back to article New UK 'leccy meters remotely run via Voda 2G

British Gas is to deploy meters with embedded mobile phones, and Zigbee networking, to ensure we know how much electricity we're using, and they do too. The smart meters use Vodafone's 2G network to send back readings and allow British Gas to see exact levels of 'leccy consumption at any time, while the Zigbee connectivity …

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  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What about wired connectivity?

    How many customers already have some form of Broadband connection that is on 24/7?

    How many of them have a Wireless network of some form?

    Why not have a device that can be made to use the customers own wireless lan + broadband?

    Well Doh?

    This could also save the moble spectrum from overload.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Smart meters installation starts next month

    Smart meter hacking starts 1 week later.

    Who can contain their excitement at such an announcement?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's British gas' fault

    BG were offered 3g, powerline and regional data concentratorssolutions.

    But in theirhaste to pre-empt the govt and establish their version as a de-facto standard they stuck to the 2g.

    AC for obvious reasons...

    1. Turtle_Fan

      simple really

      Because connectivity and by extension, control of the meter must under no circumstances rely on the end user.

      Not to mention support costs to explain to joe public how to hook it up to the usually wpa'd router.

    2. Steve Evans

      1 week later?

      Blimee, you're a bit slow off the mark... I'll be at it the moment the engineer shuts his van door!

      I wish them good luck controlling it via 2G though. My mobile signal is weak enough when the phone is left on a window ledge, I don't fancy their chances in the cupboard under the stairs, not unless they have a 2 foot antenna!

      It's odd they go to all that trouble and don't just give you a £5 discount if they can use your internet wifi.

    3. Chad H.

      Well

      Does a smart meter really need a 3G connection? surely GPRS would be fine for the job, and the 2G signal is usually better.

      That said, there is no logical reason not to go for powerline internet for smartmeaters- Solves coverage issues AND opens a new revenue stream.

      1. elsonroa
        Megaphone

        What's the uplink for?

        Top of my list of questions is why British Gas has suddenly decided it needs a realtime feed of everyone's electricity usage. Let's knock down a few of the more commonly used justifications:

        (1) It allows them to do 'real time' pricing. Well, radio teleswitch has been doing this for years for the economy 7 tariffs - and no need for an uplink there. Broadcasting at UHF/VHF has already been demonstrated to be the best way of implementing this feature, even if the existing protocols need replacing for the new generation of meters. And guess what - there's shortly going to be a whole bunch of empty spectrum ideally suited to delivering this kind of broadcast service!

        (2) It allows the electricity generators to dynamically adjust supply according to demand. Well, WTF do you think the National Grid was doing for the best part of the 20th Century? Monitoring individual consumer usage would just generate vastly more data than can be sensibly used in this context - other than by building a British Gas version of Skynet.

        (3) It eliminates the need to send a meter reader round in a van. Like estimated readings already do? Like the ability to enter your meter reading on the website already does? The fact is, flesh-based meter readers will always be required because they are the only reliable way of detecting physical tampering.

        The bottom line is that I can't think of any justifiable reason why I'd want British Gas to monitor my domestic energy use in real time - so I just can't see why they need that uplink.

    4. goats in pajamas
      Facepalm

      Because...

      ...it would only work on Windows (and then not properly), there'd be no Linux version, Apple would want 30% of the electricity bill if there was an OSX version and the Government would end up accused (rightly) of being in bed with another cretinous Corporation wanting to install spyware into our homes. And the software used would probably be hacked and infected within 36 hours.

      Other than that?

      A fine idea Stanley.

  4. TonyG

    Possibly a daft question

    Can't they use the physical wires to transmit information rather than relying on a mobile signal?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      powerline comms

      Yes powerline comms is possible but it is also quite expensive to implement (lots of nasty voltages) and requires local concentrators as range is limited and noise on the transmission medium is severe.

      10 years ago I was working for a meter firm and their plan was to use powerline comms to the street and GSM from there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: powerline comms

        It used to be possible in my house, until I plugged in the wall wart which came with BT's home hub 3... The damn thing puts so much noise on the ring main my Zyxel ethernet over mains boxes lose sync and refuse to talk!

        I replaced the adapter (had to chop and solder the original DC plug because BT used an odd size) and everything was happy again.

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Since it's there, might as well use it

    > Mobile networks aren't ideal for such things,

    Actually they sound like quite a decent fit for this application. It's not as if the meter HAS to send its readings only once at peak times on a weekday or it's lost forever. They can (and may well be) used overnight and send their readings every few days. If the SMS fails the first time, it'll be no worse than the meter reader trying to call when you're out.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    What power! What brilliance!

    Betting this will be yet another compulsory thing that customers will have to take unpaid time off work between 8am and 8pm on a week day to have done.

    Also for those of us on pay-as-you-go systems, I can forsee calls to BG starting "My meter just updated and wiped all my remaining credit"... "We are sorry sir, you will have to pay us for the same electricity again"...

    </rant>

  7. James 47

    @Steve Davies 3

    That might be a possibility if BG are willing to pay for part of my broadband bill.

  8. Tom_

    today it is just about getting the remotely readable meters into homes

    ...so people can start working out how to turn off each others' electricity supplies whenever they feel like it.

  9. Tony Humphreys
    Black Helicopters

    At what cost?

    We are all being told to unplug chargers when not in use, so at what cost are these devices to run. I assume the power is drawn prior to metering - nope, didnt think so (just a wild guess).

    What are they needed for anyway - we all know where our electric goes, and unless we are billed and charged daily, whats the point. For those of us on annual direct debits, just one read a year is all thats really needed (and I can do that - and enter the details into a website)

    Perhaps the tin foil brigade was right, this is just another way to monitor us all!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: At what cost?

      "We are all being told to unplug chargers when not in use, so at what cost are these devices to run."

      Nothing. Chargers that aren't in use draw so little power that you need specialist gear to actually measure it. (But yes, we are always being told that.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @Ken

        Recent switched mode chargers used no meaningful power, but plenty of older transformers do use a measurable amount even when unused (that's why they stay warm). There is still a considerable amount of older kit in use in households.

