US 20080180274 A1
A method and an apparatus for collecting and displaying real-time utility consumption data and an estimate of utility costs from various utility metering modules upon request by the consumer within the comfort of their own home or business. According to one aspect of the invention, a utility display module is in communication with a utility end point device that monitors and displays consumption of a utility (water, gas, and/or electricity). The source of the data received by the module may be generated by utility meter transmitters that are attached to the various utility delivery end points or meters. In a related embodiment, a repeater may be used with a battery powered energy display module to make the module transportable.
1. A home dislay device for use with an automatic meter reading (AMR) system substantially as shown and described herein.
This application is a continuation of pending prior application Ser. No. 11/036,170, filed Jan. 13, 2005, and entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR COLLECTING AND DISPLAYING DATA FROM A METER READING SYSTEM,” which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/536,419, filed on Jan. 14, 2004, and entitled “A METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR COLLECTING AND DISPLAYING CONSUMPTION DATA FROM A METER READING SYSTEM,” both of which are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety. In addition, this application incorporates by reference in its entirety, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/965,283, filed Oct. 14, 2004, entitled “Consumptive Leak Detection System.”
The invention relates to a method and apparatus for collecting and displaying metered data from remote utility meters.
Wireless automatic meter reading systems are well known. Typically, each utility meter is provided with a battery-powered encoder that collects meter readings and periodically transmits those readings over a wireless network to a central station. The power limitations imposed by the need for the encoder to be battery powered and by regulations governing radio transmissions effectively prevent direct radio transmissions to the central station. Instead, wireless meter reading systems typically utilize a layered network of overlapping intermediate receiving stations that receive transmissions from a group of meter encoders and forward those messages on to the next higher layer in the network as described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,056,107. These types of layered wireless transmission networks allow for the use of lower power, unlicensed wireless transmitters in the thousands of end point encoder transmitters that are deployed as part of a utility meter reading system for a large metropolitan area.
A challenge faced by utilities and consumers in attempting to reduce energy consumption (gas and/or electric) as well as water consumption, is the lack of access to real-time data on the part of the actual consumer of the amount of actual energy still being used once the consumer has attempted to conserve energy or preserve water consumption. For instance, it would be of value to the consumer to know the immediate economic impact of water or energy consumption (gas and/or electric) once the thermostat is turned down in the winter for a few hours, the lights are turned off in the basement when not in use or the impact of water conservation of foregoing watering the lawn for ne day. Today's systems eventually provide this information back to the consumer, but not on command by the consumer or real-time.
Accordingly, there is a need for a system for collecting and displaying data from metering units located close to the point of use or consumption. An approach that addresses the aforementioned problems, as well as other related problems, is therefore desirable.
Various embodiments of the invention are directed to a method and an apparatus for collecting and conveniently displaying real-time data and an estimate of costs from various meter modules (e.g., metering units) upon request by the consumer within the comfort of their own home or business. The display of real-time data permits an energy (or water) consumer to make better decisions concerning energy utilization or consumption. Further, the invention can prevent or minimize unpleasant surprises on the part of the energy consumer caused by intentional or inadvertent excessive energy consumption. Continuously throughout the billing period a consumer or end user can monitor his/her energy consumption and costs and make appropriate changes to reduce expenses if they so desire. Identifying wasteful habits or assisting cost conscious end users are additional benefits of the invention.
According to one aspect of the invention, an energy display module is in communication with a utility end point device that monitors consumption of water, gas, and/or electricity. The display module provides a source of energy consumption information or data for the end user. The source of the data received by the module may be generated by special transmitters called ERTs (encoder/receiver/transmitter) that are attached to the various utility delivery and/or metering points (such as meters) and which are capable of continuously monitoring utility usage and forwarding the consumption data to the energy display module via a radio frequency link. In one embodiment, the module can display, continuously, for the user, consumption information or data along with date and time and an estimate of cost to date based on the energy (or water) utilized. The module can be used in homes and/or businesses or any other entity that consumes a utility.
