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Smart Meters Wreaking Havoc With Home Electronics

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the learn-to-play-nice dept.

Networking 375

wiredmikey writes "About 200 customers of the Central Maine Power Company recently noticed something odd after the utility installed smart meters in their homes: household electronics, including wireless devices, stopped working, or behaved erratically. Many Smart Meters broadcast in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Unfortunately, so do many of the consumer gadgets we take for granted these days including routers, electric garage doors, fire alarms, clocks, electric pet fences, answering machines, and baby monitors — even medical devices. The electromagnetic congestion in the home is in some ways similar to the growing electronic congestion in hospitals as they acquire more and more electronic monitors all operating within a few feet of each other. Medical equipment has been known to shut down or give erroneous results when positioned close to another piece of equipment. Such interference is not new, just getting worse — rapidly."

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375 comments

Gentoo?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156582)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Not so smart (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156588)

FCC has failed original mission statement.

Re:Not so smart (4, Insightful)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156756)

What a surprise when it can bought and sold like a company on the stock exchange.

Re:Not so smart (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157150)

What does this have to do with FCC being bought, lobbied, etc? This is the fault of wireless device manufacturers choosing a crowded band to put their devices on. The FCC explicitly lays out the rules for devices on this particular band saying that nobody has rights over others using it.

Re:Not so smart (4, Insightful)

KXeron (2391788) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157222)

The problem is that spectrum is up for sale, aside from governmental implementations, there really isn't "open spectrum" for specific classes of devices unless a manufacturer has a monopoly on that area of spectrum AND type of devices. Spectrum is either assigned to organizations based off of money (auctions), or it is put up as a "free-for-all", which results in either underutilized or overcrowded communications.

I bet if the FCC started allocating specific spectrum to specific industries (not organizations) the interference could drop quite quickly.

That's Easy! (1)

Beriaru (954082) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156592)

Go to 5Ghz. It's not congested... yet.

Even better (3, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156622)

Do not use wireless devices. Use cable connections in all that is possible.

Re:Even better (3, Insightful)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156782)

Wireless is the future for many apps - there's no turning back now. My mouse is (blissfully) wireless, and is my router, and hopefully the blasted sound lead will be in the future too (one can dream about the power lead).

However what we do need are better standards, and/or an automated system where any communicating device can find space in the spectrum to signal. I'm not sure how trivial that is, but that would need standards as well. Problem is we need to work together and cooperate to set these standards.

Re:Even better (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156800)

Wireless is the future for many apps - there's no turning back now. My mouse is (blissfully) wireless,

So is my keyboaaaaaaa&^&*!!

Re:Even better (4, Funny)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156830)

hopefully the blasted sound lead will be in the future

If only someone could come up with a way of transmitting audio via radio waves :p

Re:Even better (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156898)

Yes, it's almost as if sound can't be represented by data :)

A year or two back, I checked Amazon for some decent wireless speakers, and they all seemed 4 or 3.5 star highest (problems being sound lag or connectivity or sound quality). Now though, the situation seems to have at least improved a bit...

Re:Even better (2, Informative)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157110)

get this:http://www.amazon.com/Nokia-Bluetooth-Headset-Detachable-Headphones/dp/B002NEMH6G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322137747&sr=8-1
connect it to any pair of speakers you want. get audio from any bluetooth device. and the sound quality is almost indistinguishable from direct connection. also, similar stuff from jabra, etc sounds tinny.

Re:Even better (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156872)

Wireless doesn't need to be the future for hospitals, where each patient is already at a station where all instruments can be connected - the beds are already getting smarter than my dog (although no one has taught a bed to fetch yet), it's only a matter of time before all SATs and monitoring instruments are built in.

Re:Even better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157152)

I had the "pleasure" of recently using one of the new (installed that week) $15000 beds in the ICU of my local hospital. Whilst in many ways it was full of high technology (it could even weigh the patient - but only if the patient wasn't hooked up to any monitoring equipment or drips - not much use in my case), I found it somewhat amusing that the designers had gone for a very low-tech method to indicate the angle of inclination: a ball-bearing rolling in a curved channel.