        It's still arguable the power used is too small to be of concern but when you are trying to save every last penny as fuel costs rise ...

        An interesting note; my latest LED bedside lamp is brighter than the 10w halogen it replaced but it uses just 1.5w - less than many idle transformers I've tested. It just goes to show how inefficient those old power adapters really are.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      not quite

      First of all, unplugging chargers and turning appliances off instead of stand-by will have precious little effect in the greater scheme of things ( http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c19/page_114.shtml )

      Secondly, by design, the power draw is done prior to the metering for the meter's power draw (not so for the IHU [in-home unit]).

      In the future you'll get a whole palette of tariffs as opposed to today's 2. So when peeps have their IHU's can quickly glance and see a quasi-traffic light representation of their current tariff and decide accordingly.

      Plus, the thinking is that consumers would be more motivated to change habits when the results of their actions can be measured and presented tangibly in near real-time. If your (actual) billing interval is 6 months the likelihood you'd notice the positive effects of more energy efficient appliances would be negligible.

      Finally, as for the monitoring argument, me thinks that smart meters are quite dumb on the surveillance front. There's other outlets that lend themselves to more effortless and meaningful monitoring.

      The more sinister part is when adverts start rolling in to those IHU's and utilities auction them off, with extra charges to have the IHU beep to draw your attention....

      AC, as per post above....

    3. Richard 81

      Excellent!

      Finally a way to deal with those beat-thumping hip-hop listening neighbours.

    4. spodula

      Meter charging..

      My last meter replacement was done on a Saturday, and they came almost exactly when they said they would. Although i suspect if everyone's needs to be done, Saturday may be a bit harder to get.

      Personally, i expect PAYG meters will remain the same, with the power measurement bit wired after it and seperate, mainly because if they build a PAYG power measurement meter, its another bit of hardware to be tested and certified, and they already seem to be going at the cheapest option.

    5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: James 47

      That will be an awful lot less than the Mobile billy they will sting you for!

      Seriously,

      A few small packets once a week or so won't impact your DSL bill. We are talking Kb of data here. Unless that is you are downloading that much Pron?

    6. chr0m4t1c

      But

      What about meters fitted where there is no signal at all?

      From memory of the 2G connection I used to get in the days when I had a 2G phone on Vodafone, that would be, er, pretty much all of the town I live in.

      1. Equitas

        There's an answer to that one .....

        If no Vodafone signal they have SIMs for a couple of other networks and if none of these work the customer has to make a landline available. Annoyed some of the shop owners in the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness no end, because at the metering point in the depths of the building there's apparently no signal for any network.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Big Brother

    It won't be long before they'll be able to have the ability to remotely turn off your supply at a switch if you haven't paid the bill. (Wonder how long it'll take them to turn off your supply and how long to re-instate it due to an error or when you have paid!?)

    Or question your usage.

    Or ration it.

    Or get hacked and you find your meter is flapping on and off or just off.

    Or fall in to the hands of the government.

    No doubt that the cost of the service will be passed on to us rather than from their own profits too.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Big brother

      They can already do all of these things, just not remotely. The reason they don't is that if they get it wrong then the legal and PR penalities are considerable. Being able to do it remotely doesn't change that and any power company that thinks otherwise will be out of business faster than they can flip the switches.

    2. david wilson

      @Big Brother

      >>"It won't be long before they'll be able to have the ability to remotely turn off your supply at a switch if you haven't paid the bill."

      For which, presumably, they'd have to actually come round and install an extra remote-controlled switch.

      Unless a meter is actually designed with power disconnection hardware, it's not as if it can get a remote software upgrade to install such a capacity.

      So if you want to be paranoid, shouldn't you be trying to get 'them' to install a new meter *now*, rather than risk the possibility that somehow 'they' find a way of making disconnection circuitry small, reliable and cheap enough to be worth installing in some future generation of meters even though such hardware would be very rarely activated?

      And, as Ken Hagan pointed out, remote disconnection has all kinds of potential PR/legal problems, especially if power is removed from one or other vulnerable person.

      Illogical though it may be, I think people would be rather more likely to blame a power company for a bad outcome from a remote disconnection (like granny falling and breaking a hip after the lights go out) than they would if the same outcome happened as a result of a prepay meter running out of credit.

  11. Test Man
    Stop

    Interesting...

    I do know that in some parts of the world, they already use SIM chips in traffic lights - which in some cases prompted vandalism in order for thieves to get at the chips and so make long-distance calls. No joke.

  12. Random Noise
    Thumb Down

    Switch off my freezer?

    Great, come back from work to a big puddle on the floor. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Switch off my freezer?

      If you come home to a big puddle on the floor, it is because you allowed it. The power company can't force you to give them control over it. They'll have to reward you financially and you might not reckon it is worth the risk.

      1. Andrew 87
        Unhappy

        Oh so wrong!

        You won't have a choice this has been mandated by the government (obviously after much lobbing by the energy companies stating Climate Change as the reason).

        We are all paying for the installation of these meters as a levy has been added to energy bills to claw the installation costs back.

        The energy companies and government will have the ability to switch off power as and when required:-

        Not paid your bill - Power off

        Possible brown outs due to lack of generating capacity - Consumer power off, business run as normal

        Rioting in London - Power off so that the media cannot esculate the problems.

        Then there will be the equivilant of train fares for energy taffifs:-

        Want to use power at peak times ££££££

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Wouldn't it be like it is now

          If you want 99.9% uptime you pay the current retail price, or you get a supply that can be interrupted for far less money.

        2. Turtle_Fan

          @Andrew 87

          Not paid your bill = Power off

          Well, I thought this was the girst of the essence of the thing all along. And I'm sure it happens in pre-paid meters (yes, even with the meagre "emergency credit").

          And yes, almost all smart meters (and plenty of dumb ones too) have integrated disconnect breakers.

