Walk-by the answer for Jamaica’s difficulty to read meters
In addition to the steep and hilly terrain in Jamaica, access to meters has become more problematic in recent years. The population of the island is growing at a rapid rate, which often means that extra rooms are being added to existing houses.
"Because of new construction, what was an outside wall can become an inner wall," says Peter Henry, general manager for special projects for the Jamaica Public Service Co Ltd (JPSCO). "The result is that the meter can end up in someone’s bedroom."
The difficult terrain, and the new access constraints, meant that JPSCO was reading meters every second month. Consumers disliked the system, because of the uncertainty and the budgeting difficulties. The JPSCO, on the other hand, had to contend with cash-flow constraints and complaints from customers.
"In order to read the meters every month, we knew we would either have to hire more meter readers or update our meter reading technology. We chose to update," reports Henry.
The pilot walk-by meter reading system chosen by JPSCO consisted of Radix utility management system software, 89 Radix FW 200 handheld computers, and Hand TrackIT radios and TranspondITs from Ramar Technologies Ltd. It will be based at 14 remote zone offices and will read General Electric kWh meters and single-phase Westinghouse meters.
The meters were fitted with TranspondITs that relay the reading data to the Hand TrackIT radio carried by the meter reader. The radio sends this data to the connected FW200 handheld computer. When the meter reader has finished collecting the day’s reads, he or she returns to the office, where the FW200 is placed in a loader/charger that unloads the meter reading data into the utility’s database. The handheld is also charged and loaded for the next day’s meter reading.
Henry says that at present the new system is being added to the island’s meters on an as-needed basis, with the most inaccessible meters receiving the change-over first. The second phase of this project is expected to cover the whole island.