Chapter 1 2 Automated Water Billing System093015

October 3, 2017 | Author: Nicholson Zapanta | Category: Databases, Accuracy And Precision, Computer Network, Websites, General Packet Radio Service
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Automated Water Billing System for Condominium Units Joana Kate G. Mendoza, Lygem Claire S. Morales, Mark Anthony A. Ros, Kristian Darl D. Tuazon, and Nicholson C. Zapanta

Holy Angel University

Authors’ Note The authors of this manuscript are fifth year students under the Electronics Engineering Department of the College of Engineering and Architecture, Holy Angel University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kristian Darl D. Tuazon, 31 St. Anthony Subdivision, Sindalan, City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Email: [email protected]






Automated Water Billing System for Condominium Units

Water is one of the most abundant substances on Earth covering more than 70-percent of the earth’s surface and exists as vapor in the earth’s atmosphere. Water has played a vital role in survival and is considered a source of life, keeping support for every living creature here on Earth. There are many ways in which we can collect water and as the years go by, the methods that enable us to acquire water sources became convenient enough that it only requires you to turn on the water faucet to use it. To provide measurement of consumer’s water consumption, analog water meters are installed by water companies. Similar to a gas and electricity meter, a water meter is a device installed in a household or any other shelter that records the amount of water consumed for billing purposes. The water company sends a company employee (meter readers) on a monthly basis that visits each condominium to collect the readings on these water meters. If there is no one to accompany the meter readers during their time of visit, or if in any case the water meter is found to be malfunctioning, the water reading would be based on the average water consumption (Dita, Martinez & Miranda, 2013).This method is tedious since it would take days to read each meter and costly with regards to time and revenues. Since there is human intervention in the process, the traditional water meter reading is prone to human corruption. Moreover, water meters are sometimes located in areas where permission with the owner is needed so manual meter reading causes delayed work (Xie, 2007). The water company United Utilities (2015) infers that traditional meter reading can cause disturbances on the part of the owner. Not to mention that the life of a meter reader can be into jeopardy as they encounter different elements on a route.



External conditions affecting readings also add to the significant disadvantages of traditional water reading. Techniques of this method spend much human and material resource, requiring huge manpower and maintenance (Kesav& Rahim, 2012).As manual reading has clear and existing shortcomings it was not suitable for longer operating purposes. The erroneous billing practice has been rampant especially on a smaller area such as a condominium property. Condominium owners in New York City, for example, once challenged their bill reports against their water department because of overcharged bills due to incorrect meter rates (Grover, 2000). Some residents had inflated bills either because of broken meters or the faulty nature of the billing system itself, said Grover, who was referring to the statements of Micheal Lockhart (2000), president of utility consultants in the area. What the New York residents experienced is more likely to occur in the Philippines since the trend of condominium living increases affixed with the fast phase of urbanization in the country. Residents are monthly charged with several miscellaneous fees so this costly type of living much needs fair and honest water meter reading and billing system. Aside from eradicating the manual meter reading, the researchers deem that honest and fair meter reading includes granting the residents the ability to monitor their water consumption on a regular basis. Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) (April 2008) believes that in order to provide improved services to the water customers, the effective collection and billing system is a critical component. It even adds that “poor collection practices” discourages consumers to pay because of the poor services they receive and substandard collection system. With that, water companies have implemented different strategies to lessen the workload and error-vulnerability of the traditional practice. The rise of the wireless technology paves the way for fast, reliable and secured exchange of information from the consumers to the company



and vice versa (Utility Bill Guru, 2009). The researchers assumed that wireless transmission of water meter data could enhance the entire process of collecting and disseminating bill reports to the residents. Problem of the study The main problem of the study is the laborious process of manually collecting and computing of the condominium residents’ water meter data and the possibility of miscalculated billings due to human intervention. Objectives of the Study The main objective of the study is to develop an SMS-based digital water meter reading system for reading of water usage and transmission of the data from the condominium residents to the company. Specifically, this study aims to: 1. Construct a prototype capable of collecting data from multiple digital meter 2. Interface a GPRS module to transmit data from the microcontroller to the database 3. Develop a database to store data readings and process residents' bill reports 4. Transmit bill reports to the resident via SMS 5. Create a website where residents’ bill reports are accessed Scope and Limitation The scope of the study lies only on the creation of the system to be used in transmitting and receiving the water meter reading as well as the bill notification system and website updates. Purchased 3/4 –inch British Standard Pipe (BSP) thread flow sensor is utilized in the study. The study uses two sets of Gizduino microcontroller each paired with a GPRS shield for storing and transmitting of the reading data. For database management, the study uses MySQL coupled with Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) to create database driven website. A laptop is used as the server



