News Column

Patent Issued for Apparatus and Method for Monitoring a Variety of Resource Consumption Meters

July 23, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- A patent by the inventor Carkner, Steve (Ottawa, CA), filed on November 10, 2011, was published online on July 8, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent number 8773280 is assigned to Blue Line Innovations Inc. (St. John's, NL, CA).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "This invention relates to the field of electrical systems and devices and more specifically to an apparatus and method for monitoring a variety of resource consumption meters.

"The ability to measure the operation of a utility meter without physically altering the meter itself is of significant importance to the millions of consumers who would like to continuously monitor their use of the limited natural resources of our planet, without the expense of replacing their existing metering systems with advanced electronic metering systems that may be design to only provide usage data to the utility company themselves, not the consumer themselves.

"One of the most common requirements for monitoring is to count the revolutions of the spinning disk in an analog style electricity meter. Existing systems require installation inside the electricity meter with close proximity to the disk.

"There exists a need for a non-invasive detection system that can function on a wide variety of meter types and does not require a high degree of accuracy in locating the sensor, and does not require user knowledge of the type of meter they are installing the system on."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "One embodiment of the invention comprises an apparatus for monitoring a variety of resource consumption meters through the use of adaptive illumination, detection and signal processing. For this embodiment of the invention, the resource consumption meter emits a signal having a frequency relative to the rate of metered resource consumption. In this embodiment, the apparatus comprises at least one signal detection means and a circuit operatively connected to the signal detection means for the interpretation of the signal by a human.

"In another embodiment of the invention the apparatus is an optical apparatus and the signal emitted by the resource consumption meter is an energy emission detectable by the optical apparatus. The energy emission may comprise light in the visible spectrum, light in the invisible spectrum or an energy emission in another part of the electro-magnetic spectrum.

"In one embodiment of the invention, the apparatus is adapted for a digital resource consumption meter that emits a signal directly detectable by an optical apparatus.

"In another embodiment of the invention the apparatus is adapted for an analogue resource meter such as one having a spinning disk. In this embodiment there is a need to convert the analogue signal, such as the rate of rotation of the spinning disk, into a signal detectable by the optical apparatus. In this embodiment the apparatus includes an energy emitter to direct energy onto the analogue device, a reflector to direct energy back from the analogue device and an energy detector to detect the reflected energy. This embodiment of the apparatus may have more than one energy detector.

"In one embodiment of the invention there is provided a circuit operatively connected to the signal detector. In this embodiment of the invention, the circuit includes a discriminator adapted to block input signals having a second frequency lower than the first frequency. The second frequency represents spurious energy signals that might be caused by sunlight reflecting into the signal detector. Such reflections would occur at a lower frequency than the energy reflected by, say, a rotating disk type electrical metering device. The discriminator also acts as an amplifier to amplify the first frequency signal.

"In one embodiment of the invention there is provided an apparatus for monitoring a resource consumption meter emitting a signal having a first frequency relative to a rate of metered resource consumption, wherein the apparatus comprises: at least one signal detection means; and, a circuit operatively connected to the at least one signal detection means and adapted for converting detected signals into human readable output indicative of the rate of metered resource consumption. The circuit is adapted to provide three optional circuit paths representing one of: a sample and hold mode of operation adapted for an analogue meter having a moving indicator indicative of resource consumption; a digitizing mode of operation; and, an analog to digital mode of operation.

"In another embodiment of the invention the sample and hold mode of operation circuit path comprises an energy emitter adapted to illuminate the moving indicator with a plurality of short pulses. Each pulse of the plurality of short pulses is a fast-rise square wave pulse having an adjustable period and power. There is also included an energy detector adapted to detect reflected energy from the moving indicator during the defined duration and an energy emitter pulsing means operatively connected to the energy emitter and adapted for providing a plurality of short pulses over the defined duration. A discriminator is operatively connected to the energy detector for blocking spurious signals and amplifying permitted signals. Signal storage means is operatively connected to the discriminator for storing a predetermined number of signals of increasing magnitude over the duration until fully charged. The storage means will discharge a discharge signal if exposed to a predetermined number of signals that are decreasing in magnitude over the duration. A signal comparator is operatively connected to the storage means for receiving the discharge signal and removing from the discharge signal an ambient signal to create an output signal. The comparator amplifies the output signal. There is also included an analogue to digital converter adapted to receive the analogue output signal and convert it into a digital signal so that a connected microprocessor can receive and interpret the digital signal.