Re:Even better (3, Funny)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156890)

Off-topic but...

I recall when wireless keyboards and mice first came out and one of our managers proudly bought a couple for the conference rooms to save unsightly wires.

Unfortunately he left a spare set in an easily accessible position and, even worse, left them all on their default settings.

When someone who's less than popular is presenting and people have a spare mouse tuned to the same channel you can imagine the fun to be had clicking their PowerPoint slides forward and backwards; even better when the culprits are outside the room.

The fact that the victim had upset the manager concerned did nothing to help his attempts to get sympathy / retribution

Re:Even better (3, Insightful)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157086)

When your batteries go dead, and the interference levels rise, I will still be typing, mousing, and have my internet connection with bits of copper connecting them all together ...

Re:Even better (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157132)

My mouse battery has lasted about 6-12 months so far, and battery tech is getting better all the time. There comes a point when the inconvenience of recharging/switching batteries becomes lower then the presence of a wire. What would your limit be? 1 month? 5 months? 50?

As for interference, that's why I spoke of standardizing frequencies so that kind of thing doesn't happen.

Wires look unsightly, and they get in the way, constantly getting tangled, or dragging on the table.

Re:Even better (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157118)

That "wireless future" is running into wall of congestion very, very fast. Which is the entire point of the article.

You have to remember, the basic premise of wireless is that it's as reliable as cable. When congestion hits, it won't be anymore. Which will bring cable as a vastly superior solution.

Re:Even better (2)

kqs (1038910) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157236)

Where did you hear that? I've never heard "as reliable as cable" except from a few of my managers who should know better. The basic premise is "more convenient than cable" which it usually is.

Re:Even better (3, Interesting)

blackicye (760472) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156806)

Do not use wireless devices. Use cable connections in all that is possible.

I usually tell this to my corporate and residential customers also, why would you want to go wireless when
you can run everything wired, and have it running, cheaper, faster and more stably?

The main reason they give is the unsightly wiring or additional trunking to the installation, the rest of the wiring is often concealed in their
homes or offices and they didn't think to add Cat5E or Cat6 to their infrastructure when they renovated.

Re:Even better (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157166)

Can you come round and run some Cat5 from my bedroom to my living room and charge me nothing for the cable and trunking, and nothing for your time and expertise?

No? So how is wired cheaper then?

Especially in this context when we're talking about dropping in one black box to replace another, versus dropping in one black box to replace another, laying cables, trunking cables, possibly going into the ceiling or floor, and connecting those to *every plug socket in the house* so every device in the house can talk to the meter. And doing that for every home in a given service area. For every service area in the country.

I guess your business is running cables, yes?

Other stuff is OK (4, Insightful)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156596)

but what are clocks and answering machines using wireless for?

Re:Other stuff is OK (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156732)

In Europe at least, many clocks are 'radio-controlled', keeping set to the correct time by picking up a radio signal.

I have answering machine built into my DECT phone, so in a sense that is 'using wireless' (I can listen to my messages from any handset, for example).

Re:Other stuff is OK (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157140)

You're talking about different frequency range. FM radio is not congested because it's very strictly regulated.

Re:Other stuff is OK (3, Informative)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157170)

Clocks also use a specific frequency for doing so, it's 60 kHz for the UK ones and I think the German one is 77 kHz (it's called DCF77 anyway). They're not exactly local transmissions - you can pick them up nearly 2000km away, afaicr.

Unlike the 2.4 GHz band, those frequencies are reserved and licenced. 2.4 GHz is a free for all.

Re:Other stuff is OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157130)

Check out Chumby (http://store.chumby.com/). It is a line of wifi connected clocks. There are many widgets for these small touchscreen devices that provide data feeds from the web, not to mention streaming audio from a variety of sources.

