Position:HOme > Knowledge > Smart Measurement

A Brief Introduction to IC Card Water Meter

Source:Wasion group Author:admin Date:2012/7/11 16:52:50

1.Brief Introduction

Smart IC card water meter is a new-type of water meter that uses modern microelectronics, sensing technology and smart IC card technology to measure water consumption, transmit data about water use and settle accounts. It is a huge progress, compared to traditional water meters whose functions only include collecting water flow and showing water use with mechanical pointer. In addition to water use records and electronic display, smart water meters can also control water use, automatically calculate water bills in differential water pricing system, and store water use data. Since the data transmission and settlement are conducted through IC cards, users may directly pay their bills in the office instead of meter readers going to users’ homes to read water meters and collect fees.

2. Structural Principles

IC card water meters look like traditional water meters and their installation are also alike. It is simple to use IC card water meters. Users just need to plug the IC card into the water meter. IC card water meters work as follows: when the IC card with prepayment is plugged into the IC card reader of the water meter and recognized by microcomputer module and its balance is downloaded, the valve will open and user can use water. When the user uses water, water data acquisition device will start collect data about the water used, transform it into electronic signals for the microcomputer module to calculate, and show the result on the LCD display. When the user’s prepayment for water use reduces to a certain amount, the microcomputer module will sound an alarm to remind the user of recharging the card so as to buy more water. The microcomputer module will automatically close the electronic control valve and cut off water supply when the water use exceeds the prepaid amount. The water will not be supplied until the user plugs the recharged IC card and restarts the valve.

3. Strengths

Smart IC card water meter can offer lots of conveniences to water supply administration authorities and users, and provide fundamental technological support for the modernization of traditional water supply management models. Compared to traditional water use measurement instrument, smart IC card water meters bring about many changes.

1)Water supply agencies can achieve prepaid water supply, which will help solve the problem of water bill arrears.

2)Smart IC card water meters have changed the traditional way of reading water meters and collecting fees in users’ places. By adopting smart IC card water meters and the management system, water supply agencies will no longer need to send employees to every household to copy water meters and collect water bills. It will not bring any trouble to users as long as water supply agencies reasonably establish payment mechanisms. They can also reduce stationing costs if cooperating with financial institutions. Therefore, it will be remarkably helpful for reducing management costs of water supply agencies to adopt smart IC card water meters on a large scale. On the other hand, if IC card is used for settlement, users can decide when to pay and how much to pay on their own, which will greatly boost their independence. In particular, with increasing awareness of family security and privacy, acts such as going to users’ homes to copy meters and collect bills will become unpopular and even be resisted, a trend in social development that we must pay attention.

3)Smart IC card water meters can effectively solve some technical problems. For example, due to short water supply, more complex water use management such as prices for water use exceeding the plan and differential water prices will be introduced gradually, which requires more for the water meter transaction technology. Smart IC card water meters will solve these problems easily and provide technological support for manufacturing precision measurement instrument.

4)As science and technology advance, it is necessary to introduce high-tech means into water supply management. Smart IC card water meters will lay a technological foundation for archiving modern management with computer technologies.

5)Smart IC card water meters have other advantages, such as effectively resolving measurement disputes, water use disputes, embezzlement of water bill payment, favor for water use, and difficulties in water use statistics, among others.

6)Compared to remote water meter system, smart IC card water meters have lower costs in use and maintenance, without messes caused by wiring and high failures.

These advantages will help people accept smart IC card water meters and enable them to be basic water use measurement equipment.

4..Analysis of Functions

As China is a big country, water supply differs from place to place. To meet different water supply and use management needs in different areas across the country, smart IC card water meters should have perfect functions and expansion of their functions should be taken into consideration. Yet many water supply agencies tend to overlook this and fail to give full play to the great strengths of smart IC card water meters, which makes people think there is no difference between smart IC card water meters and ordinary water meters. In fact, they are quite different. Well-designed smart IC card water meters possess lots of functions. Now we will briefly analyze what functions smart IC card water meters must have.