          But these relate to the entire supply, not individual appliances...

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Err ...

        >> The power company can't force you to give them control over it.

        Wrong.

        If they come along and tell you they are going to change the meter, your choices are to :

        a) let them

        b) let them disconnect you from the supply

        And someone else questioned the ability to remotely turn off supplies. It is my understanding that this is one of the key parts of many smart meters, so whilst it may not be mentioned, there's a good chance it will be there.

        When you hear of large companies getting huge fines for their poor customer service, and the legendary billing cock-ups, the bet shouldn't be on whether there's an erroneous disconnection but when.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Err

          The original remark was about someone coming home to discover that the power company had turned off their freezer. No law has been passed mandating that all freezers should be remotely controllable, nor that the power company has a right to enter your home to upgrade your freezer.

          The meter has always been the property of the power company. It is therefore uncontroversial that they have a right to maintain or upgrade it. Everything downstream of the meter belongs to you and it remains your decision whether you buy remotely controllable devices and whether you enable that feature when you get it home.

          1. Steven Roper

            @Ken Hagan

            "...your decision whether you buy remotely controllable devices..."

            The problem with that is, once the new infrastructure is in place, we will start to see more and more "remote-control-compatible" (RCC) devices in the stores, which will edge out and ultimately replace the old ones. A good example is CRT monitors - you try and buy one now. They're only available in specialist shops and they now cost an arm and a leg. Eventually you won't be able to buy them at all. Things like freezers and washing machines will go the same way - all new available models will come with RCC built in.

            It doesn't even have to be legislated: the common interests of the corporations and governments in micromanaging our private lives will simply see the RCC devices replace non-RCC ones on the shop shelves until you have no choice left once your old one fails.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              @Steven Roper

              It's still our decision whether we let the power company play with the controls and if they want to play with my freezer they'll have to bribe either me or my MP.

    2. Chad H.

      Easily solved

      I remember hearing about that too

      but its easy to solve: block voice services from the SIMs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They chose a different route

        They just updated something so that those SIMs could only access a certain number.

        Boggles the mind that they could access world-wide numbers before.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    I'll be happy to have one....

    ...on the condition and can have a least one summer without power cuts every few f**king weeks.

    Granted, I do live in the middle of nowhere, a village a few miles from Birmingham!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Smith 19

    Go on then tell us how would hack one of these meters? Would love to know.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Scary...

    Frankly, these smart meters, and their alleged capabilities, are starting to scare me...

    Firstly, some petty crook at HQ can deduce exactly when the house is empty - and send his mates round with a van.

    Secondly, some petty perv at HQ can guess when daughter comes home from school (10kW spike from the shower).

    Thirdly, some senior crook at HQ can use flexible charging to make sure I'm only offered affordable power when I'm out, and max-priced power when I'm in.

    Fourthly, some other senior crook at HQ can switch off all my appliances (or even all power to my home) on a whim.

    Fifthly, never again will we have the slightest clue how much our energy will cost us in the month/year ahead cos they'll be changing the price on a minute by minute basis.

    Sixthly.....

    I'm not paranoid, but they ARE out to get me!

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Brezin Bardout

      RE: I'm not paranoid

      I'm sure you're not, but I'd love to know what energy company you're with and what they've done in the past to make suspicions like that reasonable.

    2. david wilson

      @AC

      >>"Firstly, some petty crook at HQ can deduce exactly when the house is empty - and send his mates round with a van."

      Sure, since anyone and everyone working for the electricity company will have free and unmonitored access not only to raw meter data, but to related address details, etc.

      And the employees will necessarily be less trustworthy then people currently working at ISPs or phone / mobile phone companies, postal workers, etc, who also potentially have information about when houses seem to be unoccupied.

      >>"Secondly, some petty perv at HQ can guess when daughter comes home from school (10kW spike from the shower)."

      Sorry to puncture your bubble, but if someone already knows that you have a school-age daughter, wouldn't they already be able to make a pretty good guess about when she'll be coming home from school, given even just the common knowledge that schools tend to finish about the same time?

      And at least, unlike hundreds/thousands of people within walking distance of your house, someone in electricity HQ probably won't know whether your daughter is stunningly attractive and devoted to personal grooming, or a right minger who's so lardy it takes her ten minutes in the shower to get wet all over.

      If you're seriously worried about someone miles away /potentially/ knowing less about your family than almost anyone in your neighbourhood who's even slightly interested in you, that does seem like an odd set of priorities.

    3. Robin Bradshaw
      Boffin

      IOactive broke a US meter

      http://www.ioactive.com/pdfs/InfosecurityEurope10SmartGrid.pdf

      The above evil nasty pdf gives some overview to flaws that IOactive found in US smart meters, You might also like to google for "Travis Goodspeed" for some very neighborly information on zigbee and other small micro-controller security.

      That would be a good place to start looking to hack these things,

  17. Nosher
    FAIL

    Dammit! No need for the apostrophe in "leccy"

    You guys keep needlessly prepending the slang word "leccy" with an apostrophe, when it shouldn't have one (the word Eleccy does not exist). If you're treating it as being a contraction (like 'ello), then it would be 'lec'c'y, but that's clearly daft.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Tony Humphries

    I'd pay for this, assuming that the billing format changed.

    If we got to a point where we had demand based pricing, and my intelli-mete- thing told me what the price of the minute/hour was, I'd better be able to judge when to put the washer on.

    That said, it would spark misery for millions of people in flats as everyone starts putting their washes on at 3 in the morning.

    1. Martin 47

      I can't think of no stinking title

      Really?

      You do know that p3ak rate costs will be when there is any major sporting event being televised, world cup, when the adverts come on in popular soaps etc etc.

      This is not about providing the consumer with cheaper electricity, it is about providing the electricity providers with more profits.

      To add insult to injury they are also going to charge us extra so that the consumer pays for the costs involved in enabling them to bill us more.

      No wonder the power companies are in a rush to get the bloody things installed.

