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back to article Smart metering will disrupt weather forecasts, warns Met Office

The Met Office has warned that Ofcom's planned deregulation of radio spectrum for Home Area Networking kit risks disrupting radar-based weather forecasts. The airwave regulator's recent public consultation into opening up new spectrum garnered overwhelming industry support for releasing the proposed bandwidths into the public …

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Rationing, rebranded.

I wonder how popular that'll be once people realise what their 'smart' meters are up to.

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Go

"No thank you, I've probably already switched supplier several hundred times today."

There is a slim chance this will work out all right; I am reminded of Cameron's (possibly batty) proposals to force utility companies to switch people to tariffs which would save [the consumers] money.

If we're lucky enough that the media remember that when smart meters become big news then someone might actually start asking: Why not build this functionality into the actual meter?

Every so often*, it would poll a list of the various prices (probably compiled by Ofgem and cascaded to the kit that's actually in contact with the meters) and switch to the best.

* i.e., once per minute or so; if stocks can be bought and resold in microseconds, meters can switch tariff by the minute.

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Re: "No thank you, I've probably already switched supplier several hundred times today."

Speaking as a software developer. I would love to develop the back end that serviced that.

It would be epic.

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Re: Rationing, rebranded.

"I wonder how popular that'll be once people realise what their 'smart' meters are up to."

Sounds like the beginning of a Doctor Who plotline...

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Boffin

Re: "No thank you, I've probably already switched supplier several hundred times today."

"Epic", according to my 9yr-old, is exactly 1.6x better than "awesome".

FYI.

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Headmaster

Re: Rationing, rebranded.

Can someone please explain to me how consumers are going to save £6bn when the suppliers are only going to save £700m ?

My assumption would be that if every consumer dropped their usage by 10% then bills would then have to go up by approx 10% to compensate...

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MJA

Re: "No thank you, I've probably already switched supplier several hundred times today."

Sounds great. Until your next door neighbour works out how to connect their meter to yours. It'll be like the old days, except you won't need to trail a cable over the garden fence to steal the neighbour's utilities ;).

Admittedly sounds great though. It shouldn't be down to the consumer to have to keep making sure they aren't paying over the odds for the same service. Maybe they should just have two rates. One 'pay as you go' and another 'pay as you guess'. Until that time, considering supermarkets can tell you there and then if a rival is charging less or more, surely it should be possible for your rates to be updated live. Even an update once per week would be better than having to go through a ton of comparisons, paper work and begging phone calls.

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Re: "No thank you, I've probably already switched supplier several hundred times today."

yerrs. disintermediation. Contract on a energy stock market to buy from whichever powerstation is offering the keenest prices.

And watch them 'cartel up' to avoid being any different..

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Re: Rationing, rebranded.

It's dead simple they are going to help you save on your electricity by turning it off for you at times of peak demand. What they are not saying is who is on the "never turn off" list or how the electricty firms will brand plans with subscriptions that include a price to keep your lights on while your neighbours have theirs turned off. Wait a few years and see legislation that turns off electricity at peak times for those on benefits or are deemed to be anti-social. Yeah you can benifit from lower prices if you arn't going to pay the price for having an always on supply, i'd buy shares in a candle company.

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Big Brother

@S4qFBxkFFg - Re: "No thank you ...... etc etc"

S4qFBxkFFg wrote :- "I am reminded of proposals to force utility companies to switch people to tariffs which would save [the consumers] money "

No thanks, I've had it with people trying to save me money. Trouble is, they always assume that you are Mr Dipshit Average, and I am not.

I once read comparison of bank accounts; they had run trial accounts for several months. I already had an account which I had worked out was best for me by far, but according to the comparison report it was the WORST. WTF ???

Turned out the reviewers had operated all the trial accounts in a "typical" way. My particular account penalised you if you let the balance drop below £50 (AFAIR), and their "typical" usage did that. But I gamed the system, and never let that happen.

