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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pilot to study real-time prepaid electricity metering

Smart meter technology firm PayGo Electric entered a pilot program with utility company Georgia Power to determine the commercial viability of prepaid electricity metering in Georgia. While electricity prepayment programs are gaining in popularity across the United States and abroad, PayGo said its technology differs from that of other providers in that the service can be enabled for real-time payments and account updates.

Although PayGo acknowledges that current prepaid electricity metering systems have been given high marks by consumers, its technology takes advantage of the mobile telecommunications infrastructure to allow consumers to reload prepaid electricity accounts via smart phones, and therefore eliminate the need for them to make trips to retail locations to reload accounts via self-service kiosks.

PayGo's solution "calculates the consumer's actual consumption at the meter and alerts customers real-time as they reach predetermined spending levels," the company said.

According to PayGo's website, there are four electricity metering models: estimation, token, server-side and real-time. The estimation model – estimating future electricity usage based on past usage – is problematic because settlement is continuously required to balance customer accounts. The token (prepaid card) model solves the settlement problem, but forces cardholders to visit reload stations to "top up" accounts.

The server-side model is more accurate than estimation and more user friendly than token, according to PayGo. With customer accounts residing on servers, meters are read and accounts deducted automatically. But PayGo said the server-side model is only as accurate as the number of times meters are read; accuracy is reduced if meters are read only once every 24 hours.

PayGo said the real-time model helps to eliminate this problem because PayGo firmware embedded in meters alerts systems in real time when meters hit thresholds or when accounts run low on funds. Thus, consumers can be provided real-time updates via mobile phones when accounts need to be reloaded, PayGo added. end of article

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