WHY IS IT USED?

Okaloosa Gas has changed the way it reads natural gas meters by installing a radio-based Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system. This exciting new technology is part of the company's continuing efforts to improve service to our customers.

 

The AMR system uses a small battery-powered transmitter to read natural gas meters from a vehicle. As the specially equipped vehicle drives by, it will receive a signal from the AMR device on your meter, which in turn transmits the meter reading data to a computer in the vehicle. Once the data is collected, it is then supplied to our billing system where it is matched to your account number via a unique transmitter ID.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions.

What is AMR?

AMR stands for Automatic Meter Reading. It is a method of using advanced communications technology to read meters remotely. AMR eliminates the need for utility customers to read their own meters. It reduces human errors and ensures that customers receive an accurate bill each month. Utilities use automated reads for billing purposes, however, the dials will still be visible so you can read your own meter and confirm that our reading is accurate.

AMR increases privacy and convenience for our customers because it eliminates the need for a meter reader to enter customers' property each month to read the meter. Because AMR reduces costs and identifies energy theft, it also helps us keep rates as low as possible.

How does AMR work?

The utility attaches a small device called an ERT to the meter. ERT is an acronym for Encoder Receiver Transmitter. An ERT is a computerized recording and encoding device with a built-in radio transmitter. This device records the gas, electric, or water reading; encodes the information; and then transmits the reading to a remote data collector. Data collectors can be installed in vans or mounted on utility poles. They can also be handheld devices used by a meter reader walking down your street. Some AMR technologies use cable or telephone lines to send the data, and others low-level radio frequencies.

What type of signals is used in Radio-based Automated Meter Reading system to transmit information to and from the meter?

There will be absolutely no fees to the veteran during the placement and training period. We are committed to that.

Two types of devices are used for radio-based AMR systems: the ERTs attached to home meters, and interrogation or data gathering devices that receive the signals from the ERTs. Typically, utilities use devices mounted in vans that receive the signals as the vans drive through neighborhoods. Signals are sent between these devices using radio frequency (RF) energy. RF is the same type of energy used for radio and television broadcasting; cellular telephones; personal communications services (PCS); pagers; cordless telephones; police, fire, and airport radios; and microwave communications. However, the amount of energy emitted from the ERT is less than that from these other devices. Some non-communication applications such as microwave ovens and radar also use RF.

Are any health-related regulations associated with use of the signals and/or transmissions from AMR systems?

 

No. A number of governmental and non-governmental agencies are responsible for establishing laws, codes, and guidelines intended to provide a safe living and working environment. These include:

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Office of Technology and Engineering

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standards

  • Food and Drug Administration, Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH)

  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP)

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

 

In establishing RF exposure standards, regulatory agencies have generally relied for guidelines on experts from organizations such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP). Based on studies by these agencies, the Federal Communications Commission established safety standards for evaluating RF environmental exposure.

The standards identify the threshold level at which harmful biological effects may occur and the values of Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) recommended for electric and magnetic field strength and power density. All of Itron's AMR devices operate at a level that is orders of magnitude below the limits of the current standards.

 

Are those signals and any associated concerns the same as, or similar to, concerns I hear about regarding electromagnetic fields (EMF) or power-line carrier AMR systems?

No. The ERT technology being used by Itron has been around for more than 17 years, and more than 20 million ERTs have been installed throughout the U.S. and Canada. This technology has never been delayed, put on hold, or stopped for reasons of safety.

A variety of technologies can be used for remote meter reading. Some of those technologies are currently undergoing further review, and their implementation has been delayed. The specific issues involved are unique to those technologies, and are not related to Itron’s AMR radio-based system.

While, at very high levels, RF signals and electromagnetic fields can be dangerous, ERT transmissions are so low—lower than standard radio and communication devices—they are orders of magnitude below established safety limits.

 

Have studies been associated with the types of signals being used with this AMR system, and if so, what conclusions have been drawn?

Yes, numerous studies have been done on all aspects of radio signals and their relationship to human health. These studies have shaped the regulations and standards that cover today’s technology. To protect the safety and well-being of our customers and employees, we ensure that the systems we purchase and install are well within all the relevant laws, codes, and regulatory guidelines.

The following is from a Technical Information Statement by IEEE:
"In summary, there is no evidence, from laboratory or epidemiology studies, that exposure to RF energy at levels below recommended limits has any health significance for humans."

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) Human Exposure to Radio Frequency and Microwave Radiation from Portable and Mobile Telephones and Other Wireless Communication Devices, September 2000. (http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~kfoster/phone.htm)

Are any health hazards associated with Itron's AMR devices?

No. There are no known health hazards from the type of devices offered by Itron when used within established guidelines. The equipment is designed to operate at very low levels. This is comparable with electromagnetic fields that are already present in the environment. All equipment operates within state and federal standards.

Under current guidelines, the emissions from an ERT located 10 feet away are about one-millionth of the Maximum Permissible Exposure to radiation. Even for someone standing as close as two inches from the ERT, the amount of radiation is still 250 times less than the maximum.

Itron's readers and collectors are also well within the safe limits delegated by the FCC, Health Canada and other governing bodies all over the world. These safe limits are all based on the recommendations of Subcommittee IV of IEEE Committee 28 on Non-Ionizing radiation hazards, which is a panel of international experts on the subject of RF safety.

Can you give me a comparison between the radiation Itron's systems emits and radiation emitted by other types of RF devices?

A typical commercial radio transmitter located seven miles away puts more RF radiation in your home than an ERT located on the premises. A cell phone emits 800 times more RF energy than an ERT. Because the cell phone is used close to your head, the exposure level is more than 3,500 times greater. Moreover, the cell phone transmission is continuous during its operation, whereas the ERT transmits no more than 10 percent of the time.

Where could I look if I wanted to verify the veracity of the conclusions drawn?

Numerous reports are available on the Internet. Following are some examples:

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) Human Exposure to Radio Frequency and Microwave Radiation from Portable and Mobile Telephones and Other Wireless Communication Devices, September 2000. (http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~kfoster/phone.htm)

Federal Communications Commission Office of Engineering and Technology Questions and Answers about Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields OET BULLETIN 56 Fourth Edition August 1999. (http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Engineering_Technology/Documents/bulletins/oet56/)

Will the AMR system interfere with TV, radio, personal computers, and home security systems, garage door openers, pacemakers or other electronic equipment?

No. The system operates at a low frequency and power level reserved for this purpose and will not interfere with any other equipment.

What FCC rules does the ERT operate under and what is the power output level?

The Itron ERT operates under FCC Part 15.249 rules. The ERT transmission frequency operates between 910 to 920 MHz and is spread spectrum, frequency hopping. The power output level is .75 milliwatts, the maximum allowed by the FCC. The transmission of the ERT message occurs every 1 to 2 seconds and the duration of each transmitted message is 5.86 milliseconds.


Source: Itron

Automated Meter Reader (AMR)

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Valparaiso, FL 32580

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