Smart Meters for your Electricity – Good or Bad?

Smart Meter vs. Analog Meter

I had a conversation today with a Power and Energy person who stopped by to replace my old electric meter with a new digital one. They said that there are meters out there that are called “Smart Meter” and that groups are going around representing themselves from P&E trying to get these meters onto houses in the area.

I have never heard of “Smart Meters” before and had to take a look. What I found was a whole new level of controversy surrounding the topic. There are a lot of FOR Smart Meter talk and a lot of AGAINST Smart Meter Talk. Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons as listed by the debaters.

According to Pennsylvania First Energy Corp Smart Meter FAQ:

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a digital electric meter that collects electricity usage information and sends that data to the local utility through a secure telecommunications connection.   

Is my usage information transmitted by smart meters secure?

Yes. FirstEnergy places the utmost importance on the security and protection of all aspects of our electric system and associated subsystems. Our communication network is a high security environment that uses multiple layers of protection from unwanted access – including the use of passwords, firewalls, data encryption, continuous monitoring and other security controls. We follow the cybersecurity guidelines published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In addition, Pennsylvania regulations restrict access to customer information, and do not permit an electric company or electric supplier to release private customer information to a third party without customer consent.

Will unauthorized people be able to monitor my account to learn more about how I use energy in my home?

Smart meters measure how much energy is used, based on time of day – not how that energy is used. A smart meter cannot tell which specific electric equipment is using the energy. The company’s smart meter solution is based on industry best practices, and built on a secured network designed to protect customer data.

While on the other side of the fence at StopSmartMetersinPA.com

What is a Smart Meter

A Smart Meter is a meter installed by your local utility company to replace your present meter.
It utilizes Radio Frequency (RF) waves which are electromagnetic fields (used in wireless devices)
It provides 2-way communication, giving utility companies the ability to:

    1. Turn on and off meters from a central location
    2. Determine usage of individual homes
    3. Know what devices are being used in the home
    4. Know when devices are being used in the home

What Is the Truth?

  • Tests have shown that Smart Meter readings are taking place every few minutes 24-7

  • Because of the RF network necessary for Smart Meters to operate, the range of the RF waves is very strong and is designed to travel long distances.

  • Smart Meters are designed to communicate with all ‘smart technology’ in the home, so the waves penetrate walls and windows as if they do not exist.

  • If utility companies have 2-way communication with the ‘smart technology’ in your home and they can turn off your electric from their site, there is no reason why in the future they will not use this device to literally control usage.  This could impact when a homeowner does laundry, washes dishes, bathes, etc.

  • It has been reported in other states, where Smart Meters have been in effect for some time that utility bills have gone up, due to the use of these meters

  • It has been reported that Smart Meters have interfered with medical equipment (i.e., monitors, pace-makers, c-pap equipment), garage door openers, baby monitors, routers, Wi-fi equipment

  • There have been fires reported due to the installation of these meters.  PECO actually stopped installation for a period of time due to these fires.  They claim to have a new company producing the Smart Meters; however, there was a recent fire in Tredyffrin Township due to the installation of a Smart Meter.  Fortunately, the homeowners were present at the time of the fire, or they would have lost their house.

I have read reports that show these Smart Meters are not UL Certified and that may be the reason that they area failing and causing fires. While losing a home to a fire is a tragic thing, having that fire being caused by a possibly intrusive piece of equipment can only make the controversy muddied and ugly. Also there is the issue of the distinct possibility of abuse of the technology. If the meters can be switched off remotely like your cable TV can, what is to stop a network glitch from going out and blacking out an entire city simply because someone did not code something correctly and pushed it into their production servers? While I am certain that the utility companies will state that all precautions are in place to prevent such things, how would they know? This is brand new technology that is being sent out to the field and the general populace are Beta testing the units without any ability to opt out.

For those who are concerned about the RF radiation that is being emitted from the unit, I located a neat shield that slides over the unit and is under $100.00 for peace of mind.  The site name is Smart Meter Block and they offer multiple options to install shielding. While this is a patented piece of work, I can help but feel that this is but one company out of several that are out there that are building a business based off of the fear of consumers. While this is not an uncommon occurrence through out the years, it is one that shows the level of depravity that a company could go to just to make a buck. While this company may very well have a great product that works as intended, they fact remains that not all ventures are so charitable in their quest for a good bottom line.

 

 

 

As with any technology that collects data, people are VERY concerned about WHAT kind of data is being collected, HOW it is being utilized, and WHO is looking at it. If the fiasco with the NSA (Hello guys, welcome to my blog) hasn’t taught us anything about this already, we certainly deserve what we get.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.stopsmartmetersinpa.com
https://www.firstenergycorp.com
http://www.smartmeterblock.com/


The wonders of technology!