Re:Other stuff is OK (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157196)

TFA seems to be confused. Clocks use low frequency signals to set the time automatically, most commonly 60KHz or 77KHz. Answering machines are presumably built in to wireless phone base stations, so really it is only the handsets that need 2.4GHz to work.

2.4GHz? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156600)

Why would 'smart' meters not use SMS or something similar? Whatever 'green' imperative has these meters requiring more than that is a fail, by definition.

Re:2.4GHz? (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156810)

Why would 'smart' meters not use SMS or something similar? Whatever 'green' imperative has these meters requiring more than that is a fail, by definition.

This is an obvious and sensible solution. I expect that the reason comes down to mobile operators wanting to charge electric companies too much to use the service.

Re:2.4GHz? (4, Informative)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157094)

Money(SMS is extreme expensive comparatively). Latency. SMS delivery is not guaranteed by most networks. A number of other issues. Recently some of our customers decided they wanted to use our smart metering OPC server over GPRS. It is still not working (APN issues with the cell phone network), slow, and generally a pain. I'd much rather have the meters on 5GHz wifi. Even worse was the customer that tried to use 9600bps GSM. It cost them a fortune until they turned it off. And don't even talk to me about Power-Line transmission. I may kill you.

only going to get worse... (5, Informative)

lostsoulz (1631651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156606)

Most utilities are moving to smart meters. It's a technological nirvana propounded by PHBs and the companies selling the crap. Just think, you don't need to waste hard cash on people actually reading meters. Hell no, you can drive down a road and read all the meters with a laptop. Except you can't because some of the technology is immature and signal strength from these devices seldom reaches the manufacturers claims.

We were told by a manufacturer that their technology was secure because their software is proprietry. It's a recipe for disaster...especially given that a quick google for "security research smart meter," returns some interesting results. Welcome to the brave new world of smart metering. Minus the "smart."

Re:only going to get worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156718)

We don't have these smart meters and no one ever comes, there is an internet site where you can enter the consumption you read for yourself. They could come to verify it any time though.

Re:only going to get worse... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156942)

Here they just make an estimate and come to read once a year. You can also enter it yourself if it's wrong.

Re:only going to get worse... (5, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156768)

According to TFA, the smart meters will do more than that. They are intended in the medium term to allow power control within the house. So that the meter can signal to, say, the freezer that power demand is particularly high, and if it could hold off consuming power for a while it would be appreciated. And if you have electric cars, could they not charge at peak times, but turn on quickly as the peak subsides rather than doing it on a crude timer (or, in the most optimistic scenario, turn around and return power to the grid at extreme peaks).. In principle, this could save trillions in new power stations and power distribution.

Re:only going to get worse... (2)

mrbester (200927) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156880)

Any device that decides it can dictate when something that requires to be on continuously like a freezer should turn off will end up a twisted lump of trash in the street. I'd rather pay the extra couple of cents than risk food poisoning.

Re:only going to get worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156882)

Any decent freezer only uses power when it needs to (when it gets too warm inside). Also, I suspect a lot of people would feel urinated on if they were inconvenienced by empty car batteries due to high power demand.

I propose more efficient appliances (better—more expensive—insulation in the freezer) and a battery and/or mini-wind turbine or other small generator to be part of the Smart Meter to relieve load stress. Better than rancid meat or setting my toaster to light (I went black; never going back).

Re:only going to get worse... (2)

AlecC (512609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156960)

Most freezers have a large allowance for power cuts. If you get a power cut and do not open the freezer, it should stay cold for 24 hours. If you cut that margin to 18 hours, that will get them through the evening peak, and possibly stop you getting the power cut at all.

The care would probably be only the top, say, 25% of the capacity so you always have 75% if you need to go out in a hurry. Since peaks are in the evening, if you do not intend to use the car again until morning, overnight charging will have topped it back up to 100% by morning.

