Going high tech

Bescom DeviceTwo or three months ago, I noticed my BESCOM bill underwent a dramatic change in appearance. A long and slim strip of paper resembling credit card slips replaced the old fashioned bill. So when my BESCOM friend showed up to read the meter some days ago, I quizzed him.

While we keep bashing our city’s infrastructure, these guys are busy getting modernized. And newspapers don’t report the good stuff. They recently started using this device to print bills on the spot. For the curious sorts, these devices don’t have wireless connectivity yet. Guys upload historic data on these before leaving office. Once at your house, they just punch in the meter reading and out comes your bill.

So they have gone high tech. Almost. If only these billing devices had wireless connectivity to accept on-the-spot credit-card payments as well :) Okay, that is wishing for a bit much. But if you are a wireless telemetry salesman, start chasing BESCOM, they may be shopping right now.

[BTW, I noticed they now have ATM like automated machines for accepting bill payments (no pics handy right now), and those machines accept cheques as well.]

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23 Responses

  1. Good post Silkboard. Looks like things are changing for the good, but one change I don’t like is the name.. the old name KEB (Karnataka electricity board) sounds lot better than BESCOM :-)

  2. thanks for the post
    i have been following BESCOM for a while.

    they also have apparently have some of the least distribution losses in the country. they also are apparently trying pay and use power schemes. and also a few other schemes in power distribution and monitoring in rural areas. the problem is we are all connected to the southern grid plugged into which are gaddiwallas who promised free electricity. :(

  3. ATM like automated machines for accepting bill payments … yes.. and wherever they came up…long queues for bill payment are gone ! Fortunately we have a person standing there usually, who does the actual feeding of Money and Bill Details on your behalf – as most people are not that adept at using ATM machines.. and often the machines themselves refuse to accept currency notes which ‘it’ feels is old or not crisp enough or fails to recognize!

    But overall – a good development certainly. Way to go.

  4. Yes, indeed a great proactive proof! the simplicity of operation offered is amazing, which offers avioding major delays and duplication of efforts from billing perspective for bith cutomer and the organization.

  5. This is a good move by KEB (even I like KEB more than the *COMs). BTS (again prefer this over BMTC) and KSRTC too are going in for these machines, which will plug the revenue leakage. I have seen bus Conductors stylishly taking a printout of the trip sheet nowadays as againt waiting in a que and shouting the closing ticket numbers to the Inspector.

  6. Yes this is a good move but a few notable points

    a) The ATM provides employment for one person to guard, operate and help – employment creation.
    b) The ATM’s are rule making kings. Brand new bank notes need to be soiled ( RBI may fine BESCOM for this act), even cheques need to be appropriately folded above MICR mark and then the reciept is “spit” out. Yes it does a 1.5 foot split and need to be carefull.

    c) When i went to BESCOM last time to pay the bill at ATM, i was redirected to the friendly window which accepts payments at day time – my guess was BESCOM does not want to pay the service charges to the private guy.

    I would anyday prefer the UK way of electricity payment. Just put the money into meter like prepaid taxi and use it till it lasts. Want more recharge by putting more money. This will stop even this hand held printing machine …. how about it?

    cheers
    mohan!

  7. Mohan – that UK thing about pre-paid meters is amazing… that would be really cool.. and the way to go!

  8. Yes, this is amazing.. I work in this area, currently US/UK are into AMI(Advanced Metering Infrastucture) where in the meter readings are go through remote wireless network thus avoding field trips for the month meter reads. I see we are no lesser than that.
    Prepaid metering is yet to gear up Mohan.. Not many people in India might be interested I guess! Its like prepaid & post paid cell phones, for me I feel more comfortable with the latter option…!!! I am not too sure which is economical though!

  9. Add to this one, now even VOLVO conductors have such equipment , that needs no programming, it just works like a printing machine, may be with a counter in it to ultimately provide the stats! :-)
    RFID(in retail shopping) is also going great I guess, already shopping malls have them installed at most of the places.

  10. VS/Arun BESCOM isn’t a mere rename of KEB. Few more things happened as part of power sector reforms, see here.

    Mohan That pre-paid metering is a good idea.

    Veena, people may not like it, but it does save a lot of billing and collection hassles. And AMI isn’t here yet. For that, BESCOM will have to attach those devices to meters that will send readings over a wireless network, right? Dont hear any plans for that.

    Mohan/AKD – joke going around is that BESCOM bill payment machines (that ATM thingie) is where they test counterfeit currency :)

  11. Another thing that they have done is to meter electricity at Transformers (especially in Industrial Areas) and try to match usage recorded there to usage recorded in the Area where it supplies. If there is any thieving, it can be instantly noticed.