      Wonder what will hapen if my meter accidently gets covered in tinfoil?

      1. david wilson

        @Martin 47

        >>"You do know that p3ak rate costs will be when there is any major sporting event being televised, world cup, when the adverts come on in popular soaps etc etc."

        So what?

        Doesn't it generally make sense to have an electricity system that has flatter demand, since that requires less generating/distribution capacity, and lower costs overall?

        In the case where there are problems with generation/transmission, might it not be better to have some capacity for shifting demand that isn't urgent to quieter periods?

        >>"This is not about providing the consumer with cheaper electricity, it is about providing the electricity providers with more profits."

        So what mechanisms stop companies just putting prices up /now/ if all they want to do is make more profit?

        If there isn't anything stopping them, then why aren't they doing it already?

        If there is something, yet smart meters would allow them to cut costs without that being reflected in prices they charge, then the fault would lie with the regulation mechanism, rather than the power companies.

        If the power companies are all complete bastards /and/ regulation is too weak, then surely we'd be screwed pretty much the same way with or without smart meters?

      2. Thoguht Silver badge

        Soaps?

        It's the example that the electricity generating industry always gives to justify anything, "because everyone goes to put the kettle on during the ad break". Why not simply ban Coronation Street?

    2. Zimmer
      Happy

      Already happenning across the Channel..

      ....That said, it would spark misery for millions of people in flats as everyone starts putting their washes on at 3 in the morning.......

      Washers go on at the night time for cheap rate ..(the ex pats switch on Eastenders repeats on the Freesat so the cockney shouting drowns out the noise of the machines... or else it's down to the Cafe for Karaoke... same result...)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    curious

    Isn't 2g rather insecure?

  20. Conrad Longmore

    McAfee Labs

    McAfee Labs had a blog post about issues with these type of devices a couple of days ago:

    http://blogs.mcafee.com/enterprise/mobile/why-does-my-car-have-its-own-smartphone

    How long until people start nicking the M2M SIM out of your water meter for downloading movies?

  21. Kevin
    Thumb Down

    wow!

    A lot of skepticism and FUD coming from Reg readers!

    Random Noise: Seriously? You think they'll turn off your freezer so that it defrosts? You don't think your freezer would have some sort of safe-guard?

    James 47: How much data do you think is involved here? 48 readings and some meta-data comes to single-digit KB per day. Not exactly going to make a dent in even a 2GB monthly plan is it? Anyhow, as Turtle_fan says, they would be unlikely to trust consumers' equipment.

    Tony Humphreys: You've missed the point completely. The whole idea is that there will be no annual meter reading - no man with a clipboard or you entering the value into a website.

    Anonymous Coward (Big Brother) - How dare a publicly listed company make profits!

    Come people, Reg readers are supposed to embrace technology, not scorn it because there might be some teething troubles!

    The idea with all of this is that we use the energy that with generate a bit more smartly. It's not easy to adjust the amount of electricity being generated - it is much more easy to control demand, but in order to do that, there has to be better communication between the consumers and distributors.

    Why not heat your hot water, charge your Leaf, do your washing or give your freezer a boost when demand is low and electricity is cheap?

    The down-vote button is the red one with the thumb pointing down.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      500kByte a day I was told... in all seriousness

      I agree the data should come to a couple of kB/day or even meter id/date/time/start/+24 measurements can easily be squeezed into a single SMS.

      However, apparently the reality is that the meters are uploading 500kByte/day - as discussed with people in India and elsewhere implementing such a scheme. They upload the complete history every time it seems. Completely unbeleiveable and (still only 15Mbyte a month) - but on GSM thats quite an overhead. The guy I was talking to reckoned on 10K subs taking 5 minutes to do the nightly reading. I told him that was bollocks and M2M is doomed to fail if that was the assumption he was working on.

      In Finland they have to keep the 2G network up and running just because of all the stupid meters somebody put in - so they can change it to the more efficient 3G @900MHz

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Sorry no....

        I could spend some time typing, to debunk each of the points you were told but I can't (no time no motivation).

        Please take my word as an industry insider that none of the above is true.

        The amount of data can vary depending on what each utility wants. It can be as little as a daily reading or as detailed as 1-second slices of a daily cycle.

        No meter sends the entire history twice. They only send a hash number to ensure integrity of previously sent data. If the hash check is successful the data gets deleted locally. If the hash fails, the data is resent and remain locally until a successful hash check.

        Finland, being one of the most advanced countries in terms of tel/co infrastructure, is probably not hampered in its 3G/LTE efforts by keeping good old 2G alive.

        I would have thought some of those arguments would look silly without any specialist knowledge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          yes they are silly - but these are what (some) people designing the system are doing..

          I was incredulous at the amount of data but was learned from another source the same number. Sure I know it can be done in less.

          But there are dumb-ass desingners of protocols don't seem to have any appreciation of the limitations of the radio network or means to compress data and forget they are supposed to be millions of end points..

          I know more than a little about this stuff too- yes they are silly but this is what some dumb asses in the industry are doing.

    2. Cameron Colley

      @Kevin

      I think you're missing the point here. If you really believe that "The idea with all of this is that we use the energy that with generate a bit more smartly." then I've FIVE MILLION DOLLARS in Nigeria I need your help to claim.

      This is about electricity companies making money. The aim here is to charge more money for less electricity so that they can make bigger profits for shareholders. Companies exist for no other reason than to make a profit for their shareholders -- this is nothing to do with saving the environment because that is not the primary function of a company.

      So, you can be happy that you'll be changed twice as much for half as much electricity if you like, but don't expect anyone else to be.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh come on

      We love technology and the problems it can solve when there is a benefit to general society.

      We are much more leery when the technology in question benefits $LARGE_CORPORATION profits as they use it to stuff over consumers.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    /me looks up

    how to build a Faraday cage.

  23. mark l 2 Silver badge

    change of meter

    I recently was contact by Scottish power telling me they would need to come and change the meter at my work as it was over 20 years old. The electrician came and swapped the meter which took him about half an hour, when he was finished i asked him 'so does this mean that you can now read the meter without having to come out, is it one of the smart meters?'

