30 thoughts on “Smart meters”

  1. Before you all get worked up too much over this. The man in this video is totally wrong with what a smart meter can do.

    First, my bonafides…

    Im an electrical engineer specializing in control, automation and telemetry with over 20 years experience.

    What a smart meter can do (and all it really can do) is determing the electrical usage of your house on a minute by minute basis, and relay that data back to the electric company. It cannot make a determination that you are running any specific piece of equipment. It cant tell what room you enter, or even if you enter a room at all.

    It does transmit wirelessly over whats called a mesh web, which is basically each meter sending its data out, and the next meter in line receiving it, and forwarding it on along with its own data. This data is only slighlty different than the plain kilowatthour reading that is collected by a normal meter. The only difference is that rather than saying you used XXX KwH over the course of a month, they can determine usage patterns based on minute by minute samples.

    So why do this? You have to understand power generation to see the benefits. The majority of US power generation is with coal-fired steam turbine generators. These turbines are machined to incredible tolerances in order to maximize efficiency. As such, they cant change load states very quickly. If you load them or unload them too quickly, differneces in thermal expanision of the parts can cause catastrophic failure. Usually, 12 hours is required to load or unload a turbine like this.

    To make up the difference when loads change, smaller, less-efficient gas turbines are used. These can change load stated far more quickly (15 min or so) but they cost a lot more to operate, due to the lower efficiency.

    The smart meters allow power companies to determine usage patterens of service areas to better utilize the more efficient steam turbine generators.

    The guy in the video is a crackpot, and he is blowing a lot of hot air trying to frighten you about something that is no more an ivasion of privacy than a car driving down the road in front of your house. I am supprised he isnt wearing a tin-foil hat.

    Tim

    • Yeah, but just cause it was meant for a good use doesn’t mean it can’t be used for evil. Guns are great for hunting. They are also great for murdering people.

      • I don’t dispute that, I’m just saying that the types of data that this guy claims a meter can gather (and the subsequent use of this data) is wrong in the extreme.

        Tim

        • I agree in a sense that there are bits and pieces in his conspiracy theory that is inaccurate. Sure, it won’t be able to tell what you’re turning on and off. But his overall point still remains. You can tell if someone is home or not, you can tell what they are generally doing, you can pretty much develop a pattern for someone. You’re ignoring the overall message based on a couple technicalities.

          • negative sir. I am ignoring the overall message because it is bat-shit crazy.

            The meter cannot tell if someone is home. It cannot ‘spy’ on you. It cannot determine if you are cheating on your wife, or your taxes. To think that anyone can get any meaningful private info from your electricity consumption pattern is absurd. You might as well say your microwave will inform Michelle Obama that you are eating to many trans fats.

            The smart meter can only tell how much electricity is used at what time. It can’t even tell what you are using the electricity for.

            Tim

      • Guns Don’t kill people, People kill people! you may as well say that knives are great for slicing bread, but they are great at stabbing too???
        point is, the utility company knows about you more than you think they should…. the pot grower will be busted regardless (after 2 billing cycles, the utility will know that there is something amiss).

        FYI, the Credit Card Company monitors your every purchase, they actually know if you bought an electric mixer (or Vibrator)…

    • Well … no question some (if not most) of the goals are reaching on more efficiency.

      But what I’ve learned from discussions over in Europe is that two points of this system are not enough – let’s say – trustworthy at this time without a little more care.

      The system is designed “open” to the outside (must be lightweight) – so one more time the question is about safety! And security is expensive, so no dubt, there will be holes, there will be attempts to breach or jam. Encrypted communication – I don’t think so.

      I understand that the system is really not able to identify every single peace of equipment right now – but some gadgetry is nearly unique with it’s use of kWh and therefore to be identified (and don’t forget – real systems these days learn minute by minute what they really log, so a database will be build and brought on the way to perfection).

      Today they only get a very small piece of a puzzle – but it is about to become more and more pieces … and to be honest an often learned lesson is: “Presence of data arouses covetousness!”.

      I’ve got really no problem with useful innovation (and I like modern technology not to say admire and play with) – but totally ignoring the simplest ability of producing anonymity (as done here in the first place IIRC) is like a stumbling block on me.

  2. Not only are the utilities pushing these things, our utilities here and around the US are trying to trick customers into accepting a new programmable thermostat for free ($250 “value”…plus FREE installation!) with which the provider can then control the heat and A/C in the customer’s home whenever they want to…backing the heat down in winter or turning the A/C up or even off in summer. Sadly, the only people who seem to be falling for this scheme (some of the names are Cool Customer; Comfort Choice, etc.) are the elderly, and people in the more impoverished neighborhoods, who the utility feels it can easily hoodwink. As usual, the “watermelons” are pushing it, but not many of them are going ahead and accepting it into their personal homes.

