A 'super-fast' polling method for electrical meters for outage detection. In response to a query, a large group of electric meters (M) all simultaneously transmit reply signals over an electrical distribution network using TWACS.RTM.. The signals are separated by an inbound detector (IB) at a receiving end of the network. This allows a very large number of meters to be polled in a very short period of time to determine whether or not an outage has occurred at the location of each meter. Each meter transmits a bit pattern, and bit patterns are designed so a group of meter units can transmit their patterns simultaneously over a power line (L) to the inbound detector. The presence or absence of a bit pattern in the received signal conveys the presence or absence of the associated meter in the system. The ability to transmit multiple bit patterns in parallel requires that they be orthogonal to each other. The Hadamard matrices are a class of matrices whose rows could be used as a set of bit patterns.In addition to super-fast polling for outage detection, the method of the invention can also be used to poll meters for the presence of an alarm condition, as well as for both outage detection and an alarm condition.
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