    'No' he replied 'they will be fitted within the next 12 -24 months?'

    So they are wasting money replacing meters now and then going to come back and do the same again in 1 to 2 years time fitting a smart meter.

    Also if its only British Gas thats fitting these meters atm what happens if you have it fitted under British Gas supplying your electric then move to another power company a week afterwards,will the new power company then have to come and replace the BG meter with there own version?

    Surely it should be the National Grid putting these meters in not individual suppliers?

    1. David_H
      Meh

      And BG

      I had my 1950's electricity meter replaced last month as it's connected timer was not working correctly. I asked the BG fitter about Smart Meters and he said that he had them on the van, but could not fit any Smart meter as he hadn't been on the Smart Gas Meter course yet - even though we are an electricity only house!

      We used to have a Smart Meter out our previous property fitted by First:Utility, and although it only reported once every day (via GSM), and in 15 minute intervals, it was invaluable in training my teenagers in turning kit/lights off. (The local display updated every few seconds).

      When we were on holiday, with most things turned off, you could actually see the regular spikes where the fridge and freezer powered their pumps.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Simple really....

      Meters are not changed just for sake of it at regular intervals.

      Here's my (well) educated guess:

      1) Scottish power ran tests on a handful of meters from the same batch as yours (or was it your meter taken for just such a test; who knows)

      2) In their internal metrology lab they discovered that the inaccuracy of the meter is enough to necessitate a swap now instead of waiting up to 2 years to get a replacement meter in. (Remember, by law, all ageing-related inaccuracies must be in favour of the consumer)

      3) You mentioned "at your workplace". Then my guess is that the bills we're talking about aren't just a small flat but much more substantial hence the inaccuracies would add to much more, more quickly.

      Finally, it's impossible for the national grid to take over such vital assets to each utility. What they instead tried to do is to ensure common standards and interoperability which is precisely what Centrica is trying so hard to undermine :)

      Did I mention AC? (thrice)

      1. spodula

        Erm..

        Yes they are. I think its every 15 years or so.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      re: change of meter

      The present change is for Safety reasons. These meters have a finite life. Yours has reached that. If Scottish Power had not done that and as you wanted waited for the new ones to be fitted, the would be in breach of their OFGem License. You would be the first to start complaining if it failed and blew up your house while you were out.

      Finally, the meter the might be fitted by BG won't be taken out if you change to SSE or EoN or whoever. They are supplied under a national scheme. When 'uSwitch' the meter goes with you.

    4. spodula

      Cos...

      the meters are not ready yet AND

      they have to change the meters every so often by law.

    5. Equitas

      It doesn't make any difference ....

      if you switch from British Gas -- British Gas employ another company to read the meter data and the new supplier gets their readings from the meter data company. How do I know? -- I've been through this with one of the new meters.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Only blanket coverage?

    GSM isn't the only blanket coverage, TETRA is around as well (Airwave Solutions https://www.airwavesolutions.co.uk/solutions/utilities/)

  25. oopsie

    2-way comms

    If it's function is to send meter readings to the motehr ship, it doesn't need 2 way comms...

    That would seem to solve quite a few of the worries.

    1. Chad H.

      Don't see how

      If you can transmit, you can probably recieve too no problem.

    2. TheFirstChoice

      2 Way Comms

      So how does the meter know the reading has been received correctly? It'd be like the old pagers where if it was turned off or out of coverage when a message was sent to you, you'd never receive it. Far better to have to receive a verification (checksum?) of the data back from who you're sending it to or to retry if no response or the data didn't get through properly...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Hardly New

    We had this type of meter, using O2's GPRS service, fitted back in 2008 by e-On. They also fitted a gas meter that sent its reading wirelessly to the electricity meter which then sent both readings back to e-on. Worked Great!

  27. Mike Dunderdale

    EON are doing it too.

    They sent me a letter last week asking if I wanted a smart meter fitting for free..

  28. zerocred

    Why do they need to individually control my fridge anyway?

    Would it not be better to send a broadcast message telling all fridges in a certain area to avoid powering on for 10 minutes (or whatever) at peak times?...

    Otherwise they need to send a message to every fridge individually in the target aread which means either having a permanent data link or SMS to each meter > fridge.

    If they really need to individually address every component in the home that is just dumb/ bandwidth wasting/bad design stupidity. So now the telecoms network is going to fall over (like on New Years eve) every tea-time/FA cup Match because there are going to be millions of messages sent in the same instant preventing your kettle from boiling.

    Furthermore it doesn't save energy at all, or make my stuff consume less or be more efficient - it merely delays the fridge coming on when it should so the fridge will consume even more power when it sdoes come on (=less efficient)... Yeah whose fucking benefitting now?

    What fuckwit thought this is a good idea?

    1. david wilson

      @zerocred

      >>"Furthermore it doesn't save energy at all, or make my stuff consume less or be more efficient - it merely delays the fridge coming on when it should so the fridge will consume even more power when it sdoes come on (=less efficient)... Yeah whose fucking benefitting now?"

      But if power is more cheaply available at some times than others, even if there was no change in overall consumption, it could cost you less (or at least less than it otherwise would) and the electricity company less if your fridge's usage was less continuous.

      In any case, when it's simply a case of delaying things for a few minutes to avoid a particular short spike, any difference in your fridge's overall consumption seems likely to be negligible, though if you really want to be pedantic, if the overall result was the fridge being fractionally warmer for a brief time, wouldn't that, if anything, tend to make the overall power consumption fractionally *lower*, since the marginal warming during the powered-off few minutes would result in a lower temperature difference across the insulation, and hence less inward heat flow requiring subsequent removal than would otherwise have been the case?

      For a sealed fridge, the cooler the contents are, the more power it takes to counter the resulting faster inward heat flow, so a turning-off of cooling for any period of time, short or long, should result in less heat overall having to be moved from the interior.