via Apache Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) server and is tested using a Local Area Network (LAN). Globe Telecommunications is the chosen network for the device. The researchers specifically targeted condominium units as testing area because they have a designated room where all water meters of all units are installed. The study, however, does not consider any form of network interferences such as weather conditions that may affect the transmission of the data. The network problems are not included in the scope of the study because the immediate solution depends on the network provider. Any security breach to the main database is also not taken into account and so is the construction of the digital water meter. The control of the database system over the household device is also limited. The frequency of the bill notification is left to the decision of the user or the water company manager. Significance of the Study This study promotes wireless transmission of the water consumption data to the company’s main database using existing GPRS technology while notifying the condominium residents of their bill reports via SMS. The meter reading is integrated with a wireless technology, wherein bill reports are sent to each resident via SMS. The data are transmitted to the main database so that companies can access the resident’s billing data. The company may also establish a website that will provide clearer information of a resident’s bill reports, ensuring transparent water billing system. According to the company Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) (n.d.), automating water billing system allows water customers to monitor their usage consumption, thus they are more encouraged to conserve water.



Furthermore, the success of this study will lessen the tedious work of the water authorities and will also provide equally fast meter reading without adding heavy workforce. This will also prevent them from sending employees to the field, thus ensuring their safety and increasing their productivity (Itron, 2002).This will provide reading of the water consumption and the billing notification will give the condominium residents an idea of their bill reading beforehand, preventing unpleasant bill surprises on their part. Since the entire process has no human intervention, condominium residents will be billed exactly according to their actual consumption. This study will increase the performance of data collection and generate revenues to the water companies. This method is also suitable to keep pace with the urbanization and development of communication technology. Research Framework Theories related to the research, research concepts and the operation of the system are summarized in this section. Theoretical Framework. The main problem the researchers would like to address is the existing difficulties with the traditional meter reading (see Figure 1). These problems on the traditional meter reading include the laborious and tedious work it requires with water companies sending meter readers to check on the water meter, its susceptibility to human errors, and that at times causes delayed work due to water meters placed inside households where may be inaccessible for meter readers. Conceptual Framework. Figure 2 shows the concept of this research. First, the input is the meter reading data. The system summary will start from the acquisition of data using the flow sensors in which data will be converted to digital and collected by the microcontroller. The



collected data will be transmitted to the water authority database via a GPRS. Bill computation and processing will be done by the database; the system will then send corresponding bill reports to respective customers via SMS and automatically updates web data. Operational Framework. To test the functionality of this system, five variables are to be tested as seen on Figure 3. First is the transmitting capability of the system, which will determine if the system transmits the data accurately on time, the limit of transmission and the boundary of data. Next are the capability of the system to receive is tested, first during a single input flow sensor and then during multiple input flow sensors. Along with testing the transmit capability and receive capability, accuracy of the flow sensor meter readings is to be tested as well to ensure that the transmitted and received data are true and accurate compared to the readings of the analog meter. Then, the updating of the system from a specified period will be monitored by the researchers to verify the accuracy of the system in storing and updating data on every allotted time interval of the transmission. Lastly, access to the website is tested as to whether recipients are able to open their accounts or not and if information shown in the web account agrees with the measured readings, computed bill, and necessary records. The researchers hypothesized that the automated water billing system will solve the existing difficulties and shortcomings of the traditional system. The improvement of the water billing system will increase convenience and customer satisfaction. Method This part of the study discusses all of the instruments; procedures, equipment and testing that were conducted by the researchers. Research Design

AUTOMATED WATER BILLING SYSTEM Seen at Figure 4 is the system block diagram. The system’s inputs are the multiple flow meter sensors attached to each unit accordingly. A flow meter is used to measure the flow of water and total water consumption. These flow meters are connected to the microcontroller. The microcontroller is to read the measured values from the flow meters, then store these values in a definite time in which each value correspond to meter readings and will have assigned unique serial corresponding to each household in the unit. The microcontroller is interfaced with a Global Packet Radio Service (GPRS) used to send the meter readings to the water company wirelessly, and that these meter readings are sent daily. After transmission of data, the stored values in the microcontroller will reset to 0 to conserve memory space. At the receiver end, the meter readings will reach the water company after transmission via GPRS. These data will be stored to the company’s database and used for consumer bill computation and processing. Consumer water bill reports are then sent via SMS to respective customer’s mobile phone. Water bill reports are sent monthly, similar to the standard water company billing system on distributing bill reports. In addition, the company’s website is updated with the latest water bill of each customer. This website also contains the customer’s water consumption records and other relevant information to the service inquired wherein each customer is entitled to a web account. Instrument Flow Meter Sensor. In measuring the amount of water flowing, a ¾” BSP thread flow sensor will be used. Datasheet from a semiconductor company Futurlec (n.d.) shows that the flow sensor has an integrated Hall Effect sensor that is used to obtain the digital output of the measurement. This type of sensor detects the presence of a magnet in which they are activated with the presence of magnetic fields (ElectronicsTutorials, n.d).




