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December 31, 2012

The Power Companies and Smart Grids



For some reason the power companies in this country are seen as an entity with some nefarious agenda by more people than they are willing to admit. This was the case long before the implementation of smart grids and when that technology was added to the mix, the flame got a little hotter. Privacy is a very important component and any violation of this privacy is going to face the wrath of any technology that violates it.

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One of the biggest benefits of smart meters is you will only be billed for what you use and not an approximation between meter readings. In the past meter readings were made very rarely, maybe once a year. This generally resulted bills being higher than the actual usage by the customer.

The new smart grid technology provides options to connect your smart meter to home display units or your smartphone so you can see what you are using at all times. With this information you can control your consumption and find out your exact bill each and every month. This information can be used to implement plans and obtain services from energy suppliers to make your energy use more efficient and cost effective.

The issue with smart grids is who controls the data that is being generated by your home. Generally the operators get access to the personal and non-personal data, and this is where issues of privacy start creeping in. The non-personal data is the voltage control, power quality and any other maintenance issues related to the power. The personal data not only includes your personal information for billing services, but also how you use power in your home. The information about your power consumption can be used to generate consumer profiles about you and sold to businesses.

The biggest concern with this system is once it is in place your options are very limited. The meters are extremely secure equal to that of Internet banking profiles. So creating a protection profile from the meter will require some expertise and tampering with the system will probably bring the men from the power company to your home. The issue of the security level for these devices is being addressed in some European countries like Germany and the Netherlands. The question is why is so much security needed for a meter? That question is of course going to inspire more nefarious thought, whether it is justified or not.

The fact that smart meters are being subsidized by the government doesn’t help matters either. George Orwell probably had a lot to do with instilling this subconscious paranoia about big brother in our psyche, but smart grids are only designed to improve power consumption and nothing else. We give more information on our Facebook (News - Alert) page than a smart meter will ever be able to collect. The fact is privacy is a precious commodity that is becoming scarcer as newer technology becomes available and one of the only ways to avoid it is if you live off the grid.

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