1)From the perspective of users, it should be simple and easy to learn how to use smart IC card water meters.
Actually, it is very easy to use smart IC card water meters. Users just need to recharge the card as prepayment for their water use and plug it into the water meter or let the meter sense the card. For users’ convenience, the LED display of smart IC card water meters must be equipped with dozens of prompts and considerate prompt functions, such as friendly voice prompt. Some water meters have such functions. It should be applied to all water meters. In addition, smart IC water meters need beautiful design to improve users’ home environment. Of course, they must be sturdy and durable. It is the best that an alarm be set when the balance of the IC card reaches a certain amount so as to remind users of recharging the card to avoid water cutoff on holidays. This will help users reasonably arrange their time to buy water and use water as normal.
2)From the perspective of administration agencies, smart IC card water meters should have the following functions:
a.Statistical function. It is suggested that smart IC card water meters are equipped with monthly statistical plans. For instance, at the last day of each month, water meters will collect, summarize and store data about water used in the month. When users plug the IC card into the water meter or enable the meter to sense it, the data will be automatically written on the IC card and then to the computer through the card. Water meters should store a user’s monthly water consumption in ten years. This is significant for water supply agencies to know the user’s water consumption systematically.

b.Arrears records. If the valve is still open when there is no balance in the card due to problems of the water meter or any other accident, the water meter will record bills due, including the increased water use and water bills in arrears. It is suggested these records can also be able to be written on the computer through the IC card, but this function is not a must.

c.Settings of basic water use and management of water use beyond plans. For some reasons, some water supply companies require to set a basic water use, which means when a user’s water consumption is less than the basic amount, the used water will be measured and charged in accordance with the basic water use; when the water use exceeds the basic amount, the water exceeding the amount will be charged at a higher price.

d.One card for one household. One IC card for one household can be achieved through passwords and user verification code, namely, one water meter can only use one card specifically for the user, and other cards are invalid. This is helpful for increasing the security of water meter use.

e.Card re-issue. When a user loses the IC card, a new card can be issued. There are two possibilities: one is that there is no balance in the lost card and the other is there is certain balance in the lost card. These two possibilities should be both taken into consideration. Re-issue of the card should be conducted through management software.

f.Three-card or four-card setting. Three cards refer to initialization card, clock card and user card. Their functions include: a) initialization card aims at initializing water meters so that their programs are in initial state and reset all data, and administration authorities can reset the clock and open an account. Other functions can also be added. b) The clock card is used to input the calendar and time into water meters and operate part of the subprograms controlled by the clock. c) The user card is firstly used to input user data into the water meter when the card is plugged into the meter for the first time so as to achieve one card for one household. User data include user’s name, address, user number, phone numbers, and number of water purchases, amount of payment for water, water prices, water consumption beyond plan, price of water used beyond plan, and amount for alarm, among others. The second role of user card is to transmit the amount of payment for water so that water use transactions can be done. Thirdly, it writes relevant data in the water meter back into the card, which in turn transmits the data to the management software of a computer. Of course, other functions can be added.

3)From the perspective of privacy and security   
a.The valve should be set to open and close regularly, which is conducive to its long-term running.

b.Smart IC card water meters should be anti-magnetic interference. Magnetic materials are widely used due to their low cost, but they are vulnerable to interferences, which needs to be taken into account when designing smart water meters. Smart IC card water meters should be able to close the valve when there are magnetic interferences, and the closing and open time can be set as needed. Non-magnetic signals can also be adopted to solve this problem.

c.The cardholder should be anti-attack and protective. When someone plugs a metal card that is obstructive into the card holder, it should not affect the normal use of the water meter, including power consumption.

d.Smart IC card water meters should be able to disconnect automatically so as to protect the data. The data can still be saved after the disconnection and will be restored automatically when power is supplied again.

e.Smart IC card water meters should be able to automatically close their system when batteries run out. When the voltage or capacity of batteries run down to the specified level, it means the batteries are dying out and the water meter should automatically close the valve and shift the system in dormant state, and show relevant information and reminders.

f.Smart IC card water meters should be anti-dismantle. Lead seals should be installed on the meter and joints and anti-counterfeiting lead seal treatment should be conducted to prevent dismantling the meter without permission.

Of course, more functions can be added if needed. Technically, many functions can be set onto smart IC card water meters.