Like I have an off peak meter now. I game that too, doing all the heavy lifting like washing at stange times of the day to take advantage of it, but I expect a smart meter would say "You can't do that Dave, it is outside our assumptions".

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Pint

@haloburn - Re: Rationing, rebranded.

Wrote :- "Wait a few years and see legislation that turns off electricity at peak times for those on benefits or are deemed to be anti-social"

No, that would take the ASBOs away from their XBoxes and out into the street or the pub. It will be kept on for them.

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Childcatcher

Re: Rationing, rebranded.

Now I am half way through cooking the Christmas turkey and oops the power is off. Sorry guys dinner will be late. Just not going to wash is it. Sorry that was not a pun but the washer is off as well. And if you were hoping to hang out the washing whilst the sun shines, too late again the power is off and the washing is not done. And the Met office could not tell us rain was coming so we have to use the tumble drier. Bloody hell am I ever going to get out of this loop!

As the song goes "it all makes work for the working man to do".

Anyway I thought that the Met Office is still part of MOD. All they have to do is tell MOD they are still using the spectrum. Simples!

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Flame

I can't see this being a target for hackers of what ever colour or political/criminal leanings. Nope, nothing to see (in the dark). Move along.

Flames cause everyone still has an open fire, right?

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Anonymous Coward

yep... security is the key point.

How long until someone provides a method to successfully modify the power usage of a bunch of stuff, region or even country wide? It'll probably happen shortly after adoption has become widespread.

I can see it now... suddenly someone posts a proof of concept where power demand can be ramped down slowly over a couple of hour period, and then suddenly everything switches on. That kind of sudden demand could easily be enough to fry the grid.

Then there's the rush to replace every device already deployed with the technology, before "terrorists" could take advantage of the exploit. Following on from that there's a repeated update cycle as new exploits are found. And of course the tech is so well integrated into washing machines etc that you can't just replace the chip. no. no. no. you need a whole new machine. More revenue to manufacturers.

The savings quoted are bull**** once the security bods get their hands on this stuff they'll build themselves a nice annual revenue stream worth Billions.

I don't have a problem with the tech, I just get pissed at people quoting savings when they should be quoting costs.

/tinfoilhat rant

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Headmaster

Re: yep... security is the key point.

>>I just get pissed at people quoting savings when they should be quoting costs.

No you don't, you get "pissed off". To get pissed means to get drunk.

Please don't pollute these forums with yoof speak.

/Pedant rant

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yep... security is the key point.

@Phil E Succour - Languages change over time, it's what makes English in particular a very powerful means for communication. These forums are informal and you're therefore likely to get slang used. Deal with it, move on, other things are more impotant. Innit?

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Re: yep... security is the key point.

"Deal with it, move on, other things are more impotant. Innit?"

I should of known their'd be some under30 commentard around who doesn't understand English let alone eats shoots and leaves.

In particular in a tech environment, language syntax and grammar and semantics still MATTER. Awright?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yep... security is the key point.

Actually, I'm 40, I understand English perfectly well, I do find some elements of the modern use of the language irritating, but that's my problem. English is not a programming language and it's not fixed in stone. Just go to France to have a look at what happens when you try to preserve your language in Aspic.

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Re: yep... security is the key point.

In the USA "pissed" and "pissed off" means "angry".

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Trollface

AC @11:59 - Re: yep... security is the key point.

AC wrote "Languages change over time, it's what makes English in particular a very powerful means for communication."

So did "pissed" just change from meaning "drunk" to meaning "angry" ? OK, but I'll just change it back again - there, done it ! Wonderful, this changeable language!

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Re: yep... security is the key point.

@AC, 16 April, 14:53

If you're going to pick people up on their use of English you should probably pay closer attention to your own.

It's "should have" not "should of". And "their'd" is just laughably poor.

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Windows

Hmm,

A faraday cage consisting of tinfoil is about to be fitted into my little cupboard where my PREPAY mater goes.

They can bollocks if they think they are controlling my use of the invisible juice. I pay for it up front and i pay a lot. My monthly leccy bill is about £120....Slightly less in summer...

