Revenue protection is a need, not a choice for utilities

  • Articles
  • Feb 08,23
The success of utility meters protection depends on selection of security seal, effectively implementing, maintaining and upgrading it from time to time, says Rajesh Kumar Banka.
Revenue protection is a need, not a choice for utilities

When it comes to meter protection, every discom do their best to provide maximum protection to meters in order to prevent meter tampering to safeguard revenue. In the Smart meter and digital era, security of electricity meters needs more attention now which has changed sealing needs. Use of AMI/Prepaid/Smart meters systems mean fewer in-person visits to the consumer premises. It means a higher level of security is required to deter tampering. Many professional manufacturers offer new generation meter security seals that provide higher security to protect electricity meters to prevent revenue loss.

We all understand importance of security. We update security features of our mobile phone every other day. We hire security guard for our house, office, warehouse from reputed professional security agency but we hardly upgrade our meter security seal in 5 or even 10 years. I have often seen that after knowing the availability of high security seal, many discom continue with age old security seal on the plea to change next time which hardly comes for them. This is not happening only in government utility but also in private utility. The success of utility meters protection depends on selection of security seal, effectively implementing, maintaining and upgrading it from time to time. It requires proper attention to entire process which includes selection, adoption, standardisation, procurement, application, record keeping, vigilance and most importantly disposal. It is a general impression of many utilities that meter seals do not work, and as a rule of regulatory authority, meter seals are being slapped over meters just as statutory requirement. If proper attention is paid on entire process of meter sealing, meter security seal can very effectively combat meter tampering.

Before we get into further details, first, we need to know a few important facts about meter security seals.

  • Meter security seal is a security item, whose failure results in a substantial Revenue loss to the electricity distribution companies and has a direct impact on their balance sheet.
  • A Meter Security Seal is a security and safety product and hence its specification is required to be kept secret, which is, generally not maintained.
  • A Meter security seal is the most important product that any electric distribution company procures, though the monetary value is very negligible to its total annual procurement value.
  • Being a revenue protection product, a meter security seal, must be robust, fool proof and most importantly - it should not be accessible by counterfeiters.
  • This product must be selected intelligently and the specifications must be under wraps. Generally, everything is clearly mentioned in tender technical specification - shape, type, design, size of the meter security seal, details of security id, company identification, and serial number details etc. All this makes ready reckoner for the counterfeiter to be well prepared beforehand to do his job.
  • Meter security seal must be unique and should not be changed frequently as it goes directly in favour of counterfeiters. Unique means shape, size, design and ensuring that an identical meter security seal is not readily available in the market.
  • More than 70% meter seals used are very common in shape and size because they meet the general technical specification of the power distribution companies and are easily accessible to the counterfeiters.
  • DPM Barcoded Seal number on Meter Security Seal is must

    In the digital Smart Meter era, it is very important to upgrade the seal. The seal number must be provided in 2D dot matrix barcode form on the white background directly laser engraved on the meter seal, which can be easily read by smart phone/barcode scanner.

    Under no circumstance, barcode sticker to be over pasted on the seal as transparency of the meter seal is lost as well as the sticker can be replaced for malpractice without trace. It is human nature if nothing is easily readable, the reader will read only the sticker number for convenience rather difficult to read the serial number on the seal.

    The benefits of DPM barcoded security seal include:

  • Providing more accurate and reliable security seal identification
  • Preventing errors in reading the data
  • They can be read quickly and accurately with either smartphones or barcode scanner
  • DPM barcode serial number is a reliable way to provide lifetime traceability of security seal that are exposed to high temperatures and harsh environments
  • DPM Barcoded serial number help to improve the records: Advanced software can now be link to the system records
  • If authenticity can be readily verified by barcodes within the system, there are significant financial and security gains. The consequences of duplicate/fake security seal can huge revenue loss
  • Reduce investigation costs
  • Pre-tampering is possible on traditional Anchor Polycarbonate Meter Seal

    There are many feedbacks from electric utilities that Anchor Meter Seals are being pre-tampered for power theft. The most common problem with the traditional push type anchor polycarbonate meter seal is pre-tampering i.e. pressing the anchors before installation of the seal or filing the anchors and thereafter doing malpractice with the meters and i.e. meter tampering without any trace. The pre-tampered meter seal look like it is sealed but it can be opened with slight force, and after meter tampering it is closed as if nothing happened. It is not possible to check pre-tampering on each installed meter. It is too dangerous.