Microcontroller. Two sets of Gizduino (Arduino-based) microcontroller will be used and a GPRS Shield will be utilized with it. The first will act as the databank and transmitter for the output obtained from the flow sensor. The other will be used as the receiver to transfer data to the database and as transmitter for the bill notification system. Database System. MySQL, which is an open source database, will be used in creating the database of the system. The language to be used in the creation and configuration of the database and website will be PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor). A desktop will serve as the server via the Apache HTTP Server. Globe Telecommunications (GPRS provider) is chosen by the researchers to serve as the network used in transmitting data via SMS to mobile phones. Battery. In case of power interferences, the microcontroller is backed up by a rechargeable battery rated 9V 500mAh. The ampere-hour rating is sufficient enough to provide the rated current for the microcontroller. Sources of Data Monitoring sheets will be used in determining the transmission capability of the system, receiving capability of the system using both single and dual input, and the system’s database update capability. Each variable will undergo 30 trials which will be recorded to test if transmission, reception, update, and website access are successful or not. Thirty trials were set to provide statistical accuracy and at the same time prevent any chance of possible hardware failure due to repeated trials. For the accuracy of the meter reading, the measured values of the analog water meter will be compared to that of the prototype. The measured values from the analog meter and the prototype will undergo comparison for 30 trials.



Procedure The study is composed of two systems, hardware and software, both of which are further divided into two more sub-systems. The hardware is composed of the reading and monitoring of the data being acquired as well as its transmission to the database. The reading and monitoring will be composed primarily of a microcontroller and a water meter sensor while the transmission system will be composed of a GPRS module and a database wherein a laptop is used as server. The software will be composed of the database and the website. The database will be responsible for the storage of data, calculation of bills and processing for customer transaction. The website will serve as the customer’s online information desk where it will allow recipients to access their accounts and view their water consumption records. These two systems are to be integrated together into a single main system. The water meter sensor will be installed in series with the water source as the digital signal coming from the sensor will be read and stored on the microcontroller. The stored data will be transmitted to the database via GPRS module in which the system will store. The database is responsible for the bill notification calculation and transmission to its recipients as well as the update of its system website. Prototype Testing The prototype testing will be conducted with respect to the transmission capability of the system, receiving capability of the system using both single and dual input, the system’s database update capability, and website account accessibility. It will be recorded whether it was successfully received, transmitted and updated by the database system and if website account was easily accessed. The results of this data will be the basis for the success rate of the



transmitting, receiving, updating capability of the database system and easy access of website account information. An analog water meter connected in series with the prototype will be the basis of the true values of meter readings. This is to test the accuracy of the meter readings. Data Analysis The result of the study will be based statistically which will be evaluated using descriptive statistics. The trials for the reading accuracy will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and percentage error analysis. The measured values of the analog meter will be considered as the known or accepted value and the prototype readings will be the tested values. The percentage error between the two values will be measured by calculating the absolute value of the difference of the values and to be divided by the accepted value. The calculated result will be expressed in terms of percentage. Moreover, descriptive statistics will be used to determine the success ratio of the transmission capability of the system, receiving capability of the system using both single and dual input, the system’s database update capability, and web account information accessibility. The number of successful transmitted data will be divided by the total number of data sent by the database. Similarly, the number of received data will be divided by the total number of data sent by the microcontroller. The number of successful received data will be divided by the total number of data sent by the microcontroller for the single input. For the dual input, there will be two tests for its success: (1) whether it was properly received by the database and (2) whether it was stored to its proper customer number. The system’s database must automatically update once a data has been received. The successful update of the system will be divided by the



total number of data received. The number of successful access to the web account will be divided by the total number of times the web account was accessed. Successful access means the serial used for access matches the recipient information. A 100% success rate is the ideal goal for this study.



References Asea Brown Boveri. (n.d.) Automated water meter reading. Retrieved August 12, 2015 from Dita, R. N., Martinez, P.C., & Miranda C. S. (March, 2013). Remote automatic water meter reading system using global system for mobile communications. Retrieved July 07, 2015 from %20Meter%20Reading%20System%20using%20Global%20System%20for%20Mobile %20Communications.pdf. ElectronicsTutorials. (n.d.) Hall effect sensor. Retrieved August 13, 2015 from Futurlec.(n.d.)Sensor datasheet.Retrieved August 13, 2015 from Grover, J. (June 2000). Water bill anguish. Retreived September 29, 2015 from Itron, D.B.For safety’s sake: AMR technology helps take meter readers, customers out of harm’s way. Retrieved July 07,2015 from mag=5&article=36 Kesav, O.H. & Rahim B.A. (2012). Automated wireless meter reading system for monitoring and controlling power consumption. Retrieved July 07, 2015 from



United Utilities.(n.d.). Automatic meter reading meters. Retrieved July 07, 2015 from Utility Bill Guru. (2009). Your water meter. Retrieved July 07, 2015 from Water Sanitation Program. (April 2008). Developing effective billing and collection practices.Retreived August 12, 2015 from df. Xie, K. (July 2007). Automatic utility meter reading.Retrieved July 07, 2015 from ents/Xie%20Kaicheng.pdf .


Figure 1. Theoretical framework



Figure 2. Conceptual framework



Figure 3. Operational framework



Figure 4. System block diagram


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