  29. Drummer Boy
    Thumb Up

    I must be the only one..................

    who sees this a positive. 2G as not everyone has 3G in their area. Not supporting a plethora of differing comms methods broadband, powerline etc) makes life easy.

    Good use of existing and stable technology. Doesn't get away from the new meter issue, and install times, but (and I work in the mobile data/telco data sector) I would be OK with this.

    1. zerocred

      What about when the operators want to refarm the 2G to 3G?

      Then the electric firms need to change all their meters again?

      Remote meter reading is obviously a good thing but how much longer will GSM be around?

      However, smart metering (control of household appliances) is hyped up as a panacea of energy ills - it doesn't reduce total energy consumption or make my stuff more efficient. So just how much benefit will it really bring?

      (I too work in mobile/telco space)

  30. Keris

    Send over Vodafone?

    They'll be lucky, the only place I can get Vodafone in my house is by almost hanging out of the front bedroom windows (same place as I get digital radio). The meter is at the back of the (built-in) garage. Signal strength, what signal?

  31. Alfie
    Headmaster

    schmitle

    We are assuming of course, that there is Voda 2G coverage in your home. According to Vodas website there is only "outside coverage" in my estate, and I'm only a few miles from the centre of Glasgow. What do these so-called smart meters do when they cant phone home?

    You could emulate the same by building your meter cupboard from copper mesh ;-)

  32. Matthew 17

    The grid is very clunky

    I have to work with utility companies and YEDL a lot as we put 5MVA at work for our DC's.

    It's impressive just how antiquated the grid is and how they have so little information on how much power is being used by what. If you want more power they have to send a bod out with a clamp meter to the nearest sub station to measure it as they've no way of remotely monitoring it.

    Having the ability to monitor the exact usage of every home will be useful for them as it'll save money inaccurate estimations and employing meter readers.

    The real desire is to do capacity management, whereby they can cut power to non-essential domestic equipment remotely when there's a shortfall in demand. So, for example if there was a huge demand, if they could turn off all our fridges for 30 minutes then the power saved would cover that shortfall, fridges would be efficient enough that your food wouldn't go off it they were unplugged for that period. The only way to do this though would be to rewire everyone's house and have dedicated circuits for different systems which can be enabled / disabled remotely, and ensure that you don't plug in anything into the wrong circuit. Would cost an unbelievable amount of money and disruption, maybe for new builds but that's it

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      new circuits in the home would be stupid

      Better to have something like X10 power line control - or is that too obvious?

      Of course the power compaines want to do consumption management (not capacity management) but they will need to switch off 100,000's of fridges (with say 10% duty cycle) to make any meaningful reduction in consumption.

      Thy certainly don't need to address my fridge individually - they need to boradcast to everything that can be powered down. So using GSM for such is folly.

    2. Andy 115
      FAIL

      Probably Not True...

      The only way to do this though would be to rewire everyone's house and have dedicated circuits for different systems which can be enabled / disabled remotely, and ensure that you don't plug in anything into the wrong circuit.

      _____________

      The way this would be achieved would be more straight forward. NEW household appliances would be built with a reciever (parhaps something similar to a reduced functionality X10 system) which would also be built into the meter..

      At times of high demand (i.e. just before the advert break) the meters will recieve a signal to broadcast a "10 minute hold-off" for non essential appliances - appliances that would have to contain the hardware to act upon this signal.

      To the people saying that everyones fridge suddenly drawing current at the end of the "peak demand" period being no better than everyone brewing up... Kettle = 3Kw, Fridge 0.3Kw

      And to those whining about defrosted fridges / freezers or excessive energy use becuase it isn't working "optimally" - 10 minute interuption is nothing and you will SAVE more money buying a more efficient fridge (with the technology built in) than running your old one without it...

    3. Equitas

      No Vodafone coverage??

      No problem -- the Vodafone SIM is the first they try. If that doesn't work in situ they have other SIMs they can use. And if there's no coverage, you've got to provide a landline or lose your electricity connection.

  33. b166er

    What title?

    Hmmmmm, subsidised solar installs looking more attractive.

  34. Slx

    Isn't 2G only a bit shortsighted?

    What would concern me about these meters is that the mobile technologies are likely to progress very quickly over the next while and 2G GSM will disappear faster than a lot of people think.

    At present, the major problem with UMTS-3G is that it's stuck on the 2100MHz band which is giving it relatively poor signal propegation characteristics comapred to GSM-900Mhz.

    Once the licensing and auctioning of spectrum is complete, you'll find that mobile operators will move very quickly to using their 900Mhz spectrum for 3G/4G services. The majority of mobile phones already support both GSM and UMTS, and their life expectancy is typically only a year or two at most so, there's no real difficulty in switching over to exclusivley 3G networks. It is not in any mobile operators interest to continue using GSM beyond its "best before" date as UMTS makes far more efficient use of the available, and very expensive, spectrum allocations that each operator has. So, if you ditch GSM and go with UMTS only, you can support far more customers in the same space.

    Many newer handsets already preemtively support UMTS 900Mhz e.g. most new smart phones.

    Also, because UMTS is part of the GSM family of standards, the switch off and cut over to exclusively 3G networks will be seamless. Most users won't even notice, unless they've very old handsets.

    I sincerely hope that this power company has easily swappable out modules or has some plan to deal with the cut over to 3G/4G wireless.

    The typical lifespan of an electricity or gas meter is something like 60 years, where as the typical lifespan of a mobile phone is more like 2 years. So, mobile network providers really have no particular interest in supporting legacy devices.

    If you're a power utility with millions of installed devices depending on an old, soon to be killed-off data transmission system, you could be left high and dry with millions of meters and no way of reading them far sooner than you might imagine!

  35. Magnus_Pym

    economy 7

    I have economy 7 in this house. Ever tried to get a definitive answer as to which seven hours are economy tariff? Lets just say it varies.

