Helping Utilities Keep Tabs on Meters

MuNet, Metering Technology and Coactive showcase energy monitoring products at DistribuTech

New computer technology from several developers will let electric utilities gather information from remote locations more easily. MuNet Inc., Metering Technology Corp. and Coactive Networks last week presented products at the DistribuTech energy and utilities conference here that will give utility companies access to meters and other devices via the Internet or wireless connections.

MuNet, based in Lexington, Mass., demonstrated a new load management feature in its WebGate ICIS (Internet Commercial Information System) product.

ICIS is an IP-based information system that is essentially a processor retrofitted into electricity meters at the manufacturing point. The chip establishes an IP gateway at the meter via a shared public network.

The data generated can be accessed via the Internet and gives utilities and companies the ability to monitor energy output, load control and customer information using a Web browser pointed to the IP address on the meter.

ICIS and its sister product for residential metering, IRIS (Internet Residential Information System), also act as powerful data storage devices. MuNets WebBot application pulls down data from ICIS or IRIS and passes it to a utilitys legacy system for analysis there. The company is developing a separate analytic application that is nearing the beta test stage, officials said.

Glasgow Electric Plant Board, which has been testing 30 meters that use the MuNet technology, has already diversified to offer high-speed Internet and cable services. CEO William Ray said the monitoring technology will revolutionize his business.

"Well make this an extra-added service," said Ray, in Glasgow, Ky. Customers "can see what their bill is. We will be able to present the bill electronically and send it through e-mail. It never hits paper. Then, if they let us debit their account, the whole transaction will be done."

MuNet isnt alone. Utility meter supplier MTC, based in Scotts Valley, Calif., announced at DistribuTech that it will team with Coactive Networks, a provider of residential gateways for connecting devices in homes and businesses to the Internet, to co-develop an Internet-based meter-reading system.

Called the Coactive Connector gateway, the meters will use telephone and broadband Internet connections already installed in homes or businesses to transmit load management information to both utilities and consumers.

Officials at MTC and Coactive, of Sausalito, Calif., declined to say when the gateway will be available.

Other developers offering new electricity monitoring equipment at the show included:

• Second Wind Inc., of Somerville, Mass., announced its Encoderless Tap Position Reporting System, or ETPR, a combination of hardware and software that provides utilities with the positions of any three single or three-phase load tap changers at the substation level.

• Metric Systems Corp., of Carlsbad, Calif., announced the Mavric, a wide-area, open-source wireless networking system that can be used to build and combine wireless networks of any topology and integrates into enterprise networks.