Water metering is the process of measuring water use. A standard register normally has a dial similar to a clock, with gradations around the perimeter to indicate the measuring unit and the amount of water used, if less than the lowest digit in a display similar to the odometer wheels in a car, their sum being the total volume used. Modern registers are normally driven by a magnetic coupling between a magnet in the measuring chamber attached to the measuring element and another attached to the bottom of the register. Gears in the register convert the motion of the measuring element to the proper usage increment for display on the sweep hand and the odometer-style wheels. Many registers also have a leak detector. This is a small visible disk or hand that is geared closer to the rotation speed of the drive magnet, so that very small flows that would be visually undetectable on the regular sweep hand can be seen.
With Automatic Meter Reading, manufacturers have developed pulse or encoder registers to produce electronic output for radio transmitters, reading storage devices, and data logging devices. Pulse meters send a digital or analog electronic pulse to a recording device. Encoder registers have an electronic means permitting an external device to interrogate the register to obtain either the position of the wheels or a stored electronic reading. Frequent transmissions of consumption data can be used to give smart meter functionality.
There are also some specialized types of registers such as meters with an LCD instead of mechanical wheels, and registers to output data or pulses to a variety of recording and controller devices. For industrial applications, output is often 4-20 mA analog for recording or controlling different flow rates in addition to totalization.