Technology. What a wonderful way of life it can be. Granted there are those who eye it with suspicion, however it is with technology that we grind through our very meager lives. The last few months have provided us with a nice list of technological advances that are coming to the forefront.

 

Google Self Driving Cars

Google is one of the most innovative tech companies that keeps on trying new things. Some work, some don’t. In an article from The Verge, Casey Newton () got to spend some time in one of the autonomous vehicles that Google has been working on. Link

 

Tesla Electric Car

While we are on the subject of cars, I can’t pass up an opportunity to talk a little about the Tesla Motors All Electric Vehicle. The Model S, sleek design and silent. Offers 300 miles on a full charge with zero emissions. For someone that is climate conscious, this is the car to look into.  The price comes in at $69,000 with a Federal Tax Credit of $7,500, which is far out of the range of the average person. The walk through video on the site is very informative and shows why this car is worth every penny. Distance and charging are the two major concerns that I have with the vehicle. While public charging area exist for cross country travel and will be completed in the next few years, locally finding a charging station is very difficult. Also, the charging unit for home use requires a garage of some sort, while there are many people whom do not have garages. Granted, based on price alone, an individual would be wealthy enough to own a home with a significant garage.

The next vehicle in line for Tesla is the Model X, which is a mix between a SUV and a Minivan. No current price, but can be reserved for $5000.00 and will be delivered summer of 2015. The future of transportation is looking very interesting.

 


Cable companies pushing out falsehoods

The big news starting out the week is the farce being portrayed by Comcast showing how their merger with Time Warner Cable will support network neutrality. Also, they are claiming to show how, over the years, the corporations have invested in the network technology. Techdirt has a great article that shows how the bean counters are spinning the numbers to be in their favor, where in actuality the investments to the network have continually dropped.  Techdirt Article: Cable industry lies through its teeth

It goes without saying, yet will be said anyway, while Wall street dictates how successful a business can be the middle class will be screwed. There is a disconnect between a business model and the actual real world. While the wool is flying around trying to be covered over our eyes, the facts are there to point out how badly the data that Comcast and others really are.  The consumers are the ones that will bear the brunt of this if it goes the way the money makers want it to go.

The Internet is not a closed system yet. By its very nature, a watchdog group comprised of individuals and professionals has grown out of the chaos of the Internet. It is almost as if the network itself is fighting back against those who seek to reign it in. While there are many examples that could be linked, the simple fact is this. The Internet was developed by the People through funds funneled to DARPA. It does not belong to any one person, company, or government. The Internet is a collective of information and has an uncanny way of sentience that is seen by the push back given when something tries to contain or restraint it. Proof of this is during any conflict in the world where the information is trying to be contained.

 

 


First Post!!! — It’s all about the privacy!

Yup this is the obligatory first post, so let’s start this one off with a bang!

 

VPN

What does it take to get what you want out of your internet connection? With all the hubbub going around with the ISP purchase attempts and the FCC proposal for maintaining Network Neutrality, it can be difficult for anyone who hasn’t been in the computer field for a long time to understand what is actually going on.

 

Tek Syndicate does  a fantastic job of explaining this for anyone who really wants to know what is going on behind the scenes:

 

Network Neutrality

Network privacy is much more important than just allowing people who do illegal things to hide.  Preventing your internet provider from shaping your traffic based on what sites you go to is just as important. If you are paying money for X amount of traffic speed from and to the internet, then that should be what you get. Data is Data regardless of it’s point of origin or it’s destination. A packet of data should be able to hit a Mom and Pop online store just as readily as it would for a site like Netflix or Youtube.  Yet with the current proposition from the FCC, the big internet companies will can create special paths where data will flow faster that companies whom pay for the preferential treatment will could have their business serve up faster than other sites. While the major cable companies and politicians claim this wouldn’t happen, history has shown that while good intentions are there the actions that actually take place screw over those footing the bill at the end of the month.

 

What does this mean?

The internet is on notice right now. The access that all of us enjoyed from the mid 90’s is speedily disappearing and while change is usually good, this type of change will only benefit the corporations that have the keys to the gateways. While these days, the 99% common people feel out of control, there are different groups that are stepping up and putting pressure on the FCC, House of Representatives, and Senate.

www.fightforthefuture.org
sumofus.org  — Save the Internet Campaign
moveon.org — What happens when Cable Companies try to rip us off

These are only a few groups that are working towards maintaining an Open Internet. Tonight is a great night, I may play a online game or stream a movie from Netflix. How unfortunate will it be when I need to prove my access level to a gateway guardian before doing the same thing if the big corporations get their way.