    Another area where Bangalore has improved rapidly compared to other Metropolis is City Buses. Nowadays, you can get a bus to any area in a matter of a few minutes and most of the new ones are quite sleek (not to forget about the Volvos :) )

    Cheers

  12. Yes, the infrasturcure is very costly. Those AMI meters are intelligent enough to record the readings & each one of them called client meters communicate to one Hub through RF & then later in the midnight(because phone calls are free) the hub meters call in & upload their readings to the server. These meters are installed with firmwares to do all these.
    It needs a lot of infrastrucure setup, security, wireless n/w, RF etc., When we did a pilot last year, it was very exciting. The first phase of the project is just complete & we see a lot of benefits & they are quite directly seen by the stake holders.
    The Meter replacements are the marathon job & they need to be strategically exchanged with the manual ones! The intersting thing is they can be remotely programmed when the customer changes his tariff plan while the manual meters needs an exchange in some cases(In indai, still BESCOM is to introduce these tariff like our mobile service providers)

    Nonethless, its a rapid change to & that to positive one! About prepaid metering, I am researching on & submitting a while paper, may be I can consult you & Mohan for that or to review that atleast :-)

  13. Silkboard avare,
    Utilities sector will undergo de-regulation & then it will be customer friendly & they can’t force on something just because to reduce their hazzles.! They need some means so that they give options to customers. If yes, they people like me would go for the post paid billing & collections can be automated by the autopay options which is like give a standing instructions to directly debit from your savings a/c or the credit card.
    Double debit transactions sometimes may be a prices somebody has to pay anyway :-) till the reversal happens!!

  14. @ sb

    thanks for writing about this. It is so refreshing to find that at least someone is reporting the good news. I think we have all become too pessimistic towards our country. Any bad decision that is taken by the govt or judiciary always gets a mention but good governance rarely does. Maybe I am expecting too much when still a majority of news is bad news but it wouldn’t hurt to give credit once in a while, would it? Again, thanks for writing about this SB.

  15. one question, how often do you guys experience power cuts? I keep hearing about this power cut situation whenever india is mentioned and always find it strange. I know its very bad up north in Delhi and those places, however Gujarat and specially Ahmedabad is great for that. We maybe experience power cuts at the most 5-10 hours/year.

  16. Silkboard, the reforms you mention here are more cosmetic than anything else. They just split KEB into smaller more manageable ones (with bad names!), which is definitely a good step forward but still has a very long way to go. Basic T&D losses have not really reduced and I think in India overall it still amounts to about 1% of GDP ! I guess complete privatization of T&D and may be something like energy trading and then I would call them true reforms and may be things like wireless/hi-tech metering etc can happen. I think these things will happen in the future, but will take their own time !

  17. Actually there is a way by which the handheld could pluginto the electrical grid and acheive connectivity to Bescom central servers. There is no need for wireless. The idea of using electricity grid for communications was explored by British Telecom maybe 6 years back. Bescom should take it forward, investing in R&D labs.
    Way to go – BESCOM !

  18. Other optimistic post that appeared today in Vijay’s blog, pls do read this too

    http://bizzbuzz.wordpress.com/

  19. Prepaid is allways economical veena atleast on airtel mobile sims…

    My friends who worked in UK used to joke about the meter system there and said, “out autowallahs ask 10 RS over meter but the UK electric meter asks 10 Pounds INSIDE the meter”.

    Yes currency testing machine is a good name but its way off mark rejecting brand new ones ( non counterfiet) but accepting soiled, old notes ready for RBI incrinator.

  20. “The idea of using electricity grid for communications was explored by British Telecom maybe 6 years back”

    Scarlet – yes i remember. They tried in earnest, but we never heard much about it later. To others who might have missed this news – British Telecom was trying to use the existing electrical wiring for communications – ofcourse it didnt work out then…

    Wonder when reverse can happen – transporting power the wireless way !! Yes before you laugh its already done on a very small scale – ‘infra red’ – but not good enough to transfer the amount of power we need.

  21. I think using electicity lines to pass on the reads is a way working in some territory. Well, this can’t be used to communicate about outages.
    Nice to hear about Infrared thing.
    IF may be a good idea to have a frequency for itself, otherwise it might have limitation to criss-cross with the existing wireless, RF & what not…:-)
    Is the IF healthy ? Radio waves are already proving to be hazardous in nature.
    IF is used in the area of food drying, for preserving dry fruits & such items.

    Apun ka desh, Very Nice piece of information. Thanks.

  22. Internet over electricity lines – if that technology becomes usable, BESCOM may look at becoming an ISP themselves. Why not?

    AKD – wireless electricity would be cool. They almost have that via a charge pad – a pad on which you place your phones/gadgets to charge them. Works via contact.

  23. India is poised! Wow!!!

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