In a related embodiment, through the use of a repeater, the energy display module could be operated on disposable or rechargeable batteries, thereby making the module transportable. The portability of the module permits an energy consumer to place it near a consumption device such as a user's refrigerator or other appliance. In one embodiment, the repeater may be removably mountable to a wall to gather data from the end points, via a radio frequency (or power line carrier) link. The repeater may be adapted to systematically rebroadcast the energy consumption information in such a manner as to allow battery savings for the home display module receiver. In another embodiment, the energy display receiver electronics may be integrated into a thermostat housing that retains its existing functionality while displaying consumption data in real-time.
The above summary of the invention is not intended to describe each illustrated embodiment or every implementation of the invention. The figures in the detailed description that follow more particularly exemplify these embodiments.
The invention may be more completely understood in consideration of the following detailed description of various embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:
While the invention is amenable to various modifications and alternative forms, specifics thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the intention is not to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
The invention is generally directed to a method and an apparatus for collecting and conveniently displaying real-time data from various utility meter modules (or metering units) by the consumer within the comfort of their own home or business. While the invention is not necessarily limited to such an application, the invention will be better appreciated using a discussion of example embodiments in such a specific context.
In one example embodiment, as depicted in
An antenna 14 is connected to the radio module for receiving and transmitting consumption information or data transmitted by the ERT. Antenna 14 may comprise a whip antenna, a patch antenna, or any other like device that facilitates reception and transmission of the consumption information. A keypad 16 and a display panel 18 are disposed on or integrated to housing 12 to permit an end user to interface with consumption display module 10. Consumption display (or home display) module 10 can also be connected to a Personal Computer (PC) for initial configuration, data extraction or for use as a Real Time data source for external application software.
Referring back to
In addition to being able to interface with ERTs, consumption display module 10 may also include the capability to interface with Residential Energy Management Systems (REMS), Mobile Data Collection Systems (Mobile), Hand Held Computers (HHC), and Fixed Networks (FN) to facilitate the transmission of utility consumption information. These interfaces also allow head-end calculations as well as tier pricing updates to be transmitted to consumption display module 10 or can be calculated locally.
With respect to the mobile (or van operated) embodiment, the consumption display module of the invention is configurable to be reset by the reader from the utility traveling in a van after the read is completed. This would start the new monthly billing cycle automatically and without customer intervention. The display module's microprocessor can also be configured to add a smoothing algorithm that would utilize that same customer's historical data to ensure that billing calculations/estimates are not calculated just from the first few days of data from the month, thereby generating an improper estimate. For instance, the customer may exhibit a historical average of 500 gallons of monthly water consumption, but the first day after the meter is read and reset by the utility the customer decides to fill his pool or spa and utilizes 6K-10K gallons of water. The microprocessor uses the smoothing algorithm to pull historical water usage data and averages same with the current high usage to level out billing for the rest of the month.
In an example embodiment, consumption display module 10 has the capability of storing at least one year's worth of 15-minute time-of-use storage data or other forms of data generated by the ERT and/or individually monitored appliances. An end user may utilize keypad 16 and display panel 18 to review the stored time-of-use storage data. Consumption display module 10 may also be capable of sampling energy use on specific feed lines for accurate projection to determine if a feeder upgrade is required. Consumption display module 10 incorporates a full transceiver to accomplish the above functional requirements.
In a related embodiment, consumption display module 10 is appliance (e.g., refrigerator) mountable where the repeater functionality is extracted and placed nearby (such as in a wall repeater discussed below). In this modified form factor, consumption display module 10 can now be a magnet-mounted device (or other monitoring systems, such as adhesive or hook and loop fastener systems). With respect to battery operation, battery life can be extended where intermittent duty cycle is implemented. In another embodiment, the energy display receiver electronics may be integrated into a thermostat housing that retains the thermostat's existing functionality.
Referring particularly to
Powering wall repeater 30 may be accomplished by a plug 40 connected to repeater circuit board 32 or by replaceable or rechargeable batteries housed in repeater housing portion 31 c. Wall repeater 30 can utilize a normal house 110-volt AC outlet as a mount and can serve as a support for various types of RF transceiving devices. The transceiving devices may include (but are not limited to) RF to RF, RF to PLC, and RF to infrared communication devices. The RF to RF conversion may include 900 MHz to 1.4 GHz, 900 MHZ to 900 MHZ at increased power, 900 to 2.4 GHZ, 900 to 5.6 GHZ or any combination of these RF bands as well as being bidirectional.