Of course, having only 18 hours instead of 24 of safety and risking the car being at 75% if you need to make an unexpected journey are both losses to you. But the utilities should be saving enough money to make the difference to your power bills significant.

Put it another way: you paid a lot for that big battery in your car. Why use it only when driving? Why not make that investment earn money for you while it is sat outside your door?

Re:only going to get worse... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157018)

What a great application for IP over power lines!

I still don't understand what they want wireless to. Unless they wan't my freezer to be controlled by my neighbor.

Re:only going to get worse... (1)

hufter (542690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156944)

I remember how it used to be. When the reader guy made his first round and you weren't home, you had a note: "I was here to read a meter, but you weren't home, please be home at this other time, or call to arrange a better reading time". The reader guy came once a year, and the monthly bill was based on an assumption how much you are using. Once a year there was a correcting bill that got payments up to date with the actual consumption. Of course electric and water companies had their own reader people.
Now I get a monthly bill based on the actual consumption and I don't have to let anyone in.

So what's the security risk? Someone finding out how much power I'm using?

Re:only going to get worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157026)

Exactly that. To be precise, you (or the police or some other intrusive agency) can learn a lot about a person's lifestyle from power consumption. At a minimum it can be determined when you arrive and depart, what time you cook, when you go to bed, etc. Pair that with devices that will give these spy meters exacting details of usage and you have a really serious problem. Your usage outside of what some slimeball enforcement agency defines as normal?-investigation time! If the data isn't secured, then you also have the possibility of harassment by criminals and marketers ("Hi, Mr. Smith, we've noticed your refrigerator isn't as efficient as a bright shiny new one. How would you like a special deal?). Any device controlling power in my home and talking to my appliances is going to be controlled by me and nobody else, and it won't keep logs.

Re:only going to get worse... (4, Interesting)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157178)

Energy firms in the UK already report unusually high power usage to the police, as it's often a sign of someone running a canabis factory.

Re:only going to get worse... (1)

deroby (568773) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157146)

Funny but true : yes that's what some people ARE afraid off.
In theory, judging on your consumption they might be able to deduce when you're most likely not at home and that would then be the best time to break in.

Personally I think most thugs have much more sophisticated methods to scout their targets.

(similar panic has struck us poor Belgians now too as Google Street View for Belgium went live yesterday...oh man, the reactions ...)

Re:only going to get worse... (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157220)

Actually there are very good reasons for having a smart meter, reasons that are not only for the utility company's benefit.

The place I work creates products for detecting leaks in pipes. We are currently looking at decides that interface with smart water meters to detect leaks inside people's homes. You could have a leak and not know about it if it is small, or if you happened to be away when it started. One not uncommon scenario is for people to go on a winter holiday and come back to find that a pipe froze and fractured, damaging their home.

Most products that do this kind of thing operation is ISM bands (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) which for the world is usually 433MHz and for the US 916MHz. 433MHz is ideal because you get good range with low power transmitters and since you only need to transmit very small amounts of data once a day or so congestion isn't usually a problem.

I have no idea why these smart meters would be using 2.4GHz and apparently transmitting all the time.

Does this mean... (4, Funny)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156612)

If I have a smart meter I could come home to my dog roasting away under the smoldering remains of his electric dog collar???

Or Grampa break dancing because his pacemaker is trying to tap out the digits of the last hours power consumption???

Eeeeewwwww!

Re:Does this mean... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156636)

Daily Mail readers quickly make themselves known.

Re:Does this mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156846)

They sure do.

Shielding (2)

Konsalik (1921874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156644)

Try it, bitches.

Re:Shielding (3, Interesting)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156784)

Shielding doesn't work if the device needs an antenna to function. Wireless devices need their antenna's. These devices work on the same frequencies as wireless/bluetooth/micowaves/dect/alarms.
"POE. Try it, bitches" would have been more appropriate. Assuming the transformers allow high frequency signals to pass, a relatively high power/low frequency/low bandwith (The supplier doesn't need to check your usage more frequently than once a year, multiplied by the amount of data (1K would easily be enough) multiplied by the amount of subscribers in the area) POE communications channel would let them check all the houses without driving a car through the neighbourhood at all.

