Originally published June 18 2014
Smart meters really do spy on your use of appliances, industry admits
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) For years, anyone who suggested that the new electronic, Wi-Fi-capable "smart" electricity meters were devices that could be used to snoop on the unsuspecting public was labeled a crazy conspiracy nut. But, as is often the case, those people weren't off their rockers; they were prophetic.
Further, this technology is actually being celebrated by people who think that the technology is "cool." They obviously don't understand that it's just another nail in the coffin of the Fourth Amendment.
About a decade ago, when smart meters as a concept were starting out, techies and industry observers were touting them as a way to make more efficient use of the nation's various electric grids. Then as now, that is a noble construct; the problem is that, in order to do that, smart meters would have to be intrinsically invasive in terms of your privacy.
No longer a conspiracy but reality
How? Because the meters were envisioned to be power "disaggregators" -- that is, they were intended to determine which of your appliances used the most electricity, as well as which devices were used more frequently than others. And of course, that data goes somewhere -- the power companies, sure, but who else would want it? Government, of course.
Imagine that, at some point in the future, the government will know what appliances you have in your home, which ones you use the most and how often; that information will lead to a host of new rules and regulations and, most likely, targeted "usage" fees (which is a clever way of saying "taxes"). Want to ramp up that microwave (you shouldn't even be using one at all, but stick with me here)? Well, microwaves require more power than, say, your electric shaver, and maybe you've used enough power this week on your microwave so, if you want to use more, you'll have to pay a fee for that. Same thing with your conventional oven, for that matter. And so on.
Crazy? Conspiratorial? Ask yourself, then, why it makes any difference for electric companies (and whoever else will have access to the data) to know which appliances and products you are using and how often, when they are currently just billing you for the total amount of power used in a month. Why can't they just continue to do that?
According to Salim Popatia over at a site called Smart Grid News, the concept is rapidly progressing:
The advent of smart meters, like smart phones, was just the beginning. A phone that allowed you to easily check and respond to email (Blackberry circa 2006) was a ten-fold increase in value as compared to the phones of the past. Today, however, the thought of being able to use a phone only for talking and emailing seems archaic. What about taking and editing pictures, paying for my coffee, measuring my steps or the tremendous amounts of other value that third party apps have brought to the smart phone?
'What gets measured gets managed'
He goes on to say that, soon, the idea that smart meters will be able to tell power companies how much electricity is being used at any given time will seem "archaic."
"One of the next areas of value comes from taking smart meter data and 'disaggregating' it to tell us exactly how customers are using electricity," he wrote. "Do external devices already do this? Sure. Just as progress in the smart phone world reduced the need for external devices (cameras, alarm clocks, radios, pedometers, navigation systems, etc) the ability to get accurate, appliance level feedback, without the need to invest in external hardware, is the next step in the world of smart meters."
Popatia lays it all out: "As we all know, what gets measured gets managed."
"Knowing that I use more electricity than my neighbor, although motivating, unfortunately it's not necessarily actionable. On the other hand, knowing specifically that I spend more money on electric space heating gives me much more context in which to act. Studies indicate that the more specific the information, the better the conservation impact."
This is how government thinks and acts. Expect some regulation of specific uses of your electricity in the future, in part due to "the Internet of things," a fast-developing concept that will link virtually everything to the Internet (where it, too, can be monitored and "managed").
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