The unique mounting of wall repeater 30 described above provides convenient installation with little customer inconvenience. Additionally, the detachable feature of wall repeater 30 permits it to be easily moved, thereby enabling an end user to adjust a range of reception of utility consumption information by consumption display module 10. In this and other related embodiments, wall repeater 30 also includes other functional features such as a night-light, fire alarm, energy control motion sensing and burglar alarm motion sensing, by way of example.
Referring further to
Referring now to
As illustrated in the example embodiment of
In an example embodiment, depression of (ENTER) button 146 displays a sub-menu for the particular menu option selected. By navigating the menu options and sub-menu options a user is able to program consumption display module 110 to display various types of information. Examples of the type of information that may be displayed by consumption display module 110 is illustrated in
In this example embodiment, the method for displaying utility cost information at 150 on consumption display module 110 includes depressing menu button 140 to display a menu option for “UTILITY COST” 150 or a similar message. Next, a user may select enter button 146 to set a cost display mode at 151. Various methods of cost display may be programmed into consumption display module 110, such as cost per hour, day, week and/or month. Additional cost display modes are also envisioned within the spirit and scope of the invention. After displaying a consumption cost, consumption display module 110 may wait a predetermined amount of time to receive the next incoming consumption information signal from an ERT and/or appliance, wherein it may display a cost of the utility consumed. In another embodiment, consumption display module 110 may be capable of automatically, continuously and/or periodically displaying utility costs.
In a related embodiment, energy usage information may also be displayed on consumption display module 110 by depressing menu button 140 at least once and then depressing scroll button 144 to scroll through displayed menu options until “UTILITY USAGE” or similar message is displayed. In another embodiment, a user may repeatedly depress menu button 140 to scroll through and view various displayed menu options. Once the menu option for UTILITY USAGE 152 is displayed a user may then select enter button 146 to set a utility usage display mode 153. Utility usage display modes include utility usage per “kilowatt hour” for electricity, “cubic foot” for water, and “therms” for gas. Other utility usage display modes are also within the spirit and scope of the invention. Similar to the display of utility cost information at 150, consumption display module 110 may be preprogrammed to automatically display utility usage information at 152 after receiving a consumption information signal from an ERT and/or appliance.
In yet another embodiment, a user is able to obtain billing information from consumption display module 110 by depressing menu button 140 and/or scroll button 144 to display a menu option for “BILLING INFORMATION” at 154. A user may then depress ENTER button 146 to display a “NUMBER OF DAYS SINCE START” 155 a sub-menu option. Enter button 146 may be depressed again to display a “START BATE” 155 b of billing sub-menu option. A user may again depress enter button 146 to display a “BILLING CYCLE INFORMATION” 155 c sub-menu option. Depression of enter button 146 again displays an “ERT ID” 155 d sub-menu option of the ERT currently being monitored. A user may then depress enter button 146 to display an “INITIAL READING” at 155 e of their utility bill up to that particular point. Consumption display module 110 may redisplay or refresh the billing information after each signal received from an ERT and/or appliance. In another embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in
A start date of monitoring one or more ERTs and/or appliances may be programmed into consumption display module 110. The following method may be used to review and set a monitoring start date. A user may depress menu button 140 and/or scroll button 144 to obtain a menu option for “SETTING A START DATE” at 156. A user may access sub-menu options “SET THE YEAR” at 157 a, “SET THE MONTH” at 157 b, “SET THE DAY” at 157 c and/or “INITIAL USE” at 157 d by using scroll buttons 142 and 144 to increase and/or decrease values, menu button 140 to select next field or digit and enter button 146 to move between sub-menu options SET THE YEAR at 157 a, SET THE MONTH at 157 b, SET THE DAY at 157 c and/or INITIAL USE at 157 d. Next, a user may be presented with a sub-menu option ACCEPTANCE/REDO at 157 e. The user may select scroll button 142 to accept the start date previously entered or scroll button 144 to redo or reset the set date. If a user selects to reset the start date, the menu options SET THE YEAR at 157 a, SET THE MONTH at 157 b, SET. THE DAY at 157 c and/or INITIAL USE at 157 d are automatically re-displayed for user input. In another embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. SD, a user may be presented with a menu option to “SELECT AN ERT TYPE” at 157 f prior to sub-menu options at 157 a-157 d. This sub-menu option permits a user to select a particular start date for each ERT and/or appliance being monitored.
