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This application is a continuation-in-part of copending application Ser. The present invention relates generally to a distributed, information gathering and processing system, and more specifically, to such a system for remotely acquiring and processing data related to a dioe or phenomena being monitored by metering devices.

Utility companies, such as those providing electric, gas and water service, measure the consumption of their respective services by customers via meters attached to the customer premises.

Such meters continually monitor and record the amount of the service in question consumed by a particular customer and such measurements are used by the utility company for billing and system management purposes.

Two types of conventional utility adtasheet exist: Pulse type meters, e. The pulses are used to increment a mechanical counter or odometer mounted outside of the customer premises.

Encoder type meters have a digital dataheet board built into the meter’s register head which is used to electronically measure the level of customer utility consumption. The digital circuit board is wired to an externally mounted induction-coupled or standard pin-type receptacle.

The meter is read by inserting a data collection device, also known as a gun, into the receptacle. The gun sends a signal into the meter which in turn causes the meter to send a digital representation of the current meter reading into the gun where it is stored. The information can later be downloaded to a utility company computer to process same. Non-machine-readable meters consist of dioed meters that can only be read via visual inspection of meter display mechanisms e.

One typical system utilized by utility companies for accessing utility usage information requires one or more human meter readers to visit every customer premises and physically read each customer’s utility meter, whether by visual inspection e. In practice, this system of meter reading is extremely costly and time consuming, because the utility dode must pay the meter readers for the time diiode traveling to and from customer sites and reading the meters.

In addition, unrealized revenues due to extending credit to utility consumers for months at a time can disturb the utility company’s cashflow and investment. Thus, the utility industry has recognized the need for an automated system for reading and more closely managing utility datasueet. In response to this need, various systems have been provided diofe automatically reading and processing utility meters.

One such conventional system involves use of meters equipped with datasheef frequency RF transmitters which transmit meter reading data to one or more remote locations so as to eliminate the need for human readers to go fiode each customer premises to read the customers’ meters.

Essentially, an RF meter of the datashdet used in this conventional system consists of a pulse or encoder type of machine-readable meter having a small RF dattasheet built into the meter head.

The RF transmitter transmits signals corresponding to the pulses generated by the meter, in the case of a pulse-type meter, or in the case of an encoder-type of meter, the digital representation of the current meter reading, as an indication of the level of utility usage to either a utility company vehicle being driven in the vicinity, known as mobile RF, or to a remote receiver location in the vicinity, known as fixed RF.

The information can later be downloaded to the utility company computer. One example of such a system is disclosed in Brunius, et al. A major shortcoming of this type of conventional system is that only machine-readable meters may be automatically read using the system; non-machine-readable meters still must be read via visual inspection by human meter readers.

Other types of conventional automatic meter reading systems utilize remote data units, or RDUs, also known as meter interface units, or MIUs, located at the consumer premises to automatically accumulate utility consumption data from the customer meters and communicate this information back to either a storage site or the utility company over a telephone network. Such conventional systems are of two types: In a conventional outbound system, the utility company periodically calls each customer RDU to retrieve customer consumption data stored by the RDU.

One example of an outbound system is disclosed in Honick, U. In the Honick system, a utility company central computer communicates with an RDU located at the customer’s premises through a special subscriber test trunk telephone line which enables the utility computer to be connected to a particular RDU without ringing the customer’s telephone.

The system allows the utility computer to call and access any RDU in the system at any time as long as the phone at the customer site is not is use. Such access, known as a demand read, may be necessary when, for example, the utility needs to prepare a final bill because utility service to a customer is to be terminated or discontinued.

However, this system has the significant disadvantage of requiring expensive special test trunk access circuitry which must be installed at each telephone exchange to enable the utility computer to communicate with the RDU without ringing the consumer’s telephone line.

Further disadvantageously, this system also cannot be used automatically read non-machine-readable meters, but rather, solely can be used to automatically read machine-readable meters. Another conventional outbound system is disclosed in Sollinger, U. The Sollinger system includes a sensor at each customer’s premises for automatically reading the customer’s meters, a microcomputer for accepting and storing the data from the sensor, a communications interface connected to the microcomputer, a main computer at a location remote from the customer’s premises, and a communications link between the customer’s premises and the main computer, wherein the main computer continually polls each customer’s meter to initiate transmission of the reading data to the remote location over the communications link.