"In yet another embodiment of the invention the digitizing mode of operation pathway comprises an energy emitter adapted to illuminate the moving indicator with a plurality of short pulses having a defined duration; an energy detector adapted to detect reflected energy from the moving indicator during the defined duration; an energy emitter pulsing means operatively connected to the energy emitter and adapted for providing the plurality of short pulses over the defined duration; a discriminator operatively connected to the energy detector for blocking spurious signals and amplifying output signals; a digitizing element adapted for receiving the discriminator output signals and converting the discriminator output signals to digital signals. The discriminator output signals are fast time-varying signals of a predetermined magnitude and the digitizing element output signals are input into a microcontroller for interpretation. The digitizing element produces a digitizing element output as long as the predetermined magnitude remains above a predetermined level.

"In one embodiment of the invention the digitizing mode of operation pathway comprises an energy detector adapted to detect emitted energy from a digital resource consumption meter; a discriminator operatively connected to the energy detector for blocking spurious signals and amplifying output signals; and, a digitizing element adapted for receiving the discriminator output signals and converting the discriminator output signals to digital signals. The discriminator output signals are fast time-varying signals of a predetermined magnitude and the digitizing element output signals are input into a microcontroller for interpretation.

"In yet another embodiment of the invention the analogue to digital mode of operation circuit path comprises: a energy emitter adapted to illuminate the moving indicator with a plurality of short pulses having a defined duration; an energy detector adapted to detect reflected energy from the moving indicator during the defined duration; energy emitter pulsing means operatively connected to the energy emitter and adapted for providing the plurality of short pulses over the defined duration; a discriminator operatively connected to the energy detector for blocking spurious signals and amplifying permitted signals; an analogue to digital converter adapted to receive the permitted signals and convert the permitted signals to digital signals; and, a microprocessor adapted to receive and interpret the digital signals. The energy detector is an energy detector adapted to detect emitted energy from a digital resource consumption meter.

"In another embodiment of the invention there is provided an apparatus for monitoring a resource consumption meter emitting a signal having a first frequency relative to a rate of metered resource consumption comprising: an energy emitter adapted for illuminating an analogue indicator wherein the analogue indicator is adapted to reflect energy as the signal to at least one energy detector. The embodiment includes a circuit operatively connected to the at least one energy detector and adapted for generating a signal for interpretation by a microprocessor. The circuit is adapted to provide three optional circuit paths representing one of: a first path for a sample and hold mode of operation adapted for an analogue meter having a moving indicator indicative of resource consumption; a second path for a digitizing mode of operation; and, a third path for an analog to digital mode of operation. In this embodiment there is provided a methodology of operating the apparatus in a multi-mode format comprising the following steps: selecting an off mode by disabling the energy emitter and said first, second and third paths; selecting a digital resource consumption meter detection mode by enabling the first path and disabling the energy emitter, the second path and the third path; selecting a digital resource consumption meter detection mode, wherein the digital resource consumption meter has a consumption indicator requiring external illumination, by enabling the energy emitter for external illumination and the first path; selecting an analogue spinning disk resource consumption meter mode by enabling the energy emitter and the first path; selecting an automatic gain control mode by enabling the energy emitter, the first path and the third path; selecting a digital 'flashing light' resource consumption meter mode, wherein the flashing light relates to resource consumption, by enabling the second path and disabling the energy emitter, the first and the third paths; selecting a digital 'flashing light' resource consumption meter mode wherein the energy emitter and first path are disabled and the second and third paths are enabled; selecting a reflective type resource consumption meter mode wherein the energy emitter is enabled and the second path is enabled and the first and third paths are disabled; selecting a self test mode wherein the energy emitter is enabled and the second and third paths are enabled and the first path is disabled; selecting an automatic meter detection mode wherein the energy emitter is enabled and the first, second and third paths are enabled."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Carkner, Steve. Apparatus and Method for Monitoring a Variety of Resource Consumption Meters. U.S. Patent Number 8773280, filed November 10, 2011, and published online on July 8, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8773280.PN.&OS=PN/8773280RS=PN/8773280

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Microcontroller, Microprocessors, Blue Line Innovations Inc..

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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