I will employ *every* dirty (but legal) trick in the book to thwart the meters attempts to dictate when i can have power...

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Happy

@Cornz 1Re: Hmm,

I'm with you on this.

But since the frequencies are likely to be co-share (they are in other countries) a small transmitter on the control channel should suffice.

It's not the energy efficiency that concerns me but rather that Plod and company can make use of this information from knowing when you arise to when you turn in and, even, when you go for a tinkle in the middle of the night. Very useful for some investigations or planning the optimum time to make an arrest.

In the US consumers can decline the fitting of these meters.

I can, and do, look after my fuel economy - even had the supply company come around and change the meter on a couple of occasions as they thought I was diddling the meter.

One thing you can rest assured of is these are being installed for the benefit of the supply utilities and NOT the consumer.

Here in VietNam, EVN (Electricity VietNam) encourages solar water heating and electricity generation. They even hand out information to assist people convert.

My home, offices and two small hotels are all wired for 240V as well as 12V DC - and most all light fittings use PWM controls.

If Toronto, Canada, can usefully employ solar collectors - why not the UK?

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Re: Hmm,

If you want to pay less, get your meter moved over to a post-paid meter, the energy suppliers are not able to refuse that request and your bills will go down. This is even if you are paying off a debt to the companies.

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Big Brother

Re: @Cornz 1Hmm,

rather that Plod and company can make use of this information from knowing when you arise to when you turn in and, even, when you go for a tinkle in the middle of the night. Very useful for some investigations or planning the optimum time to make an arrest.

I really can't see how the police would be interested in knowing when and how often you go to the toilet - I think you might getting a bit paranoid there :)

But as for the rest I think you're getting carried away there as well. The police already know a good time to arrest you. If they think you might be violent then they'll break into your home in the early hours of the morning. Alternatively sometime between 9am and 5pm at your place of work. They don't need the hassle and complexity of analysing your utility usage to work that out. People are by and large boring creatures of habit. That's you, me and everyone else. Few of us do anything unusual or act randomly enough to warrant in-depth surveillance.

My only concern with this is the possibility of them turning off my equipment when it suits them but then we have a helluva long way to go before they can do that. The only way they can currently turn my stuff off is to disconnect the entire house from the mains. Until/unless every device has its own smart controller the plan is impossible.

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Re: @Jaitch

"One thing you can rest assured of is these are being installed for the benefit of the supply utilities and NOT the consumer"

What he said

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Happy

Re: Hmm,

" I pay for it up front and i pay a lot. "

You do indeed.

IIRC the price per unit of electricity for UK prepay meters is (roughly) 2x that for billed meters.

Of course it does mean you've got some light, TV and internet if you've just raided the local supermarket for cider.

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Meh

Re: @Jaitch

Yeah it'll be for their benefit for the most part. But in theory at least (hah hah) what's of benefit to the utility company is of benefit to us through reduced (or at least not rising as fast) pricing. Utility companies do only exist to supply us with something so there's a limit as to how far they will go to reduce our consumption.

For the same reason you don't usually rely on drug pushers to control their customer's consumption :)

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Re: Hmm,

I bet you have unmetered water and leave your taps running all day too - just to show 'em.

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Re: @Jaitch@AndrueC

"Yeah it'll be for their benefit for the most part"

Utter, utter rubbish. Smart meters were mandated by the European Union, on the misguided basis that they will lower energy demand. The UK government has, as usual bent over and taken it, and we are mandated to replace all energy meters with smartmeters by 2019. As electricity suppliers we are largely indifferent because the complexity and cost are not really matched by higher returns, on the other hand we're required to do it by law, and will be fined draconian amounts if we don't comply. Installing these will raise bills simply because there's hardware to buy and install. Estimates vary, but we're talking about £200 to £400 to replace an existing meter with a smartmeter, all of which goes on your bill in the end.

