Not Every Project Works, And That’s Okay
In my previous tests using Software Defined Radio (SDR), I used rtl_433 to successfully receive data from an outdoor weather station sensor. Always seeking more data, I found rtlamr - a tool which decodes smart meter data. I don’t really need to read smart meter data since the only smart meter I have is my power meter and I already have my own meter for that, but I still was excited to give it a try and see what I could find! But projects don’t always go according to plan, and that’s perfectly normal when trying new things!
After reading the documentation, I ran outside to snap a pic of the meter itself (with all the numbers clearly in view). I found out that I have an Itron AMI-4 meter. According to the RTLAMR Compatible Meters page, it should be supported. So, I figured it would be a simple, fun project to get rtlamr to read my smart meter data, and write some sort of MQTT connector to push the data to Home Assistant since it seems like the only data output path is to InfluxDB at this point (which isn’t a bad option, just not my preference).
Since I currently only own one SDR dongle (the struggle of tying up fun hardware in permanent projects!), I quickly shut down my rtl_433 server and borrowed the SDR dongle, connecting it to my Windows desktop. I played with Windows for a bit to get the software installed, as one does for primarily Linux-focused software. Once I did this, I eventually got rtlamr up and running, and left it for a half hour to try and find packets from the meter (they should come every few minutes).
Packets never came. I tried enabling ‘all’ decoders, a few different frequencies, nothing. No results. At this point, I was slightly disappointed that my easy one-day project wasn’t working out, and I started reading through the rtlamr discussions on Github. I eventually found what I was looking for - The AMI-4 can be configured to support the protocols rtlamr can decode, but just because it is capable does not mean my utility company has configured it this way. It supports 900Mhz and Zigbee, and some of the branding on the meter indicates it’s configured in Zigbee mode. So, I’m out of luck, and my day of experimentation was wasted.
But, despite not getting the project to work, I still enjoyed it, and that’s what matters. I had fun playing with SDR, experimenting with the software, and learning a bit more about how smart meters work. Maybe, in the future, I’ll have a smart meter that does use 900Mhz, but for now, I’m on to the next project.