  3. Not only is Cowracer right about what the meter can and can’t do, he didn’t even get into the money they save you. Power companies have different rates at different times of day. If you use your cloths dryer at night, the smart meter will know that you are using more power at night and you will be charged the night rate. Which is a lower rate. After I got mine, my electric bill went down about $30 a month. Right Cowracer?

  4. ACKKKKKKKKK, Get off the Internet NOW…….

    Google, your Government, Microsoft, your TelCom(s), your neighbours, your employers, your friends, your drug dealers, your doctor, your insurance company(s), your bankers all know about you…..

    And you are concerned about your power company????????

    PS. Jonco has more info about you than your power company…..

    • Speaking of that…. Grumpy, stop wearing that lime green shirt… it’s not your color… besides it’s got a big hole in it under the armpit.

  5. I’m probably, once again, missing the big picture here. WHY are they installing smart meters? They’re putting them in an average home, on an average street, that perhaps have an average grow op, Or perhaps an average meth lab???

    Why don’t they invest the money on catching an international drug thief, cartel leader or pimp. Nope, it’s you and me that they’re targeting coz they can get more money from us.

  6. My 2 cents (she said while adjusting her tin foil hat): It would be hard for someone to convince me that something that’s being pushed this hard from a profitable corporation would save the customer money in the long run. If the only money they save is by not hiring people to walk around reading meters (paying their wages and benefits) it doesn’t speak highly of the company in these times. (Firesmith would rip his meter out if he were told only young shapely redheads would be wandering in his yard looking for the meter). Personally, I don’t believe I use vastly more power than I did 10 or 20 years ago – but my bill is ten times higher – (oddly enough somewhat due to the charge for the public energy council which is supposed to negotiate rates to keep the bill lower.)

    • The utility company is pushing this as a way to save you money, which it is, but it also saves them money, and lots of it. Our current grid is essentially a sponge that must be kept saturated at all times, just In case someone needs electricity. In order to keep the grid saturated, you have to have constant generation. That’s not cheap. A smart meter allows the utiluty to track usage and produce to actual demand.

      • Save us money??! I have to LOL at that one. Do you really believe that your bill will come down? Maybe it will be delivered to you by the Easter bunny riding a talking unicorn too? A couple of years ago, when our local governmental water authority here spent a LOT of it’s (= OUR) money on ads directing it’s customers to conserve water by installing low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads, low-flow faucets, less lawn watering and car washing, etc etc, and businesses and homeowners complied and conserved, they suddenly realized that they were pushing a whole lot less water through their pipes (DUH!), meaning they were selling fewer gallons. Suddenly they whined and cried that they didn’t have enough revenue because of unforeseen “reduced demand” and raced to the state capitol to demand approval of huge rate increases. So after spending mucho dinero on refitting our kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and businesses with all the latest in water conservation technology, our bills have nearly doubled, and if we continue to conserve and use less, we will likely spend more and more of our budget for water, even though we sit on the shores of one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world.

  7. The world is full of fruitloops…. and many corporates holding more information on us us than we care to feel comfortable about. The trick is knowing about both. Oh and be careful about buying too many electric vibrators, big brother may well be watching

  8. I still don’t want one and I will refuse when they show up here. They should be spending the money to improve the grid, at least in our province, and not the millions on this contraption. I’m an empty nester now and I’ll be damned if I have to do my laundry at night to save dollars. I call bullshit on the smart meter.

    • One thing that wasn’t explained is that there are smart appliances being developed that will turn on when they receive a signal from the smart meter. This allows washing machines, both clothes and dish to come on in the middle of the night…

  9. There was an interesting discussion of the security vulnerabilities of smart meters at the Bruce Schneier site:
    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/07/security_vulner.html#c451024

    Yes, all the smart-meter can do is determine the electrical usage of your house at intervals. It relays that data back to the electric company, and also to anyone else who cares to notice. It cannot make a determination that you are running any specific piece of equipment, but the power usage/time profile of a microwave oven on half-power unlike anything else you have in your house, and therefore one can surmise that an occupant of the house was in the kitchen at the time the microwave started.

    There are really good reasons to go with smart meters, demand-based pricing, and load shedding. We will have more reliable power and less emissions as a result. There is no conspiracy to install these in order to spy, but we as a society should not be naive about the security and privacy tradeoffs.

    It doesn’t take much imagination for a researcher who has read about traffic analysis and data-mining to come up with ideas to learn about your habits and routine based upon the minute-by-minute sum of the electricity used in your house.

    • Thank You Douglas2, you explained it way better than I could. I think the thing that bothers me the most is the rate fluctuation. The power companies do not want the normal citizen to use power during the day so they can charge businesses more for their consumption. Fair enough, but that cost does get passed down to us eventually. Then we are inconvenienced by having to do our household chores in the off hours to conserve energy and cost or pay premium price. I hope I said that right, too. My old meter works just fine and they will have a hell of a fight on their hands if they want to come on my property to change it. That’s all I’m saying.

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