    I quite like the idea that I could set my dishwasher/washing machine/huge video file transcoding to start up sometime overnight when the electricity is cheapest. Bring it on I say.

    1. Andy 115

      Google is your friend...

      This information is published by supply area

      My area (part of ex-Norweb) is 10:30pm - 12:30am, and 2:30am - 7:30am

  36. Ian Chard

    Blanket?

    Not where I live -- the only mobile operator available has zero indoor coverage. The meter can talk to itself.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Device control....

    There is (IMO) a difference between "controlling" a device, and turning it on/off....

    If my fridge/freezer is disconnected from the mains supply (manually or via powercut) I have to reset it's temperature controls. By default, it doesn't start in "Eco" mode. Thus if someone/something COULD actually turn it off, I'd lose money if I didn't notice....(luckily it sits there flashing at me until I do something about it).

    As it is, I'm on Economy 7, and have AA+ graded appliances - including a dishwasher and (imminently, a new) washing machine which have delay start, so I can have them run in the night, when it's cheaper for me, and probably when there is less demand.

    The key for me is that *I* control what does what.

    The other thing, is that BG have also just UPPED my (electricity) direct debit, despite their own website telling me my current usage is 50% LESS than the same period last year, and my being in credit...I may, imminently, be voting with my feet.

  38. Andy Livingstone

    Worst of all worlds

    Dealing with Utilities is bad enough. I have not had an accurate bill since4 April 2010, (yup 2010).

    Add mobile service and we are all doomed.

    Anything to avoid reading meters and getting it right.

  39. Allan 1

    Hmm

    Smart meters..

    If the utility companies want these fitted that desperately, then you can pretty much garuntee that the benefits are more or less one-sided, in their favour.

    Lets be sensible about them though. Can they control individual appliances? Not unless they AND the appliance are fitted with some form of control system (X10 perhaps?). It'd be entirely impractical to "control the socket", as you can plug anything into any socket. Any control circuitry would need to be on the appliance itself.

    When they start fitting smart meters AND x10 control circuitry to my appliances, then I shall worry about them controling individial devices.

    What they will probably be able to do, is monitor the power consumption, and reduce the amount of power being passed to the distribution board (even turning it off entirely). That is scary enough imho, but lets not get carried away here.

  40. Kevin

    @Cameron Colley

    The electricity companies don't want this any more than you do. This is a UK/EU govt. initiative.

    1. Jim Morrow
      Big Brother

      why utility companies love smart meters

      > The electricity companies don't want this any more than you do.

      bullshit! the power companies have all sorts of wet dreams about smart metering. lavish bonuses and fat profit margins depend on this. smart meters give the power companies a free and never ending licence to print money and royally fuck over their customers. best of all, somebody else pays for deploying and running it.

      you couldn't be more wrong to claim the utility companies don't want smart meters.

      the main reason power companies want smart meters is because it gives them more ways to fuck their customers and rip them off. for example, changing prices in near real-time. [want to bet what happens to the cost of boiling the kettle in the ad break for the cup final or turning on the heating when it's cold?] they will be able to cut you off at will and do that from their office: no need to send round a guy in a van.

      the utillity companies won't be paying for these meters either. their customers will: you and me. so the power companies have no incentive to keep operating and capital costs down. and when they fuck it all up, we'll have to pay again for the next release.

      btw there will be another generation of smart meters real soon now to support the intelligent grid. we'll have to pay for them too. it would of course be better to deploy these meters now, but british gas has other ideas.

  41. Ray 8
    Alien

    tin foil

    not for me but for the meter as everyone is out to get it..

    can try and find a way block the signal just to piss em off

  42. druck

    Smart devices not meters

    You don't need smart meters to signal other devices in the home which may be capable of suspending when the grid is experiencing high demand, a smart device can sense this itself by looking for the frequency of the mains supply dropping.

    1. M Gale

      Frequency?

      There's a lot of expensive equipment goes into making sure the frequency of AC doesn't change or, more importantly, go out of phase between different bits of the grid. If that happened, "kaboom" would be an understatement. You'd see engineers having to go out and replace every fuse or reset every breaker from your supply up to the power station and everywhere between.

      Voltage perhaps, but even that isn't an indicator of demand when you consider just how big the grid is, how many interconnecting parts it has and how many generators are all feeding into the system at once (again, may I add, having to be locked in sync so you don't end up with massive beat frequency oscillations and other such loveliness that can literally rip a rather large generator's rotor off its bearings if the fuses don't blow first).

      Anyway, I'm not so concerned with Smart Meters, and more concerned with recent legislation that makes it illegal for you to so much as extend a ring or add a spur, yet perfectly legal to wire an entire garage extension into the house, so long as you do it via a plug. What's with that? And how does anybody know you fitted things before or after the law came into force?

      1. druck
        Boffin

        Re: Frequency?

        M Gale wrote: "There's a lot of expensive equipment goes into making sure the frequency of AC doesn't change or, more importantly, go out of phase between different bits of the grid. "

        There is a lot of equipment to make sure the frequency stays within a tight range, but it's obvious to see with any decent DVM the frequency changing by a couple of tenths of a percent, particularly when high demand kicks in during an advert break in a soap. Equipment can easily detect the frequency starting to drop and suspend themselves for a few minutes.

  43. David 39
    Mushroom

    Faraday cages out of copper mesh, too much effort :(

    Now then. Where is that roll of tin foil.

    Explosion as i'll bugger something up :D

  44. Berny Stapleton

    Using 2G? That's going to lock up the frequency space....

    Didn't I read here a little while ago about the carriers wanting to use the 2G frequency space for 3G like what Australia did?

    What's going to happen then?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    About smart meters, Ross Anderson says...

    Does the name Ross Anderson mean anything to you?

    Here's a URL to start from: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/

    There, you will find:

    "On the security economics of electricity metering appeared at WEIS 2010 and warns that the government's smart meter programme probably won't work. Other papers on security economics and control systems include Security Economics and Critical National Infrastructure (at WEIS 2009); Certification and Evaluation (at IEEE ETFA 2009); and The Protection of Substation Communications (SCADA Security Scientific Symposium, 2010)."

