Are smart meters helping or invading our homes?

More individuals are turning toward the convenience and accuracy of smart energy meters, as projections for the global smart meters market rise to US$20 billion in 2022, up from US$12.8 billion in 2018. 

By measuring real-time energy consumption and sending the data wirelessly to an in-home display unit, smart meters allow people to understand what energy they use, how they use it and how they could consume it more efficiently.

They are also helping cities move towards a more efficient and frequent use of renewable energy, which, because of its reliance on nature, isn’t always dependable. But by sharing real-time data on energy usage, the grid remains balanced and the supply of renewable energy, based on real-time needs, is better managed, and our planet better cared for.

However, misinformation on smart meter technology is stopping some people from adding smart meters to their smart homes. Are they spying on our homes? Are they really accurate? And is the technology actually safe? We set the record straight…

Smart meter or spy?

Smart meters know a lot about household activity, from how many showers you take to when you’re cooking dinner. Access to this information could even reveal when a home is empty, when little energy use is being recorded.

With the digitalization of consumer products and the growth of the Internet of Things, there are always going to be more risks of accessing personal data. But smart meters only record data on energy consumption – any personal data stays with the energy supplier, and this is protected through various forms of data privacy regulations.

The Security and Privacy Group of ESMIG (the European representative of smart energy providers) has been reviewing and commenting on regulations for data protection and cybersecurity specific to smart energy solutions. And as smart metering is regulated, governments supervise data collection and the infrastructure behind it. 

Individuals who collect meter data are required to perform data privacy assessments, making it clear what data they are collecting, why and how it is protected. Smart meter manufacturers also need to ensure that the hardware is secure by design at every stage of development – from protecting and encrypting device credentials through the use of diversified keys and embedded hardware security. 

Data accuracy

Because smart meters collect information in real-time or at regular, frequent intervals, the data they record is incredibly accurate – providing encryption mechanisms are implemented at the design stage to protect against the manipulation of data as it travels to back-end platforms. A reliable transfer of data to energy suppliers is therefore essential to ensure accurate bills as well as helping utilities companies to better balance loads on the grid and avoid a widespread power failure – not to mention supporting the transition towards renewable energy through providing clarity on energy usage helps to tailor the supply of renewable energy as needed. This continuous connectivity is best achieved using a low power wide area network (LPWAN), which offers battery-saving, long-range wireless connectivity and low-power consumption. This is key as smart meters are often placed in remote locations, for a long period of time that can exceed 10 years.
 

Staying safe

Because smart meters use radio waves to take readings, some people worry that this will affect their health. However, governments across the globe, from the United Kingdom to Australia, have stated there is no clear scientific evidence that these waves cause damage to our health. 

A study by Public Health England also found that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is likely to be much lower than that from other everyday devices in our smart homes, such as smartphones and other WiFi-enabled devices.

To find out more about smart meters, download our infographic.

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