    To overcome the problem, we designed a new meter Seal with male and female part pre-locked from the factory to prevent access to Anchors for pre-tampering by pressing the anchors or filing the anchors. We innovated new tamper resistant high security meter seal ‘Revguard’ Polycarbonate security seal with robust 8-arm locking mechanism supplied in pre-locked condition to restrict access to the anchors for pre-tampering. The two stages of the Capsule body and Anchor Locking Insert is pre-locked from the factory and further two stages are locked while installing the seal. Once it is sealed, it is having four stages of lock providing maximum security to meters for Revenue Protection. It is impossible to open the locked meter seal without breaking the seal.

    Male and Female Part of Anchor Meter Seal connected with sealing wire

    While developing this we realised one another problem of entangled or mesh wire found on the installed meter seal which often confuse the inspector at the time of inspection. Further it provides scope to counterfeiters to do malpractice for meter tampering. We removed the wire connecting male and female part and made the arrangement of pre-locking permanent and ensured that under no circumstances male and female part can be separated without damaging the anchors/tamper evidence. When anyone forcibly try to separate male and female part, one or more wings of the anchor will break or damage providing clear sign of tampering and cannot be reused. This also solves the problem of confusing /entangled/messed sealing wire to provide easy detection of tampering.

    Traditional Twist Meter Seal is more than four decade old meter seal and is very commonly available and have easy access to counterfeiters for replacing the same with duplicate/fake meter seal after meter tampering.

    It is also very common that many power distribution companies have multiple type of security seal in their system and even company’s own employees are in doubt to confirm their own meter seals. It is high time to recognise the importance and role of meter seal in a power distribution utility. It is Revenue Protection Device used to protect their revenue. It is not a mere low cost hardware or screw purchased from any shop at the cheapest price.

    It is need of the hour to rethink about standardisation of unique security seals for protecting utility meters, manufactured by reliable and professional manufacturers, the procurement process, and keeping a long term view of meter security seals usage, storage and installation process, along with a disposal system to achieve desired results. Being a small value product, many financially and/or morally weak plastic moulding units are claiming themselves as meter seal manufacturers and selling the product with cheaper prices to gain business. This low pricing is not possible for any innovative manufacturers, investing in research and development teams to update their security products from time to time and innovating new solutions to defeat newly identified ways of malpractice by counterfeiters.

    In the process of cyber security of the meters, physical security has taken back seat. In the beginning, when smart meters were launched, it has been believed that now meter tampering is impossible. After sometime, it was realised that that there is cyber threat to smart meters and need cyber security.

    Smart meters or AMI or prepaid meters have remote reading facility and visit to consumer premises is nil after meter installation. Hence, it makes more essential to seal the new meters with smarter unique meter security seal that will have authenticity for longer period of time.

    The inconspicuous meter security seals can do wonders to prevent revenue losses to electricity distribution companies. The power theft losses by meter tampering of the electricity distribution companies can be attributed to the fact that they are “Penny wise pound foolish” while selecting the security seals for revenue cash register (meter). Professional and Genuine manufacturers strictly follow professional ethics and know their responsibilities towards their customers in the revenue protection security product business. There will always be a difference in prices between security seal innovator and a plastic moulder.

    In view of the above facts, the procurement of meter security seals need to be reviewed simply because in ‘Cheaper’ or ‘L1” process one ends up “Penny Wise And Pound Foolish” by compromising on quality of the product and poor security of meters which is the cash register for electricity distribution companies. Quality comes at a price and “Poor Security is No Security” which has been clearly visible in the AT&T losses of power distribution companies over many decades. The meter security seal must be purchased from the original manufacturers on Long Term Purchase Agreement (LTPA). Revenue Protection is a need, not a choice for utilities.

    It is high time to start using new generation meter security seal which provide higher security than the two-three decades meter seals. The new generation seals are more robust and tamper proof, In today’s smart meter digital era meter security seals must have DPM 2D barcode or QR coded serial number for correctly reading and verifying the meter seal serial number and logo through smart phone or barcode scanner. In the meter app, provision for seal details can be incorporated so that serial number when scanned through smart phones it can directly go into system. Meter security seal is 24/7 security guard on your meters to safeguard your revenue and hence treat well to your loyal revenue protection device for best results.

    About the author

    Rajesh Kumar Banka is Managing Director of Safcon Seals Pvt Ltd and is in the security seal business for 25 years. He invented tamper evident polycarbonate meter security seal two decades ago to replace age old lead seals used on the meters. He has invented many innovative security seals during the past two decades and has many Patents. He can be reached on email

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