    Worth a look.

    Mortarbo.... seemed appropriate.

  46. Martin Usher
    Unhappy

    Rather a complicated way of doing coin-slot meters

    The aim of these meters is to be able to price power in real-time, a bit like the way that parking meters in the center of Los Angeles vary their tariff depending on how many people are trying to park. ("Yield management" is a polite term for this sort of thing.)

    The logical end point of this is a coin-slot meter. Obviously they're a bit old school so I'd expect the meter to be tapped directly into your bank account....

  47. Risky

    Not much chance here

    No mobile signal, though you might send a text on vodafone if you have the phone stuck out of the skylight. the meter is well enclosed by granite wall so hnothing is reaching that unless the also install an exteral aerial.

  48. Uncle Vanya
    Coat

    Naive idea

    Couldn't they make electricity cheaper so that there's no need to faff around with smart meters? Has nobody thought of that? For instance, they could generate it from established, efficient and reasonably clean fuels such as gas, instead of insanely expensive methods such as windmills. Could that work?

    1. FoolD
      Unhappy

      Tomorrow's World

      The reason smart meters will be required is to cope with a future of energy shortage. When we no longer generate enough leccy to supply our needs we will need the ability to 'manage' overall usage to make the blackouts a safer shade of brown. Being able to make the best profit out of soaring leccy prices is going to be something of a bonus for the leccy companies, of course.

      Personally I'm still waiting for the unlimited 'need to to even meter' free electricity we were promised on 'Tomorrow's World' all those years ago. It seems the peak of human aspiration and innovation is behind us now (largely curtailed by the green movement). 'Tomorrow's World' these days would probably be more depressing than even East Enders to watch...

  49. dark1here

    Switch off the freezer?

    I bet the insurance companies are going to love all the claims " The leccy company told my freezer to switch off"

  50. Patrick O'Reilly

    7 Inch

    Am I on the wrong site? Has no one noticed the non-iPad, 7-inch tablet, with gesture based unlock screen? My money's on a Galaxy Tab.

    1. M Gale

      It's a standard Android feature.

      Though what that has to do with wireless Smart Meters is anyone's guess.

  51. ad47uk
    Thumb Down

    more expensive?

    First utility do smart meters, their smart meter tarrif is more expensive than their normal tarrif, so do that mean prices will go up even more once these new meters are installed?

    thankfully I am not with British gas and my supplier have no plans at the moment to install these spy meters.

  52. HaplessPoet
    Happy

    not here they wont

    yippee! deep in the new forest will be the last place they come.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already done in (parts of) Scotland

    BG or rather Scottish Gas (as it is north of the border) have already begun rolling out Smart Meters. Aside from the installer failing to inform BG of the previous electricity meter reading & BG then cocking up billing, everything went fine.

    Both gas and electricity are smart metered. It's been a god send for switching off the immersion heater when the flatmate forgets for the nth time (BIG red light on the box in the living room).

    The biggest boons for the energy companies will be (initially at least) not having to pay meter readers. There's no point complaining about this now either as it's a government sponsored program and it's in place. All homes will eventually go to smart meters (so I was told by the installer). As to 2G coverage, I was lead to believe BG are installing additional base stations (Femtocells perhaps?) to ensure coverage.

  54. Bruce Hoult
    Thumb Up

    I've had one for years

    Here in New Zealand I've had such a smart meter for 2 1/2 years. At present it's only reporting one reading a day at 4 PP, via Vodafone. I don't know whether it's 2G or 3G but I do know it's got a microsim like an iPhone 4.

    It's really quite useful to be able to go to the web site and see what usage has been:

    http://hoult.org/dailyUsage.png

    The main reason, for me, for getting the smart meter was so that I could get access to cheaper night rates for electricity. If you have separate metering in the day and at night (11 pm - 7 am in this case) then the day rate is the same as for people with a single meter, and the night rate is considerably cheaper (about 25% - 35%, depending on time of year).

    I've been able to make some changes that have meant this winter I've used around 45% night and 55% day, while in the autumn (and it should be now again in spring) it was 60% night and 40% day.

    That's a considerable saving.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Finally

    A proper use for my collection of GSM jammers.

    Now to set up the remote control so when mr numpty comes to set it up, it wont connect, nor will the next one or the one after that.

    I can live without a mobile phone.......In a 10 yard radius of the meter.....

    1. Chad H.
      Facepalm

      But

      Can you live with OFCOMs fine?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Fine???

        For what?

        A local, non specific sproadic interference pattern???

        Could be my computers, DECT phone, CB radio (yeah, i know).

        Also, take a look at the "wavebubble".

        I suppose, if i was so inclined, i could set up the biggie and block out most of my cul-de-sac.

        Should cause em some pericombobulation!

        But i wont do that, its not fair on the neighbours.

        My stance is this, as im on a pre paid meter, i have to pay up front for my leccy, as i also dont give a flying fuck about polar bears, if i want to burn of kilowatts of power, i will do.

        Its simply more nanny state pandering all for the cause of "climate change".

        I have no kids, when i die thats it....Why should i care what happens in 100 years time.

        1. Chad H.
          WTF?

          Well

          Does your DECT or CB radio broadcast on 1.8Ghz or 900Mhz? If it does, you need to get it repaired as you're in a dangerous legal position.

          my understanings is that its illegal to broadcast on licensed frequencies without the appriate permits and/or frequency owners position. Your jammer fits here.

          Don't like smart meters all you like - but in effect you're setting up a pirate radio station to protest them.

  56. Equitas

    It happened here more than a year ago .....

    And not a bad thing, as it (in theory) removes the need for being physically present at the unspecified time a meter reader may arrive.

    With typical British Gas efficiency, of course, they continued to send meter readers for some time afterwards :-).

    Should solve the problem for the holiday cottage, if it ever reaches there. Meter there hasn't been read by a meter reader for about thirty years!

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