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Smart Meters: Beware

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You've probably seen the (largely positive) press about the arrival of smart metering for gas and electricity users, and the fact consumers will be able to monitor their usage and 'stay in control'.

 

There is a downside that has not been publicised, but with the news that Vodafone is providing GRPS connectivity to meters to allow the data to be read and collated by the utility company, some worrying issues are coming to light.

 

People assume that their meter is the responsibility of their supplier, the answer is 'maybe'. With the arrival of the ending of the monopoly of supplying gas/electricity, very little actually changed. Meters belong to the supply companies, not the branded entity you see named on your bill. True, some are generators too, but probably not in your area. This means metering isn't the responsibility of the company YOU pay, but their wholesale supplier.

 

Now, the smart part isn't simply to allow consumers to know what is being charged, but to provide the supply companies with a great deal more flexibility in both tariffs and control over the use of their supply. A smart meter is a two-way communications device, and as well as the ability in telling the supplier how much has been consumed, the meter can also be told to change pricing or in a worse-case scenario, remotely shut off consumption.

 

No need to hide behind the curtains trying to avoid that knock on the door, you can find your sockets live one minute, and dead the next. Of greater concern is that there are far too many links in the chain between you paying one company, and another not being told you have and your service being removed. Add to this, if the wireless network goes down whilst your service is turned off, it isn't going to be put back on until GPRS data services are restored.

 

Then there's the possibility of hackers being able to target users and for sheer devilment disconnect them, One commentator has commented that there is little point fightring in Afghanistan is all a terrorist needs to do is durn off our supplies remotely in the dead of winter. What a coup!

 

Having initially been interested in having a SM, I've really gone off the idea, and will now do all I can to prevent and early changeover. As the rules stand everyone has to have their system updated every 10 years (unless there is a electro-mech meter where 20 years is allowed). Having had the foresight to insist on this, I'm safe for now - but expect complaints in 2026 when I'm forced to give in....

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The meter belongs to the distributor. The 'branded entity' are the suppliers.

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They are both suppliers to the consumer - simply that the distributor supplies the supplier. Nevertheless, nothing changes the fact that the consumer is being conned into accepting these meters as a 'great idea'.

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You've probably seen the (largely positive) press about the arrival of smart metering for gas and electricity users, and the fact consumers will be able to monitor their usage and 'stay in control'.

 

There is a downside that has not been publicised, but with the news that Vodafone is providing GRPS connectivity to meters to allow the data to be read and collated by the utility company, some worrying issues are coming to light.

 

People assume that their meter is the responsibility of their supplier, the answer is 'maybe'. With the arrival of the ending of the monopoly of supplying gas/electricity, very little actually changed. Meters belong to the supply companies, not the branded entity you see named on your bill. True, some are generators too, but probably not in your area. This means metering isn't the responsibility of the company YOU pay, but their wholesale supplier.

 

Now, the smart part isn't simply to allow consumers to know what is being charged, but to provide the supply companies with a great deal more flexibility in both tariffs and control over the use of their supply. A smart meter is a two-way communications device, and as well as the ability in telling the supplier how much has been consumed, the meter can also be told to change pricing or in a worse-case scenario, remotely shut off consumption.

 

No need to hide behind the curtains trying to avoid that knock on the door, you can find your sockets live one minute, and dead the next. Of greater concern is that there are far too many links in the chain between you paying one company, and another not being told you have and your service being removed. Add to this, if the wireless network goes down whilst your service is turned off, it isn't going to be put back on until GPRS data services are restored.

 

Then there's the possibility of hackers being able to target users and for sheer devilment disconnect them, One commentator has commented that there is little point fightring in Afghanistan is all a terrorist needs to do is durn off our supplies remotely in the dead of winter. What a coup!

 

Having initially been interested in having a SM, I've really gone off the idea, and will now do all I can to prevent and early changeover. As the rules stand everyone has to have their system updated every 10 years (unless there is a electro-mech meter where 20 years is allowed). Having had the foresight to insist on this, I'm safe for now - but expect complaints in 2026 when I'm forced to give in....

 

I too was planning on going to a provider with a smart meter, but the key thing that has now put me off is this back channel the supplier has to the meter.

 

Whilst the threat does exist from external interference from third parties (and GSM/GPRS is hardly secure to anyone with desktop PC and a few hundred pounds of radio equipment). I'd be more concerned at the activities of your own energy supplier.

 

Having endured five years of utter incompetence from EDF Energy the thought of them being able to impose a higher rate tariff on people they deem to be late payers, or perhaps people who don't pay by direct debit fills me with dread. Especially where the suppliers consider themselves judge, jury and executioner in such situations.

 

The misery that has been personally caused to me by the use of pre-payment meters at a property I used to own has highlighted that energy suppliers are not to be trusted and that regulators are slow and toothless beasts unable to assist where help is needed most.

 

Regards,

Jason.

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They are both suppliers to the consumer - simply that the distributor supplies the supplier. Nevertheless, nothing changes the fact that the consumer is being conned into accepting these meters as a 'great idea'.

 

I have mixed thoughts about having smart meters in the home to be honest. I know my company did save quite a bit of money using one of IMServ energy solutions in conjunction with smart metering. I believe according to this IMServ; Acknowledged Industry Experts In Metering that IMServ own the smart meters? Though I am not entirely sure...


Technology does not drive change -- it enables change

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The Regional Supply Companmies seem to choose their own SM provider(s), in my case, the RSC is Scottish Power, and they don't use Invensys (but this could have changed since I first looked into it).