In an embodiment of the invention where multiple ERTs and/or appliances are being monitored, energy module 110 may include a menu option “SELECT ERTs AND/OR APPLIANCES TO DISPLAY” at 158. This menu option permits a user to set consumption display module 110 to receive a signal from a particular ERT and/or appliance. In another embodiment, energy module 110 may be capable of simultaneously receiving multiple consumption signals from different ERTs and/or appliances. To select a particular ERT and/or appliance a user can depress menu button 140 until SELECT ERTs TO DISPLAY at 158 menu option is displayed. Depressing enter button 146 again presents a user with sub-menu option “SELECT ERT TYPE” at 159. A user may scroll through or view various ERT and/or appliances by repeatedly depressing menu button 140. A desired ERT and/or appliance may be selected by depressing enter button 146. This method of selecting a particular ERT and/or appliance to display on consumption display module 110 may be used in other sub-menu options that utilize selecting an ERT and/or appliance to display.
In another embodiment, consumption display module 110 also displays a current date and time. A menu option “DISPLAY CURRENT DATE AND TIME” at 160 is accessible by depressing menu button 140 and/or enter button 146 to cycle through menu options. When a user depresses enter button 146 the current date and time at 161 is displayed on display 118. Display of the current date and time is not limited to any particular format and may vary depending upon the user and/or region of use.
In this example embodiment, consumption display module 110 includes a menu option “SETTING CURRENT DATE AND TIME” at 162 to enable an end user to set a correct date and time for their particular region or location. This menu option is accessible by depressing menu button 140 and/or scroll button 144 to cycle through the menu options. Depressing enter button 146 causes consumption display module 110 to display sub-menu options “SET THE YEAR” at 163 a, “SET THE MONTH” at 163 b, “SET THE DAY” at 163 c, “SET THE HOUR” at 163 d, and “SET THE MINUTE” at 163 e. The year, month, day, hour and minutes may be modified by depressing menu button 140, scroll buttons 142 and 144 and/or enter button 146. An end user may move between sub-menu options 163 a-163 e by depressing menu button 140 and/or enter button 146. Once the date and time have been entered an end user may depress enter button 146, wherein the current date and time are displayed on consumption display module 110.
Consumption display module 110 is also configurable to listen for one unique Water ERT, one unique Gas ERT, and one unique Electric ERT. Consumption display module 110 can be configured to effectively filter out all other ERT transmissions that it receives. This allows consumption display module 110 to focus its data gathering effort on all of the energy utilized for a specific building or home and to display these three consumptions on the LCD or display 118 by scrolling the information for the user. In contrast to this feature, consumption display module 110 can also report all of the ERT transmissions that it receives through its serial port allowing consumption display module 110 to become a data collection center for nearby ERTs. This is important with regards to ERT discrimination for focusing on a specific energy source. A user can access energy consumption information of each appliance by the method described above. Additionally, a repeater may also be used to propagate an energy consumption signal of appliances a distance away from consumption display module 110.
As mentioned above consumption display module 110 is capable of monitoring and/or sub-metering one or more appliances within a house or business. Consumption display module 110 may be capable of monitoring utility consumption by electric heat sources such as furnaces, baseboard heaters and like devices. Other electrical energy consuming devices that can be monitored include electric hot water heaters, electric dryers, electric pool pumps, sump pumps, air conditioners or central air devices, and/or whole house or building fan systems. In another embodiment, consumption display module 110 can monitor indoor and outdoor water consumption. In another embodiment, energy module 110 can monitor gas consumption of ranges, stoves and/or ovens, clothes dryers, gas water heaters and/or furnaces. In a business setting, consumption display module 10 can monitor electric, gas and/or water consumption of particular machines or departments within the facility.
