"We'd really like to be able to get the read without having to go inside"
Having to enter each house added a lot of time.
So meter manufacturers developed a mechanical remote display which got mounted outside the house.
Using wire, it connected to the meter's register and worked by receiving electrical pulses.
The meter's register was programmed to send a micro electrical pulse to the remote display based on a specific volume. For example, for every thousand gallons run through the meter the register would send a pulse and the dials would increment.
These stayed in use for a while - and still are used today in places.
But ultimately, they were highly unreliable. They frequently froze, malfunctioned and/or otherwise didn't work. The dials would even move if a baseball hit the display. Most major manufacturers stopped making them.
The meter reader writes down the read or enters it into a handheld device.