Chuck, very interesting and I think this will be an important step in moving toward better energy management in the home, and variable pricing models that will encourage conservation at peak loading times. Thanks.
Smart meters are being installed in our city (Naperville, IL) and it has generated some controversy. There are two points on which people get upset. First is the ability of the utility to have access to our usage patterns on a fine grained level. Second is the electromagnetic radiation that will harm some people. The second is just a canard. In Europe about half of the implementations use power line communications. I would think this is cheaper, so I wonder why our city has choosen Wi-Fi.
The privacy issue is surely there, but to take utilities to the next level of reliability and effeciency that information is needed. We do not have devices in the home to control particular appliances, so the utility can only shut off the whole structure. The other features, beyond the meter itself, are all ancilary deices that will be required to implement Demand Side Management (DSM). Just having the meter is a necessary starting point.
Another thing that strikes me is the replacement cycle. Since these meters will be technology driven, it is unlikely that technology will have stood still in the time frame assumed. The meters will have to be programmable, and perhaps should be modular. Otherwise, those that are rushing to implement this now will end up with obsolete equipment in a very short time.
I know the next stage will be to control appliance like air conditioning and the like, but in it's present form I do not see my electricity usage as an invasion privacy. Now, the guys running the grow houses might have a concern. I would take issue with ComEd running my appliances and then the security issues that come with that level of interaction.
Power-line communications have a place, but in communities that have tried broadband over power-line comms for Internet access, the power-line signals have caused interference to wireless signals. Most US communities that adopted broadband over power-line as an alternate to cable have dropped it. Perhaps the meters in Europe use a lower-frequency scheme for power-line communications. How do they pass signals through transformers and substations, or do they grab the signals locally and transmit them over a wireless link?
Security becomes a big issue. We don't want people to spoof a system and turn off power. Also, smart meters need to detect reversal of current flow so someone can't reverse a meter.
Here in the Salt Lake Valley, Rocky Mountain Power can connect a module to an air conditioner and control it with a wireless link. When power demand increases during the summer, the power company can shut off air conditioning for 15 minutes per hour. Those of us who voluntarily have such a module attached get a rebate at the end of each calendar year. So our power company already has some sort of power-management wireless network in place.
Some level of monitoring and control is necessary to enable a smart grid type of application. But in some ways, what's the difference. The electric and power companies already monitor usage for billing, and this isn't really any different.
I think you're right on the money, Naperlou. The privacy issue is debatatble, but the electromagnetic radiation isn't a problem. The power levels used hear are lower than those of cell phones, so everyone who is concerned about this should take the first step of tossing their cell phones now.
apresher, not that I know of. That is what puzzles me. This will allow the utility to monitor their network better and to get an idea of usage down to the premise. It does not, as yet, have a consumer DSM component. That is where the real savings will come in, both for the individual customer and the systems as a whole.
One thing that might be of interest is that Naperville has a municipal distribution company. Thus, they can buy power from different sources. Our rates have been good as a result.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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