Why wireless???? (3, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156650)

Smart meters control the power going to electrical devices... logically, these are part of the electric grid, and are connected to powerlines. Why not add another wire to carry the signal, if you need to build a bunch of powerlines anyway?

Re:Why wireless???? (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156676)

Better yet, why not use the powerlines themselves.

Re:Why wireless???? (2)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157186)

Electric meters are not the only meters being read by wireless. More and more gas meters are remotely read, and there isn't a wired option.

Utility companies like reading meters from a distance because of the hassle customers give the meter readers. Biting dogs, locked gates, high fences, holly bushes, flower beds, all kinds of crap on the meter, etc., etc. are a PITA for meter readers.

I'm not a meter reader. I check your gas service and meter for leaks. If I can't get to it because of a locked gate or a vicious dog, then you're on your own. I just write down why I can't check it and go on my merry way. See you in five years . . . . if you haven't blown up.

Re:Why wireless???? (3, Informative)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156704)

There are typically two parts to the meter. One that clips to the electrical powerline(s) near to where they come into the premises and another that displays the realtime power consumption. Since the former is typically in a closet and the latter placed somewhere it can be seen, there may be some distance between the two. That potentially makes running a cable a less than ideal solution, so the default solution seems to be to just go with wireless.

Re:Why wireless???? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156970)

Because the existing power lines are burried under roads and hang from poles. Retrofitting would be expensive. You can send data over power lines with some signal proessing trickery, but that brings it's own EMI and licencing issues, and isn't that reliable. Power is noisy.

Re:Why wireless???? (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157036)

We have direct-read meters in our condo. They're connected to a fiber net running throughout the building. The door cameras and intercom, water and gas meters and the fire alarm all use the same fiber. As a bonus, since they ran more fiber than the utility stuff uses, this also gives us very cheap fiber broadband. It's behind a building-wide router so I can forget about having a server or anything, but it's still a high-speed connection at a pittance.

Why, just why!? (3, Insightful)

BenJury (977929) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156660)

Why do 'smart' meters need to broadcast anything? If they're planning on using these things to communicate to high power devices, or any electrical device, the damn things are already wired together. Use that.

If we're talking meter reading, then use the mobile network. Powering up to send a text with the reading every 3 months isn't exactly a big deal and I'd imagine would be considerably cheaper than still having to send someone to each property.

You really do have to wonder who comes up with these ideas...

Re:Why, just why!? (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156744)

Why do 'smart' meters need to broadcast anything?

Because the "smart" part of the meter is the part where it gives the utility company (and the powers that be) the ability to monitor in real-time what you've got running and at what times, along with the ability to take control of heating/cooling of a residence away from the consumer.

This is why I simply don't buy what they're selling when they tell consumers it's simply to inform you of usage and keep your rates down by saving on employing people for meter reading. If that was the entire truth, they wouldn't need such capabilities.

Strat

Re:Why, just why!? (1)

BenJury (977929) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156772)

Right, but the sort of broadcasting in the article wouldn't achieve this. Connection via the mobile network, or via the physical electricity line would. I still cant see a need for them to broadcast at this frequency.

Re:Why, just why!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156868)

This is why I simply don't buy what they're selling when they tell consumers it's simply to inform you of usage and keep your rates down by saving on employing people for meter reading. If that was the entire truth, they wouldn't need such capabilities.

Strat

So you're concerned they might use the smart meter to shut down your ass dildo at an inopportune moment?

Re:Why, just why!? (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156886)

Because the "smart" part of the meter is the part where it gives the utility company (and the powers that be) the ability to monitor in real-time what you've got running and at what times, along with the ability to take control of heating/cooling of a residence away from the consumer.

