Smart meters

Just had an email from my supplier (OVO) saying that a meter needs replacing and giving me an option to have a smart meter.
Are there any down-sides?
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They are the precursor the the Smart Grid. Which is about encouraging/discouraging people to use electctricity are certain times by charging more/less. ie, when there is plenty of electricity, it will be cheap. When there is a dearth, it will be expensive.
Opportunity for the well informed to save money. Also they will conrol power exported from domestic PV panels/other renewable stuff.
It's comng whether you like it or not. Everyone will have one.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid
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I have many times asked EDF if they know if the software to look at them from a computer is accessible to the blind user, and they seem not to know. Just another case of being clueless and in the end leaving themselves open to action under the Eequalities act I suspect. Brian
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On Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:57:52 +0000, newshound

Is there an option *not* to have a smart meter?
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On 06/03/2015 13:01, dave wrote:

Yes, apparently; it's free either way, but you have to ask for a Smart meter explicitly. It seems to be one "meter" for both gas and electricity (obviously, it must have separate parts).
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wrote:

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Adam


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On Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:57:52 +0000, newshound

It's not just your Samsung Smart TV that ought to give you cause for concern...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/shopping-and-consumer-news/11399677/Samsung-SmartTV-customers-warned-personal-conversations-may-be-recorded.html
...Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University Computer Laboratories has been banging on about smart meters for years. Read stuff here: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2012/06/does-my-smart-meter-know-when-i-am-on-the-loo/
and here:
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/Papers/meters-offswitch.pdf
and here:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/19/feature_uk_gov_power_meter_plan/
..and anywhere else a google search on Ross Anderson Smart Meter may take you
Nick
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On 06/03/2015 13:16, Nick Odell wrote:

Thanks. Anderson sounds a bit tinfoil hat brigade to me. So how exactly do they communicate? And more to the point, is there some sort of "off-switch" which makes them dumb?
I can see the logic and potential cost saving of automated meter reading. I'm not *that* bothered about having the display, although I suppose it could be useful.
If part of the driver is to set up houses so that "payment defaulters can be switched off at will" then I guess I am a bit more uneasy. Not that I am ever likely to be a payment defaulter, but if that capability does exist one could be a victim of organisational error or, at a pinch, cyber attack.
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On 06/03/2015 13:32, newshound wrote:

You could not be more wrong. He is an excellent computer scientist and his lab has previously demonstrated major cryptographic flaws in PINs, 3D secure and Oyster so what he says needs to be taken seriously.

The ability to read the meter is fairly harmless. But the ability to for example disconnect supply creates a strategic vulnerability.

It is that latter possibility with hostile nation state players doing it that bothers him. He is definitely not tin foil hat brigade...
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Martin Brown
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On 06/03/2015 14:29, Martin Brown wrote:

Indeed, he has done research on quite a number of significant security flaws...
Even Bruce recommends him:
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/07/security_vulner.html
For another take:
http://krebsonsecurity.com/2012/04/fbi-smart-meter-hacks-likely-to-spread/

Do you also want to hand your supplier the ability to "manage demand" by turning you off?
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Cheers,

John.
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On 06/03/2015 14:29, Martin Brown wrote:

I did only say "a bit"!
And I'm very happy to be enlightened.
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On 2015-03-06, newshound wrote:

I don't get that impression at all, but I think it's unfortunate that they mixed the bit about sensitivity to the "electromagnetic field from smart meters" in there among Anderson's stuff.
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On 06/03/2015 13:32, newshound wrote:

Never mind you having the ability - what about if an outsider has it also? Your electricity usage patterns reveal all kinds of information about your lifestyle, including when the house is occupied or not.
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John.
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On 06/03/2015 13:16, Nick Odell wrote:

That article gets off to a poor start in the third paragraph where it says:
"... Energy meters show which appliances use the most electricity so that you can plan energy use effectively. Because of the different ways that appliances use electricity, such data could, for example, reveal whether you use medical devices or baby monitors, or even show the TV programme you're watching. And obviously, it can give information on when you're in or out, or track when you toilet light goes on. So, technically, it might know when you are on the loo."
So smart meters have magical telepathic powers.
Though I think only some of the later sections of that article refer to Anderson's work.

