Meters can either be read manually (a visual read) or can transmit data electronically to a central data collector (Automatic Meter Read, AMR.) A third option is a touchpad hard-wired to your meter if the meter is in an inaccessible area.
Regardless of the collection method, your billing vendor will retrieve data from the meter reader or the central data collector to create and issue utility bills. Your billing provider should handle the meter reads, leaving you with one less thing to worry about. The raw billing data is kept in the event there are questions about the bill.