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Buzby please feel free to PM me if you ever feel like giving out tips on the horses ;)

 

Proof of concept and field trial of smart meter hacking :shock:

 

http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/25920/page1/

 

The hurried deployment of smart-grid technology could leave critical infrastructure and private homes vulnerable to hackers. Security experts at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week warned that smart-grid hardware and software lacks the necessary safeguards to protect against meddling.

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Meters are supplied by the meter operator, i.e. metering Services and not the distribution company. The distribution company's responsibility ends prior toi the metering. If GPRS failed, it is not a big issue for a Meter operator to over ride the system. Not every household can have a SM as in some cases, like ours, there is either a very poor signal or no signal. Unlikely our area will be jacked up for coverage in the near or even distant future. We have a SM but with no comms. Anyway it is a piece of cake to jam a GPRS signal to a meter withour affecting your usage.

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Who emplys the meter operator. Why, they're under contract to the operating companies! Let's not be blinded by irrelevancies. You think you can't have a smart meter because of GPRS? That's just one of several competing technologies, including RF carrier over power lines, ISM band to area hubs and for all I know, clairvoyance.

 

since all are two way connectivity, hacking is just one of many concurs, but the real one that WILL Affect every user? The possibility of remote disconnection.

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The meter operator is normally a private company and in some cases is nto associated with the distribution company at all. For example Metering services is an independent subsidiary of EON but can operate in any distribution area. As I said we have no GPRS coverage but have a Smart meter. I don't think hacking is a problem as you cannot hack the meter but you could hack their servers. Remote disconnection can only take place on a court order when all other avenues have been explored for payment.

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Remote disconnection with a court order? This is invariably an automatic process, done 'on the nod'. The didderence is the ending of the cat and mouse between the consumer, the supplier and any other irrelevant intermediary. Are you seriously suggesting that with a smart meter consumers will not be without power significantly earlier than they would be under the non-SM regime? I would guestimate that consumers can look forward to power interruptions within 45 days of an unpaid bill to encourage payment, followed by power only when it is dark, then no power at all.

 

Clever, eh?!

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I understand your points and you may be very clued up on a lot of other things as per manmy helpful posts, but sadly not so much with the electric industry. I spent many years working for a supplier and like to think that I know most of the ins and outs of supply. A supplier cannot shut off a domestic supply just because the bill is late. Even their industry regs advise against this cause of action as it leads to bad publicity for the industry.

Generally disconnections only happen with business accounts. If a supplier started switching off power to a domestic residence without a court order they leave themselves wide open to compensation claims, i.e. all food in freeezer defrosted, compuer crashes losing valuable work in progress, medical reasons etc etc. It is preferable that they change the metering to pre-payment SMART meter rather than disconnection.

SMART Metering is the way forward whether we like it or not. In effect SMART meering should lower the costs as there would be no need for a meter reader to come round to read the meters. (This part I doubt myself) However bills would be more accurate and no more estimates and no more having to phone in a reading or log on to submit a reading. When a place is vacated, this is picked up a lot quicker as software will recognise that consumption has dropped considerably and the same applies if a property is vacant for sometime and then occupied. If someone moves into a property and only notifies the supplier several months later, the supplier can virtually pinpoint the reading on the day that the new tenant moved in. Contrary to popular belief, the meter is only accessed about once a month for readings and it only takes a few minutes to downlaod all the data. People will then be able to see the periods where consumption as been above average.

No more guessing at estimates and using historic data (meter reads & consumption) there fore people will not get hit with bills totalling thousands of pounds. Generally at trhe moment at lot of SMART meters are installed by an independent company of behalf of a supplier and they cannot keep up with the demand as they are also installing SMART meters on business premises.

IMHO you are better of with a SMART meter. More pros than cons. I think Nottslad who is still working in the industry will agree with the gist of this post.

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I wish my comments were conjecture, but regarding disconnections, I'm taking from actual experience, not a supposition of what might/could happen. Granted it was a good few years ago, and the errors were wholly of the supplier, but I can assure you there was indeed an interruption to service and the meter 'sealed' to prevent use, all without me having a 'day in court' to defend the situation. And no, I was not a business, but a standard domestic consumer who, as far as the supply company was concerned, had not paid a bill that was 90 days 'overdue'.

 

On seeking clarification as to how the Warrant of Entry was issued, I discovered my case was one of 80 that day, and the Sheriff simply signed the list in authorisation. With smart metering, as you saying that the curtailment of services I outlined will never happen. Or would you agree that it remains a possibility and within the capabilities of the Smart Meter technology? If it is, it WILL be used in this way.

 

I also disagree with your final sentence. I dislike DDMs because I'm no longer in control. With SM's the same is true, and my services can be distrupted by accident or design without reference to me or my explicit wishes. As for those in the industry agreeing with you, well, they WOULD say that, wouldn't they?

 

My point is what is good for the industry is NOT automatically good for the consumer. So-called 'controls' that are touted as protection turn out to be watered down or circumvented, leaving the consumer exposed and vulnerable. I had the good sense to insist on a 20 year meter back in 2004 after two swap outs in 20 years, which caused inconvenience each time for access and the rest. As I'm not due for a meter swap until 2024, IF I'm still around then, I'll see what I can to delay the process, but until then I'm just not interested.

 

Neither do I suffer from incorrect estimated bills, as I read my meters monthly and pass on readings if required. As it happens, the meter-reading contractor is rarely 2 days away from a target reading date, so this is not a concern. Similarly, I have an energy monitor that records my usage and warns of increased usage - so as I have all the benefits of an SM I've no interest in duplication, and for this reason will do all that is required to be the last one to change over.

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