OPTICAL REMOTE METER READING SYSTEM
Publication Date: 2004-Jan-29
The IP.com Prior Art Database
An optical remote meter reading system for a handheld device includes an imaging device, such as a CCD or CMOS device, coupled to a processor or DSP, to perform image analysis, optical character recognition (OCR), or both. An operator may point the handheld device at a meter, where the imaging device obtains a digital image of the meter. The processor or DSP then identifies an orientation of the meter and determines appropriate positions of pointers or dials, or numerical reading of digits from a digital readout. Various other components can be added to the handheld device, such as a light source (e.g., laser), and so forth.
OPTICAL REMOTE METER READING SYSTEM
 Typical meter reading devices come in two forms: manual input and automatic meter reading (AMR) devices. Manual input devices typically employ a keypad and display on a portable device. A meter reader or operator views a meter and inputs data associated with that read using the keypad. Automatic meter reading devices periodically gather data from a meter automatically, and transmit it to a collector. There is a need, however, to improve upon existing systems.
brief description of the drawings
 Figure 1 is a block diagram illustrating an example of an optical remote meter reading device for optically reading a meter.
 Figure 2 is a block diagram illustrating components within the optical meter reading device.
 The invention will now be described with respect to various embodiments. The following description provides specific details for a thorough understanding of, and enabling description for, these embodiments of the invention. However, one skilled in the art will understand that the invention may be practiced without these details. In other instances, well-known structures and functions have not been shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the description of the embodiments of the invention.
 It is intended that the terminology used in the description presented below be interpreted in its broadest reasonable manner, even though it is being used in conjunction with a detailed description of certain specific embodiments of the invention. Certain terms may even be emphasized below; however, any terminology intended to be interpreted in any restricted manner will be overtly and specifically defined as such in this Detailed Description section.
 Figure 1 shows an example of a portable handheld reader 100 for reading, for example, utility meter data (e.g., electricity, gas, water). The reader 100 includes a keyboard or keypad 102 and a visual display 104. Importantly, the reader 100 also includes a charge coupled device (CCD), complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image capture device, or other form of image capture or digital camera-type device. The image capture device 106 may obtain a digital image of a meter 108 when the reader 100 is positioned near to and aimed at the meter. The handheld reader 100 then processes the image to determine an orientation of various needles or dials, or read, via optical character recognition (OCR), numeric data from the meter 108, and convert that into utility consumption data for a correct meter read. A range of 10 to 20 feet may be provided, which is sufficient for many meter reading applications, and an improvement over traditional manual methods.
 Referring to Figure 2, the reader 100 is shown as having a processor 202 that couples to the keyboard 102 and display device 104. Various other output devices may be employed in addition to, or in lieu of, the visual display...