Why would any company want to do that? Why would anyone want to take control of your heating/cooling? What could anyone possibly gain by doing that? Aside from not being able to charge you more money for using your heating?

Or is it you're just paranoid?

Re:Why, just why!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156754)

So the company can read them remotely from a car on the street. I never understood why they can't broadcast it directly over the power line (at least in EU, where the distribution net do not use a distribution transformer for every building).

Re:Why, just why!? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157080)

If we're talking meter reading, then use the mobile network. Powering up to send a text with the reading every 3 months isn't exactly a big deal and I'd imagine would be considerably cheaper than still having to send someone to each property.

The dumb meter I've just gotten here in Australia uses a mesh network to communicate with neighbouring meters. The meters report their own status every 15 minutes, and supposedly pass on status messages from surrounding meters until it reaches a central node for the area, which I haven't found yet. I haven't bothered to monitor the thing yet to see if it broadcasts continuously, or just for a burst every 15 minutes. Fortunately, the local meters are using 900MHz, so they don't interfere with my stuff, but the manufacturers data sheet lists 2.4GHz as another option. I imagine in countries where they haven't been given a free chunk of spectrum like they have been here, they're using 2.4GHz to save money.

The reason for the every 15 minutes is that the usage total is timestamped, and some time in the future we'll be moved to a time of use tariff, which will be calculated for me. The meter, of course, can't show me peak/off-peak amounts, just a running total. Why would I need to know when I can just trust the power company to work it out for me?

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that we "need" meters that are wirelessly networked. This seems to be one of those Great Assumptions that only the terminally stupid would dare to question, and thus there is no point in bothering to give an answer because we wouldn't understand it anyway. Pay no attention to the naked emperor walking down there street there.

WIFI radiation anyone? (-1, Troll)

bejiitas_wrath (825021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156686)

The Smart meters use 2.4GHZ WIFI, because the reader is too lazy to come to each house and read the meter like the good old days? And the fact that these meters can cause cancer and other ailments does not seem to matter to the people that are pushing this new technology. Some sense needs to be made of this soon and we need to work out why these meters are putting out so much radiation. How are they going to reduce carbon emissions.

Have to feed trolls sometimes (1)

dev825 (2515054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156734)

Please kindly go die in a fire.

Re:Have to feed trolls sometimes (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156844)

But a fire would create carbon emissions and also produce infrared radiation, and radiation causes cancer!

Smart Meters (5, Interesting)

thejynxed (831517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156690)

These things are about as useful as tits on a lawnmower. The meters can't even record accurate use if your house wiring is over 20 years old. The power company where I live is having fits because not a single one of the smart meters they installed in the historic district of the town where I live (and I live in this district) is recording accurate consumption. They've found meters read 1kWh for an entire week. In an apartment building with 6 apartments. To be fair, the wiring is about ancient in these buildings. Some of it has cloth coverings. The fuse boxes in most of them still use the old "stick" fuses made out of waxed paper, etc, etc, etc. Breaker boxes? WHO NEEDS THOSE :P

Also of note: the historic district rules prevent people like the power company from installing more than a single meter per standing structure. This makes tenants very happy, as that means each and every single apartment in the district is "utilities included" when it comes to rent.

Re:Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156776)

Hey, if my lawnmower had tits, the grass would get cut a whole lot more.

Re:Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156786)

Electricity is electricity. The age of the house has nothing to do with it's ability to get metered.

Re:Smart Meters (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157048)

Of course one can meter it. But some kinds of metering devices can't be used on some kinds of wire arrangement. (And some can be used on all of them.)

Re:Smart Meters (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156824)

These things are about as useful as tits on a lawnmower.

There are plento of those on the sit-on varieties

Re:Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156850)

These things are about as useful as tits on a lawnmower.

There are plento [sic] of those on the sit-on varieties

Yeah, but sitting on her tends to piss her off...