Referring now to
In another embodiment, consumption display module 110 can measure and monitor internal and/or external environmental parameters such as house or building temperature, attic temperature, outside temperature, wind direction and/or speed, humidity, and other like parameters. Consumption display module 110 can then correlate the environmental parameters and utility consumption measurements of each or all of the utilities monitored. Consumption display module 110 can also correlate environmental parameters with the energy consumption of a particular appliance. By correlating the environmental parameters and utility consumption an end user may be able to predict or forecast utility consumption or utilization and adjust their usage accordingly.
The ability to monitor and forecast utility utilization may be of particular importance for periodically deliverable utilities such as propane and oil. Referring now to
Consumption display module 110 can also include an alarm, warning or notification mechanism for notifying an end user of a particular event or events. In one embodiment, consumption display module 110 can notify an end user of excessive utility consumption, which can be an indicator of water leakage, gas leakage and/or electricity theft. Consumption display module 110 can determine excess utility consumption by determining a utility utilization upper limit during off peak times and notifying an end user if the upper limit is exceeded. Consumption display module 110 can also notify an end user if a pricing tier or block level is exceeded, thereby permitting an end user to reduce usage of a particular utility and/or switch to an alternative utility. Consumption display module 110 can also notify an end user if the total utility cost approaches or exceeds a preset limit. Preset limits can be manually programmed into consumption display module 110 by the methods described previously.
Consumption display module 110 includes at least one software program adapted to present data gathered from ERT and similar devices. The at least one software program is configurable to display actual utilization, prediction of energy consumption, year to date and comparison with last year, dollars spent, identify greatest consumption and expense associated with specific devices, “what if” predictor of utilization, correlation with utility billing information, acceptance of actual billing data from utility, correlation with weather data, acceptance of weather information and graphical presentation of utilization and/or data gathered. The software program can be preloaded or preprogrammed at the time of manufacture or can be updated remotely via transmissions from the utility company.
Referring now to
In a related embodiment, the display module is configurable to receive data directly from the ERT where the ERT has high power levels, such as a 1.4 GHz version for the water pit ERT version. Also periodic, transmissions from the water pit ERT can be coordinated with the display module collection mode to increase reliability in gathering data. This would provide flexibility and lower cost in locating the display module since the wall repeater would not be necessary. In other embodiments of the display module, the wall repeater would be interposed with the display module and the water pit ERT to ensure data collection in instances were the water pit ERT is located a fair distance from the display module and the ERT signal is weaker.
In another related embodiment, the consumption display module is simplified in its design to include a single frequency radio receiver, an inexpensive microprocessor, a small capacity memory for minor data storage and an inexpensive display, all intended to operate on battery power, so as to generate an inexpensive module. The module may also include a minor feature of collecting and displaying small amounts of information as directed by the consumer, similar to a trip odometer in automotive applications. In this and other embodiments, the display module can be fitted with a magnet or a hook and fastener type system to facilitate location on a kitchen appliance for ease of use and viewing. In this and other embodiments, the display module can be fitted with a battery to also facilitate location on a kitchen appliance or other location in the home for ease of use and viewing.
In the various embodiments described above, the microprocessor of the display module can be configured to include a leak detection algorithm or scheme, such as described in U.S. Patent Application, entitled “Passive Consumptive Leak Detection”, having U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/965,283, filed on Oct. 14, 2004, which hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. With the leak detection capability, the display module is able to take data provided by the water meter ERT and determine if there is a leak by continuous and low quantity of water usage, such as when a toilet is leaking or a faucet is leaking somewhere on the premises. Also the time of day usage is also a clue that there may be a leak, especially where the water meter ERT is generating data in the middle of the night or when everyone is on vacation.
In yet another related embodiment, the electronics of consumption display module 110 can be applied to automotive diagnostics and consumables. As an example, the display could communicate with the personnel vehicle to relay information on the status of the car. Things that could be communicated might be fuel level, maintenance related functions such as oil change, intermittent sensors, warranty recalls and general health of the vehicle. We also mentioned a data repository of the homeowner that he or she can take with them. In general all information that is available from the on board computer can be communicated to the consumption display module 110. Further, in a fixed network application, this information can be forwarded through the system to a head end or in the case of REMS, directly into the Internet for direct connection to the appropriate service department.
The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit of the essential attributes thereof; therefore, the illustrated embodiments should be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, reference being made to the appended claims rather than to the foregoing description to indicate the scope of the invention.