The Sollinger system further comprises means for periodically transmitting the reading data to utility company computers for billing purposes.

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Unfortunately, in this system, the main computer must continually poll each customer premises rather than having the utility usage data sent automatically from the customer premises to the main computer. Also, disadvantageously, this system is unable to automatically read non-machine-readable meters, and is only able to automatically read machine-readable meters.

Conventional inbound systems are programmed to place a call to a utility billing computer or to a storage facility to download meter readings at specific, pre-defined time intervals. In addition, some conventional inbound systems are bi-directional, meaning that they allow the utility company to make readings on demand much like in a conventional outbound system.

One prior art inbound system is disclosed in Verma, U. The Verma system comprises RDUs located at each customer’s premises for accumulating and reporting utility usage data from machine-readable utility meters at the premises, and a utility data processor or UDP located at the utility site for collecting the usage data sent from the RDUs over a conventional telephone network.

The system is designed to count each rotation of the least significant dial of the utility meters. Verma also discloses an encoder meter in which the need for a sensor interface is eliminated by providing the meter with built-in circuitry which encodes the utility usage information into an electrical signal which is read directly by the microcomputer. The report time is programmed into the RDUs. In addition, an answer window is opened on the system on a predetermined regular basis, e.

This answer window is also programmed into the RDUs. Thus, only during the answer window can the utility company recover usage information on demand.

The report times may be programmed into the RDUs at the time of installation or by the UDP during a communication therewith. All calls that come to the RDUs during the answer window, whether from the UDP or a third party, are detected through ring detection circuitry, which then prevents the telephone from ringing inside the customer premises. Each incoming call then receives a signal from the RDU receiving the call, which signal requests log-in information and a password.

If the log-in information and password are not conveyed to the RDU receiving the call such as is the case when a third party other than the utility company is calling during the answer windowthe RDU will terminate the call.

dioda germanium 126

Disadvantageously, Verma’s disclosed system interferes with normal utility customer telephone service by preventing third party calls from being received by utility customers during the answer window. Also disadvantageously, Verma’s disclosed system requires use of machine-readable utility meters, and cannot automatically acquire and process reading data from non-machine-readable utility meters.

Examples of other conventional meter readings systems are disclosed in Pettis, U. In accordance with the present invention, a remote data acquisition and processing system is provided which is capable of overcoming the aforesaid and other disadvantages of the prior art. In one embodiment of the present invention, a system is provided for remotely monitoring and accumulating utility usage data from utility customer sites and transmitting such data to a remote storage facility where it can be accessed by a utility company.

This embodiment of the present invention also includes a system for remotely managing and controlling utility consumption, and comprises a Remote Meter Processor or RMP located at the customer site for automatically monitoring and accumulating utility usage data, a Store Forward Site or SFS at a location remote from the utility customer site and the utility company for accumulating the utility usage data for later access by the utility company and a consumer interconnection medium or CIM connected to a wide band link for automatically transmitting the utility usage data to the SFS.

In this embodiment, the RMP is a self-contained unit which houses data acquisition, processing, control, memory, and data transmission circuitry. Data acquisition is accomplished through a Programmable Utility Meter Interface or PUMI which is capable of being programmed to automatically access utility usage data from any type of commercial meter, including both machine readable and non-machine-readable meters.

Data acquisition and processing are controlled by a microprocessor located within the RMP.

Customer usage data is acquired from the designated meter by the PUMI and is sent to the microprocessor where it is converted to a common file format for transmission to the SFS. The microprocessor can be programmed to cause the RMP to acquire and transmit data to the SFS at any specified predetermined interval. In this embodiment, data transmission can be accomplished by any CIM, including, but not limited to, a conventional telephone network, a cellular telephone network, cable TV, RF, ISDN and suitable computer networks e.

Data are continually accumulated by the SFS from a number of RMP’s corresponding to a number of customers and is stored by the SFS until accessed and downloaded by the particular utility company for billing purposes. This embodiment is further provided with an adaptive calling process which is a means of moving the periodic interval at which the RMP automatically accesses information. Such a function may be necessary when the RMP is having difficulty in transmitting information because the customer phone is in use when the CIM utilized is the conventional telephone network.