Because the smartmeters aren't that smart (and indeed the mass roll out specification isn't even finalised), the only benefits they bring are that (in theory) meter readfings are always prompt and accurate, that you cut out mass meter reading (saves perhaps £5 a year per meter), and the biggy is this idea that if you have a display somewhere visible you'll cut your consumption. That last one is true for a handful of people, but for most of us smartmeter displays are no different to the energy monitors doled out in their millions by the energy companies. And those energy monitors achieved little, often going in the same draw as the sandwich toaster after a couple of weeks. Most of us find the bills we get sufficient incentive not to waste power, but the EU, clever people that they are, know differently. At the moment I don't think there's any prospect of UK standard spec smartmeters limiting demand (other than cut off for for non-payment, but even that's heavily regulatedf and would still take weeks). The information flows will be centrally warehoused by a new government mandated body, but the energy companies won;t have access to the data from their own customers (typical 5hitheaded governemnt botch), so users still have the privacy risks downside, the energy companies don't have the chance to full understand customer needs and usage. Not sure where smartmeters stand on multiple charging bands, but I can't see punters wanting to see even more complexity from five charging zones per day or similar.

So there are two groups of people happy with the smartmeter roll out. Collectively the EU, UK government, DECC and all their tree hugger mates, and the suppliers of smartmeters.

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Re: @Cornz 1Hmm,

>>"People are by and large boring creatures of habit. That's you, me and everyone else. Few of us do anything unusual or act randomly enough to warrant in-depth surveillance."

True enough, though there are some people who like to believe that they are interesting/subversive enough for someone in power to actually consider them to be a threat.

However, as far as I can tell, such people seem to expect that much existing technology is already being used to spy on people, while simultaneously being likely to use bank cards, drive cars with number plates on and use mobile phones like everyone else does.

With the possible exception of people who use use mains-powered sex toys*, I'm not entirely sure what someone might have to fear from something recording the on/off times of their household appliances, compared to someone knowing where they've been, what they've bought, and who they have communicated with.

(*which also accurately self-identify, rather than pretending to be massage chairs or electric toothbrushes)

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Re: Hmm,

strange my prepaid is cheaper than postpaid as you call it ..run the numbers ..

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Windows

Re: Hmm,

You do indeed.

IIRC the price per unit of electricity for UK prepay meters is (roughly) 2x that for billed meters.

Rent the house. Cant change the meter..

Of course it does mean you've got some light, TV and internet if you've just raided the local supermarket for cider.

I do hope that isn't some sort of a dig at my (unknown to you) employment status.

If it is then, i work full time, have done so since leaving school, have no kids and cost the state the least possible amount, so fuck you...

If its not, then i'm sorry but i dont know what it is you are trying to say. Would you elucidate please?

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Re: @Jaitch@AndrueC

" biggy is this idea that if you have a display somewhere visible you'll cut your consumption"

What I said years ago, eco green twat politicians can't resist the idea of forcing us to install personal guilt meters at our own expense.

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Re: @Jaitch@AndrueC

I would have upvoted you, but for this throw-away line:

>(in theory) meter readings are always prompt and accurate,

In theory, meter readings by a massive new software billing system are flaky and inaccurate.

You may be different, but after 50+ years of computers I think I can say that any "theory" which doesn't take account of reality is completely and comprehensively busted.

In the old days they used to say that "to err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer", so it's an old idea. More recently I've seen

New Phone Billing Systems

New Road Billing Systems

New Smart Meter Billing Systems

---and each has been introduced with significant problems and failures.

I've got a co-worker who didn't get a correct electricity bill for more than a year in his new billing system -- and then the company told him that they weren't going to worry about it because, under the law introduced to protect consumers using the new smart meter billing systems, he also couldn't make claims against old bills.

These massive software systems are always more complex than people think they will be. It all seems so simple. It is not simple. It can't even be made simple. Companies have tried that too: simplifying it by ignoring edge cases or removing edge functionality does not work.

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In some parts of the UK the vast majority of homes are heated by burning oil. The vast majority of the tiny minority that are left are heated by mains gas. Not going to make much of a dent their.

