A few weeks ago, my team at EDF Energy introduced Picture Meter Reads to the EDF Energy iPhone app. With the press of a button, we were kicking the UK Energy market into the 21st century.
The retail energy market relies on dated analog technology (your electricity and gas meters) to measure how you use energy and bill you. In a world of Internet standards and interoperability where everything is connected, energy meters remain obstinately obscure, unconnected, reliant on people to take and send reads. The system relies on an army of highly trained people that roam the streets and knock on doors to collect meter reads from every one of the millions of meters scattered all over the country. Some meters may go unread for long, resulting in estimated readings and inaccurate bills.
Companies allow customers to send their own reads by phone or PC, but reading the meters’ display is not as easy as it sounds, and Web and phone interfaces -often thrown together by simply exposing internal IT systems- are frequently crude and hard to use.
So we decided to change all that: we wanted to make it very easy for the customer to send us a read. Without having to understand how a meter works. Without having to make an effort and learn another interface. While having a bit of fun, if possible.
In a rare occurrence, the inspiration came from my own experience. My gas meter is under the sink inside a low cupboard and is not readable with the naked eye. For years, I have been crouching on the floor, taking a photo of it, then reading the photo and typing the number. I started doing this with an iPhone 3G back in the day, and I had yet to take a photo that wasn’t usable first time around, so I thought: how hard could it be to replicate this experience, removing the “read and type” step and just accept the photo?
Very hard, as it happens. Technology alone was not the answer, so we had to get creative. Regulation and health and safety all had to be taken into account. And how do you prioritise something that brings customer comfort and perhaps a smile? But my team are not easily put off by a challenge.
So a few weeks ago Photo Meter Reads was released. Customers loved it, and so did the press. Here are a few choice links:
- Is this the future of energy bills? New EDF iPhone app lets you take a photo of your meter reading to update it
- Need to read your gas meter? Just take a picture (The Telegraph)
- EDF app enables smartphones to snap meter readings (Computer Weekly)
- EDF iPhone app records meter readings by photo (Pocket-lint)
EDF Launch App To Read Your Meter Readings By Photo (Tech on the go)
- Getting Smart about Smart Grid (Connected world magazine)
EDF Energy launches meter reading app in UK (Energy Business Review)
- What is Smart Energy? EDF Energy iPhone app lets you snap your meter readings (Recombu)
- EDF Energy unveils innovative way to provide meter readings (Alert me)
So well done to the team and to EDF Energy for delivering this magic customer experience.