360 Utility Barcode set to Revolutionize Utility Bills for Organizations throughout Canada
A utility bill is seen by many as simply a demand for money; however, it also provides a wealth of information that enables users to manage their utility costs. The problem is both understanding the bill and accessing all the information it contains. While this can be something of a problem for a single site, for a multisite organization the problem can be so large that beyond paying the bill, no effective action is taken. Typically, utility billing is handled by one person who does not capture or understand all of the detail on the bill. Since only ‘minimal’ accounting information is captured, utility use and expenditure does not have the level of visibility that is needed for management to fully appreciate the opportunities offered by the proactive management of utility use.
Some organizations have solved this problem by employing a person to input information from the bills into a computer system; others have scanned bills and then used OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to extract the information which is then transferred to a software application. Neither of these solutions is simple or low cost and as a result only a small number of users have taken this approach. Some utilities provide electronic versions of the bills – however, these are normally pdf versions of the paper bill and the same issues arise as with paper bills. Some observers think that smart metering will solve the problem, but monthly billing information is not really within the scope of smart metering and not all utilities offer smart metering capabilities, (typically only electricity, not natural gas and water).
Having been aware of this issue and the barrier it creates to the implementation of strong energy management, 360 Energy has been looking for a simple, easy to deploy solution. The result of this research is the 360 Utility QR (Quick Response) Code. The QR Utility code includes all the critical information from the bill in an easy to scan code, based on a universal format. As a result the information can be captured and stored quickly and without the need for bill reading expertise. This process will ensure data input is quick with no errors.
The concept of the 360 Utility QR Code is straightforward. The utility company adds the QR Code to the front page of all bills. The customer then scans the QR Code and the data is transferred to a suitable energy management application. The same format is used by all participating utilities making information collection straightforward. This will be of particular value to organizations that have multiple sites supplied by a range of utility providers.
The 360 Utility QR Code will be a national, open standard allowing its use by any utility – electricity, natural gas and water. For the utility, there will be a requirement to add the QR Code generation to its billing process – the QR code uses relevant information that is already provided on the bill, so it is only a formatting requirement. Many utilities already use barcodes for internal purposes but none have used them for customer benefit. It is most likely that the utility will add the QR Code to all bills; customers can then choose if they want to use the QR Code to manage their bills. The user will require a QR Code reader and appropriate software. The QR Code reading and data transfer protocols will all be industry standards to allow the widest possible uptake at the lowest cost.
In part, this development has arisen from the daily use of QR code recognition in other applications – but the underlying driver has been the opportunities that are being lost by energy users not making full use of the information that is already provided by their energy suppliers.
360 Energy’s role in the process is to encourage and facilitate the development of this universal open source QR code and to assist interested parties in its deployment.
360 Energy is currently working with stakeholders to bring the concept into everyday use. The stakeholders include utilities, their customers, government and regulatory bodies. The QR code is a proven concept; the next step is determining the regulatory and operational frameworks for utilities to deploy the concept.
Should you be interested to learn more about the development of a national open QR code please contact:
President & CEO
360 Energy Inc
Phone: 905 304 6001 ext. 221
To read our white paper reviewing customer data collection, click here