 million persons, spread over 1,230 square land miles, with 665,913 households as of 2013.

If you figure 20 working days to a month, that’s:

  • 33,295 meters to read each day

  • 4,162 meters to reach each working hour

If a meter reader hits one house every 5 minutes– including time to read, record, then travel to the next house—that’s

  • 12 meters per hour per reader

Dividing the 4,162 meters from above by 12, you get:

  • 346 meter readers working each and every working hour to cover it all.

There are a lot of meters, and a lot of meter readers have been needed to read them.  Sounds like great job security, right?  Well… not if you consider technology.  If you work with businesses each day about gathering, using, and storing data as I do, you’re likely thinking only one thing right now:

There has to be a better way.

And there is.  Turns out all over America and Canada, municipalities are thinking the same thing.  They have been converting to Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems to making data collection more efficient and accurate.  Many of the efforts in South Florida to do so are documented here.

Tampa Electric Company (TECO) began converting to AMR technology back in 2003, replacing dial-type meters that had to be read manually with digital meters.  They have completed installing these meters throughout their 2,000 square mile territory.

Standard AMR meters have one-way communications capability that allows a vehicle driven down the street to pick up data transmitted from the meter.  It is a short-range radio signal, sort of like your garage door opener or the Florida SunPass toll readers.  Digital technology provides more privacy for consumers, more accurate meter readers, eliminates access issues (and dog bites!) and allows fewer persons to read more meters more quickly.

It’s simply more efficient, and offers cities big savings on labor.

But the newest technology is even better:   Advanced Smart Meters that offer two-way communications and other Smart Grid capabilities.  Now it’s not just the reduction in labor cost that is a benefit.

Suddenly, municipalities can automatically collect meter data, pinpoint water loss from leaks, theft, and system failures, and manage production, storage, and distribution of water.  Bill generation happens automatically—and customers can get information designed to help them save on their utility bills.

The investment in the infrastructure to make this happen is significant, but the long-term payoff is tremendous.  Expert advice is obviously needed, not only for purchasing and installing the core system—meters, networks, sensors, hardware, software—but also determining what data to get, how to manage that data, and how to use that data.

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Data is to business as water is to life:  essential.

How do you gather, use, store and control the data that is important to your business?

5i Solutions Inc. is in the data solutions business.  Document Management, Document Imaging and Processing solutions to allow your business to better gather and use the data you need to gather.  Automatic data extraction.  Handwriting turned to digital smart data.  Automated workflows.  Solutions that give instant access to any piece of important data, with full sharing capability.  Smart systems that identify important data automatically, including E-Discovery and Litigation Support software for attorneys and legal departments.  And super-secure data store in the 5i “Cloud Vault.”

5i Solutions works with both businesses and municipalities to use tools and technology to grow business and to operate more efficiently.

5i has the know-how to custom tailor a solution that works with your current systems, making sure that tools and technology perfectly fit what you do.

5i Solutions.  One single, secure point of intake, access, and storage.  One singular solution.

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