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Happy

To be pedantic most heating systems still need electricity for normal use. Your gas and oil central heating is useless without electricity to power the pump. If you've got a gas fire you might be okay but a lot of modern houses don't have that and it often only manages to heat one room. Although remembering from when I had a pump failure mine did a surprising good job of heating the whole house if I left upstairs doors open.

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Alternative

Stick a dongle with a SIM in it in the meter - I'm sure the leccy meter could probably trickle off a teeny bit of power to transmit an SMS, the gas meter one might need a small battery, though. I'm sure the utility companies can come up with a reasonable deal with an operator to send 4 readings per utility meter per year (10m household * (%gas + leccy)?). What they really want, though, is the ability to limit consumption now that all the old power plants need decommissioning cos they're too old, rather than invest in new plants.

If I want to install something that will allow remote management of my leccy, I'll own it myself, thank you very much, and it will not be accessible by the power companies.

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WTF?

Re: Alternative

Er, that's exactly how the current (smart) ones do work.

Well, unless you live in the countryside where there's no mobile coverage, in which case a bloke turns up wanders around for a bit looking confused and then goes away again.

I don't really understand why they bother, we always give the real readings, and always get estimated bills anyway. Somehow I suspect they'll carry on doing that regardless of "smart" meters.

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Re: Alternative

That's the point - they don't need the new bands

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WTF?

@JetSetJim Re: Alternative

QUOTE: "4 readings per utility meter per year"

How about 10,000 PER DAY, which is far from unheard of in North America.

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Re: Alternative

My mother-in-law had a water meter fitted last year. That allows remote reading by the meter-man using Bluetooth. The plumber who installed it said the meter charges the Bluetooth device from the flow of water through the turbine inside the meter. I'd have thought the same principle would work for a gas or electricity meter.

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Re: @JetSetJim Alternative

So a utility meter at one house is sending 10,000 readings per day? So faster than once per ten seconds? Seems excessive to report a household to this level of accuracy. Perhaps with a bit of extra work the meter could record such a profile over time and transmit that back to base but it seems overkill to get the meter to initiate a transaction to send that info back to base so often.

Personally, I was speaking from the UK perspective of receiving quarterly bills - the utility companies ideally need a reading to produce each bill, they don't need to know my power draw at 2:05.30am on a Sunday morning and I'd question the usefulness of that data.

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Boffin

Re: Alternative

"Stick a dongle with a SIM in it in the meter - I'm sure the leccy meter could probably trickle off a teeny bit of power to transmit an SMS, the gas meter one might need a small battery,"

Many UK gas meters went digital (using an ultrasonic flow metering technology which was less accurate than the mechanical tech it replaced.

UK gas companies want to phase them out.

Having to replace the battery every five years is too frequent for them.

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Re: Alternative

The trouble is that while it may be YOUR house, it's THEIR power and THEIR meter. Their rules IOW unless you want to go off the grid.

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Re: Alternative

Problem with that is they don't work in many locations, I was going to have one fitted, but the fitter couldn't get a signal!

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Re: @JetSetJim Alternative

I think the idea is that the data is also used to feed a swanky digital display that you can pop in your house somewhere - so you instantaneously see the load when you pop a kettle on, or start the tumble drier. It's a fairly well tested theory that if people become aware of their power consumption they tend to reduce it.

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Re: Alternative

"The plumber who installed it said the meter charges the Bluetooth device from the flow of water through the turbine inside the meter"

The plumber who installed it was talking out of his @rse. The highly varied and intermittent flows in a domestic water supply pipe are wholly unsuitable for powering anything, and for that reason the devices use long life lithium batteries with five to ten year life expectancies. There's other issues of head loss, cost and complexity, as well as the suitability of micro-generators in environments where debris and compressed air may be present.

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Re: @JetSetJim Alternative

@Chris 3: "It's a fairly well tested theory that if people become aware of their power consumption they tend to reduce it."

Fairly well tested and disproved, AFAIK.

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