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Bringing Meter Reading Into The Modern Age

A new app lets you use your smartphone to ease the process of paying for utilities. Shockingly, it’s not available in America, where our utilities remain mostly mired in the past.

Utilities aren’t known for being technologically advanced, or consumer friendly. Hence why they have no idea how much energy you’re consuming, and why they expect you to read the meter, if you want to pay the right amount.

Now, at least some utility customers can avoid the hassle of having to peer at the dial wondering what it says. EDF Energy, in the U.K., has rolled out an app that allows people to photograph their electricity and gas meters by smartphone, and send in the readings. They can then generate an accurate bill, rather than one full of estimates.

"Our customers have told us that reading their meter can sometimes be a confusing and difficult task," says Charlotte Mitchell, a spokesperson for EDF. "By being able to send us a photo, we take this complexity away and do the hard work for them." About 66,000 people have downloaded the iPhone version so far, and EDF recently launched an Android edition.

Similar apps are available in the U.S. Next Future, a company in Ohio, has developed the Utility Meter Reader. But, so far, no utilities are accepting its readings—which is a shame. Automating the reading process makes things easier for customers, helps avoid disputes over bills, and helps cut costs for utilities. The only thing better would be if they knew how much energy we were using in the first place.