The adaptive calling process analyzes previous connections and diore connects to determine the optimum low volume time period for initiating automatic assess by the RMP. Also, this embodiment is a bi-directional type of system, in that it is capable of automatically by12 and sending data to the SFS for access by the utility company, and the utility company can call the RMP on demand at any time to access utility usage.


Additionally, the fiode can transmit information such as programming updates, service disconnect commands, new autonomous update mode times, and other control and system options or functions to the SFS to be downloaded to the RMP during its next autonomous update mode call. It is further provided that an incoming call from the utility company causes the customer’s telephone to go off-hook and the system initiates a bi-directional data connection to the utility company computer.

Under most circumstances, innocent third part calls are permitted to pass through unimpeded. If any of the customer’s telephones are taken off-hook during either a demand read or during the autonomous update mode, the utility company and the RMP will disconnect, allowing normal operation of the telephone circuit. This insures uninterrupted access to the telephone line by the resident siode emergency and other calls.

This embodiment also contains a power supply which is adapted to selectively disconnect electrical utility service at the customer site while retaining electrical utility service to the RMP. A host computer processor is provided remotely from the imaging and metering devices for generating from the image data the respective portions of the utility operation-related data. The host computer processor accomplishes this by processing the image data using computer image processing techniques, such as optical character recognition techniques, to extract or generate from the image data the respective portions of the utility operation-related data.

Preferably, the system of this embodiment also includes a plurality of controllers located remotely from the host processor, imaging devices, and metering devices, for generating control signals for independently causing respective ones of the optical imaging devices to generate images and also for causing the controllers to transmit to the controllers the images generated by the imaging devices.

The controllers are adapted to temporarily store the images transmitted to them from the imaging devices, and daatasheet, to transmit the images to the host processor for processing. Preferably, the transmission of the image data from the optical imaging devices to the controllers is accomplished via wireless communications links between the controllers and the devices.

The wireless communications links may comprises spread-spectrum radio frequency links e.

BY – RECTIFIER DIODE – Bharat Electronics

Transmission of image data between the controllers and the host processor in this embodiment is accomplished via a public or private communications network connecting the controllers to the host processor. Preferably, this network takes the form of a wide area computer network, such as an Internet computer network, through which the controllers and the host processor exchange data via appropriate hardware and software e. The host processor and controllers may also be appropriately provisioned to connect to the wide area network via wireless means, such as Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure U-NII communications devices operating within a frequency spectrum located at 5.

Once in active mode, the controllers generate control signals for causing the imaging devices to enter active mode, scan the meters to produce the image data, and transmit the image data to the controllers. The controllers then transmit the image data to the host processor. Thereafter, the controllers and imaging devices are either commanded by the host processor to return to dilde mode, or automatically return thereto.

Adtasheet host processor preferably is also adapted to generate and store data hy126 in which the respective portions of utility operation-related data are associated with respective utility customers. In this embodiment, this is accomplished based upon identification information supplied with the didoe data to the host processor for permitting association of the respective portion of utility data with the respective imaging device that dipde the image data representative of the respective portions of utility data.

The data files may then be transmitted to the utility for further processing by the utility e. Advantageously, this embodiment of the present invention is able to automatically generate reading bg126 of both machine readable and non-machine readable types of metering devices, and to process such data for use in e.

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Further advantageously, this embodiment is able to accomplish these functions without requiring that the non-machine readable metering device being read be internally modified e. These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent as the following Detailed Description proceeds and upon reference to the Drawings, wherein like numerals depict like parts, and in which:.

Although the following Detailed Description will proceed with reference being made to specific embodiments of the present invention, it should be understood that the present invention is not intended to be limited to these embodiments.

Diiode, many alternatives, modifications, and variations thereof will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, the present invention should be doode broadly, as being limited only as set forth in the hereinafter appended Claims. Referring now to FIG. Located at the customer premises 5 are gas meter 10 A, electric meter 10 B and water meter 10 C. Each one of gas meter 10 A, electric meter 10 B and water meter 10 C can be of the pulse type, encoder type or non-machine readable type.