Decision To Implement Progamming Language

As many already know, our town started on a large water project nearly two years ago. Specifically, the project’s goal was to change how water meters were read. Nearly twenty years ago, a similar project made the meter’s reading accessible on the outside of most structures, except where meters were installed in manholes and so-called “pits”. Either an ARB in early years or a touchpad within the last five years, was installed to facilitate reading the meter from outside the structure, that is within 50-100′ of a meter.

The current project is implementing a “fixed network”, by replacing the ARB or touchpad with a radio endpoint. The fixed part of the fixed network means that collectors listen to the endpoints; gather reads that are bubbled up throughout the day; and send them back to an application that matches the endpoint serial number with its associated customer data. Electric and gas meters often participate in a mobile network, where a vehicle traverses a route that comes near to all endpoints in the area, so they can be read.

The piece that sent customer configuration to the fixed network application and processed the water meter reads generated daily fell to the town’s IT department to implement. We call the application and server AMR (automated meter reading).

Two of this server’s primary functions are automatic. It checks for and processes customer configuration data, and sends it to the endpoint configuration system, where the meter reads are processed from the fixed network. The other function is to process daily meter reads. Other functions, like collecting reads for a billing cycle and reports comprise the other functions. It is a goal to have a web application facilitate configuration, report generation, and snap-shotting reads for a billing cycle.

One of our goals was to use as much open source as possible, including Python. Python makes up nearly 100% of the software implementation. Our python software makes use of the mysqldb module, which facilitates a SQL access to the MySQL database.

Our current feelings are that Python was the right choice. It is a language widely taught in high school, and there is a large pool of Python programming talent. Any instances where we felt speed was an issue, was not due to Python, but both schema implementation and a need to re-write the SQL code.

And, like most software projects, there is a constant need to continue implementing functions and fix bugs. Python has worked well in this area, without encouraging a lot of patch-work (spaghetti) code.


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