Re:Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156922)

Also of note: the historic district rules prevent people like the power company from installing more than a single meter per standing structure. This makes tenants very happy, as that means each and every single apartment in the district is "utilities included" when it comes to rent.

You know that "utilities included" doesn't mean it's free. You're still paying, just via your rent. What it does mean is that there's no incentive to reduce one's consumption as you're effectively being subsidized by other apartments. Which in turn leads to a tragedy of the commons situation leading to everyone consuming (and paying) more.

Re:Smart Meters (3, Interesting)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157162)

how does old wiring hamper the ability of the meter to measure power usage? seems like something else is going on.

Re:Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157212)

One would expect old wiring to be leaking current throughout he poor insulators, thus *increasing* power consumption.

Tin Foil Hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156692)

Time to make your smart meter a grounded tin foil hat, that should fix the problem....

In Nevada they used $700M of 'job stimulus' money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156750)

In Nevada they used $700M of 'job stimulus' money to hire an outside subcontractor to install these new spy-meters which have eliminated thousands of jobs.

The power company that benefited is a large for profit monopoly corp that already overcharges customers and over pays upper management.

For the same money, we could have built 3 new solar power plants the size of the existing Nevada Solar One and reduced coal consumption costs in perpetuity.

To top it all off, during the installs, many people have had TVs and computers fail but the power company claims it's just a coincidence.

There should be no for-profit monopolies. All monopolies should be seized via Eminent Domain and turned into co-ops.

Electric pet fences (4, Interesting)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156764)

I'd never heard of electric pet fences before. You Americans scare me.

Re:Electric pet fences (5, Informative)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156854)

Its a common enough tool for people who are to lazy to properly train their pet. The version I know is a wire in the ground that sends a low power radio signal and a collar that detects if it crosses the wire. If it does the pet gets a small electric shock.
In my vieuw (and I have trained a dog to stay inside my parent's garden) this can't be a good thing: the dog gets punished without a clear reason (lazy people didn't take the time to make it clear to the dog it can't go into their flowerbeds). This can wreak havoc on the dog's simple "psyche": I'd expect some to grow fearfull of everything, some to grow extremely viscious and some to go completely beserk.

Re:Electric pet fences (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157204)

They're illegal in Wales (you can get charged with animal cruelty) and as far as I knew were going to be made illegal in the rest of the UK soon enough.

Re:Electric pet fences (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157228)

The collars do emit a buzzing that gets louder the closer to the wire that the dog gets, giving plenty of warning before they get shocked.

My parents used them to set up property boundaries for their collies. Chain link fencing is more expensive to set up and a lot harder to run through forests with thick undergrowth than a single wire that's easily shaped around obstacles.

Of course, collies aren't stupid dogs and while they learned quickly what the property boundaries were because they learned to associate that buzzing with the shock, they also learned how to defeat the system. The very first time the batteries in their collars went dead they learned that they could cross the boundary. Then they learned how to drain the batteries faster by getting into the range where it would buzz and just laying down. They would lay there for hours at a time, day after day, until the batteries died and they could cross with impunity. After about a year the fences were useless because the dogs would drain fresh batteries within a few days, but at the same time they had pretty much stopped leaving the property.

There really wasn't a downside in the case of my parents using it, except for a lot of money being spent on batteries for the collars. They ended up using the fence later to train two german shephards the same way, and my mom still has the main unit fastened to her garage wall. It's just no longer plugged in and has no wire attached.

I wouldn't recommend it for something small like a garden or a flowerbed, but a rural home with a lot of property to cover is a perfect use for it.

Re:Electric pet fences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156866)

Every thing is bigger in USA.

Cows are very good pets.

I don't know how to solve it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156778)

... but it would help if I could see it.

I don't understand enough to know what I'm talking abou, bu here is an idea: It might be possible to have a very basic tool (closer to hardware than iwlist) to detect who is using which channel, which in turn gives a hint about frequencies used in the vicinity.