Now that is much more relevant - and scary
In section B. - "Prepayment" we have:
"Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has decided that meter communications will be centralised at a government head-end and then relayed to the utilities. DECC will be able to monitor use, set targets, and even enforce power cuts on a per-household basis."
Given the government's proven incompetence with IT systems that provides the hackers with a great incentive to try to break in to the single centralised point.
In section E. - "Possible application architecture" there's reference to the possibility of complex non linear tariffs such as for example “15p per kWh from 6pm to 9pm weekdays up to a 2kW limit, then 50p per kWh”. We could end up with a charging system as complex as that used for calling 08xx phone numbers with no idea what the cost of running an appliance at any particular time would be. For example I could turn on the washing machine and dishwasher at a time when the meter displays a low tariff but by the time the heater cuts in we could be in a high tariff slot and might have gone over the threshold load for even higher rates.
Taken to extremes the variable tariffs could become dynamic and increase every time the wind drops or the weather goes cloudy.
Until we all end up with lots of smart appliances that can communicate with the meter we'd need to keep running round turning things on and off to match the peaks and troughs in the tariff.
My attitude would be to avoid having a smart meter for as long as I could.
--
Mike Clarke

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On 06/03/2015 16:44, Mike Clarke wrote:

Look on the bright side, they can cut off customers on green tariffs when the wind doesn't blow at the right speed or when its dark.
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remarked:

These sorts of comments are based on an ability to do a waveform analysis (of your total consumption) and pick out the components using fairly basic digital filtering methods.
For example, if you see a 2kW spike that lasts around 90 seconds, you can hypothesise that it's an electric kettle or a toaster. And if it happens during Coronation Street advertising breaks, more likely the latter (and will also correlate fairly well with watching ITV).
Other appliances will have their own characteristic components.
The TV programme thing is also related to being able to filter out a pattern where the power consumption of the TV varies with the brightness of the picture, and seeing if any of the contemporaneously broadcast TV channels has a likely candidate.
What I'm not convinced about, however, is whether the smart meter in your house [one of which was shown on Breakfast TV this morning] can use those sorts of techniques to tell you how much power your deep freeze is using (you'd need quite an impressive user interface - and they just seem to have a few buttons and a small LCD display).
Meanwhile, one of the hiccups with the scheme is apparently that telling people what the cost of their consumption is *now* [I have had a clamp-on meter for that for over five years now] results in them using *more* electricity not less.
For example mine is telling me that my current consumption [the background on a Saturday mid-morning] is ~600W at a cost of £1.77/day.
That's very little incentive to go round switching off lights just to save the odd 20p.
Although when the next bill comes in, at typically £250/*quarter* then it's possible I'll think about how I might get that down by £50.
--
Roland Perry

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On 07/03/2015 11:32, Roland Perry wrote:

Yes but this would require continuous real time analysis, probably too complex for a design that just sends power usage for each 30 minute period.

These variations will be very small compared to total usage by everything else in the house. I doubt if smart meters will have that sort of computing power. And likely to be unable to sort out what's happening if 2 TV's are in use in the house at the same time with people watching different channels.
And as to the claim "track when you toilet light goes on" - it's going to be a very smart meter to know the difference between the light in the toilet and any other light in the house.

That would probably depend the use of smart devices capable of talking to the meter.

Exactly. instantaneous values are pretty well useless for overall cost calculation purposes.
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Mike Clarke

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remarked:

The analysis can be later.

Yes, it requires the power usage to be transmitted much more often than that.

Every radio receiver is picking up programmes which are very small compared to the total RF arriving on their aerial.

Me too. This is something which I think has to be done centrally.

That's no different to a radio being able to tune into either of two weak transmissions.

There's probably some journalist licence there. It could of course be just as likely as the light in the cupboard under the stairs, assuming you visit that briefly several times a day.

Hmm, they appear to be promising this data without me having to upgrade my appliances.

They are quite useful (eg my quarterly bill is fairly consistently about twice the displayed cost of my base load), it's just that telling someone how much it's costing for *today's* consumption gives such a low figure they are likely to think "so what".
--
Roland Perry

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Or a finer granularity measurement to be transmitted less frequently, of course. ie sending historical data not just the "power consumption now".
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Roland Perry

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That wouldn't have the same usage pattern, particularly wouldn't be seen last thing or first thing in the morning, or during the night.

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