Internet AMR on trial

20 February 2001

The convergence of electricity market liberalisation, Internet availability and home networking technology is opening up new opportunities for utilities to mine customer data, provide added customer value and offer new services. A new Internet-based automated meter reading concept is currently under test in the USA.

US company muNet Inc of Lexington, Massachu-setts, has announced that initial utility trials of its WebGate™ IRIS (Internet Residential Information System) are underway. Located under the glass of typical US single phase electricity meter, the WebGate IRIS is intended to provide a new communications gateway into individual homes.

It provides secure two-way communications, with the first application being automated meter reading (AMR). But proponents see the technology as opening up a number of new possibilities for utilities, enabling them to better exploit their electrical and broadband capabilities and to provide additional services to customers.

The trials are being conducted at ten investor owned and municipal electric utilities in the United States. These include Northeast Utilities, Detroit Edison, Tacoma Power, Braintree Electric Light, Glasgow Electric Power, Grant County PUD, Douglas County PUD, Taunton Municipal Light, and Wadsworth Electric and Communications. Additionally, muNet says it is discussing further deployment of WebGate IRIS with several more utilities.

The WebGate IRIS is based on open standards and can be accessed by a standard Internet browser, eliminating the need for proprietary head-end hardware.

Its AMR capabilities include: on-demand and scheduled meter reads; real time billing; time of use billing; load profiling; outage and tamper detection; remote service activation and deactivation; demand side management; energy management services; on-site calculation; and remote programming.

The WebGate IRIS is meter and Internet access neutral, allowing it to interface with any metering device with a defined digital output (electromechanical or solid state) and any Internet connection (cable, DSL, ethernet, wireless, powerline, or telephony).

The WebGate IRIS can access, manage, and publish data to the Internet from multiple meters on one site, eg, electric, gas, or water. The site unit could also be used to access and control other devices/systems on site, with applications such as remote load shedding via thermostat control and remote appliance diagnostics.

The WebGate technology combines data acquisition, database technologies, embedded computer engineering with two-way secure Internet communication, and the graphical interface of the World Wide Web.


For commercial customers, the WebGate ICIS (Internet Commercial Information System), a similar gateway to IRIS, is available. The WebGate ICIS gateway device, provides utilities and their commercial energy customers full two-way, secure communication, and continuous access to meter data via the Internet. The WebGate ICIS site unit can be queried from any computer with an Internet connection using a standard browser.

Tapping the extensive infrastructure of the Internet, the WebGate ICIS eliminates the utility’s need to deploy expensive, single-purpose, narrow bandwidth network connections, making Automated Meter Reading and its associated services economically viable for commercial accounts of all sizes.

The ICIS unit acquires pulse output via three standard channels from either single phase or poly-phase meters in block interval, rolling interval, or emulated thermal formats. From the meter outputs the WebGate ICIS unit can derive any advanced metering information or protocol that the utility or its customer requires such as active and reactive power, demand, power factor, time of use, real-time and usage profiling. All WebGate ICIS data output can be displayed in either tabular or in a variety of graphical formats.


Both IRIS and ICIS use muNet’s WebBot™ central control software to collect meter data, schedule appointments, and control devices. The WebBot functions by following a predetermined, programmable path, speeding from meter to meter collecting specified data, and then placing it into the WebBot database. From the database the data is passed directly into the utility’s legacy billing or customer information system.

Utilities use the WebBot package to remotely collect on-demand reads and to schedule future meter readings. In addition the software can be used to remotely control the devices connected through specific WebGate IRIS or ICIS units. Also, the WebBot software can configure or reprogram WebGate units in the field.

Once data are collected, they can be selected and sorted in various ways, such as by location, date, and/or power consumption, with results shown in both graphical and tabular formats.

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