Pinpointing a rogue wireless phone could do wonders for one's personal wi-fi network -- or even for the neighbour's one.

Smart Meters != Energy Monitors (5, Informative)

Jagen (30952) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156794)

Firstly a lot of people in here seem to be confusing Smart Meters with Energy Monitors. The former replaces the old dial meter and it supposed to communicate with other meters in the area and/or directly with the energy supplier for billing and better tracking of consumption.

Energy Monitors are those devices which clamp around lines by your meter and communicate to a box in your house giving you an idea of your realtime energy use.

so cage it in? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156838)

Faraday has a perfect solution for this problem. Maybe the power company won't like it, but hey, if they have a problem with it, they should ask the FCC for a frequency range of their own.

Just a variant... (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38156856)

...of a problem that was first noted in the mid 1980s and termed "electronic smog" but the most general term is RFI and dates back as far radio systems in general. Not only do signals interfere with each other, but signals will interfere with ANY electronic device where pins or wires are capable of acting as a dipole. It's unusual for a machine to get scrambled due to an electronic can opener, but if said devices are improperly shielded, it is inevitable.

In the case of wireless devices, you obviously can't shield the antenna. Well, not if you want it to still work. Provided interference is randomish and not overwhelming, AND provided all devices are based on packet communications, a device will be capable of repairing packets and identifying if they're intended for that device.

The first problem is that many electronic devices don't give a damn about power levels beyond being low enough to not be the target of FCC ire. The second problem is that older devices especially are NOT packet based. This means that such devices can't tell if stray signals are intended for them or not. Anything that merely detects the presence of a signal won't care if that signal is a door-opener or a WoW session.

It would be good if transmitters/receivers were a bit more directional - a garage door probably shouldn't be looking for signals coming from the neighbor's house. A door opener can afford to be very direct, since you want to open your door and nobody else's. A smart meter is designed to transmit to the road, so again it can be extremely directional. Directional transmitters and receivers mean less power is needed for the same signal strength received AND less interference off those directions.

Medical devices, except when ABSOLUTELY necessary, should NEVER be wireless. The risk of RFI is way too high and the consequences of an error are far too severe. Wireless is also lower bandwidth, which places hard limits on the kinds of sensors it's useful for and also hard limits on what innovations can be made to medical sensor technology. Inside of a hospital room, I can't think of a single use for wireless devices where wired would not be superior in every respect.

Re:Just a variant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38157244)

Inside of a hospital room, I can't think of a single use for wireless devices where wired would not be superior in every respect.

Tripping on a spider web of wires? But that's the only one I can think of OTOH.

Elster REX2 (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38156964)

My electrical provider uses the Elster REX2, which operates in the 900-something MHz range.

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Elster-REX2-Smart-Meter-Teardown/5710/1

Look closely...the meter gets your power draw via an inductive ring that doesn't physically touch the hot phases, so no chance it can electrically interfere either. And it'll work no matter how old the building is.

Our electrical provider installed a batch of these right before we got some extremely cold weather, and since this is Florida, people set their thermostats into the 70s during the winter. Bills shot up due to the weather, and the meters were blamed. Not a single meter was found to be working incorrectly.

It's not really a big deal. (4, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157006)

When I fire up my 13cm amateur radio gear, I obliterate everything that uses 2.4GHz wireless for a mile or two radius until I'm done transmitting.

Don't like it? Then make sure your filthy unlicensed ISM gear has adequate filtering. Oh, you bought the cheapest crappiest wifi card you could find? Sucks to be you.

Isnt this getting a little complicated? (1)

Troke (1612099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38157008)

I know this is /. but perhaps a less gadgety would be better. Offer minor savings as incentive for people to read their own meter, and have the meter read by the company every 6 months or a year. A fee + the difference in meter reads could be charged if you falsify as they would know your usage anyway from the company reading. It could even go so far as to have a unique identifier on the meter and require you to e-mail a picture of your meter on x day of every month.
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