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Ask Slashdot: Are Smart Meters Safe?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the call-on-your-cell-phone-to-find-out dept.

Communications 684

An anonymous reader writes "There is a lot of controversy and a big hullabaloo about Southern California Edison and various other utilities around the country installing smart meters at residential homes. Various action groups claim that these smart meters transmit an unsafe amount of RF and that they are an invasion of privacy. The information out there seems rather spotty and inconsistent — what do you engineers out there think? Are these things potentially harmful? Are they an invasion of privacy?"

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Privacy issue in Europe (5, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529249)

In Europe, they're being investigated as a privacy issue:

Hi-tech monitors that track households' energy consumption threaten to become a major privacy issue, according to the European watchdog in charge of protecting personal data.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has warned that smart meters, which must be introduced into every home in the UK within the next seven years, will be used to track much more than energy consumption unless proper safeguards are introduced.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/01/household-energy-trackers-threat-privacy [guardian.co.uk]

Fear issue in Europe (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529585)

That link really doesn't demonstrate the answer to the question of "how will they read power consumption down to the device level"? At best someone carries on about home automation, but that's always been a voluntary matter. Reading the meter more often than monthly will reveal finer resolution like trends(i.e. Friday traditionally use more) information a power utility can use to plan upgrades.

Re:Privacy issue in Europe (5, Insightful)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529709)

Wait a sec. How is it a privacy issue for the utility provider, that already knows how much power you consume, to use a smart meter? Help me out here.

Anecdotaly... As a multiple time sufferer from mis-read meters and the pain in the ass that results from convincing the power company to believe that you really didn't use 10000 KW/h last month when you've been average 1500 KW/h for years I love that my usage is precisely monitored and measured. I also get some cool features like email alerts if my usage spikes, the ability to see my projected bill ahead of time and make adjustments to my usage in advance, and I can compare my usage to other houses in the neighborhood. That last however DOES NOT IDENTIFY THE HOUSES. All I see is "your usage is x% more/less than similar size houses this week".

Re:Privacy issue in Europe (2)

linuxgeek64 (1246964) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529789)

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has warned that smart meters, which must be introduced into every home in the UK within the next seven years, will be used to track much more than energy consumption unless proper safeguards are introduced.

Re:Privacy issue in Europe (2)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529855)

that's all you see. what do they see?

Re:Privacy issue in Europe (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529891)

Your old meter can only accumulate the power usage over its readout (by the power company) interval, usually 1 year or so.
So the power company knows you used 1500 kWh last year, but not when that happened.

With a smart meter, the readout is available for 15 minute intervals. So the power company knows when you sleep, when you
wake up, when you leave for work, when you come back, when you start cooking, when you start watching TV, etc etc etc.

If that isn't an invasion of privacy, I don't know what is.

Physically safe, yes... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529263)

safe for your privacy and bank account, no.

Re:Physically safe, yes... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529519)

Agreed, no physical risk. Those people are the people who believe in Wi-Fi allergies. The privacy problems are real.

PRIORITIES! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529267)

Andy Griffith just died.

Have some PRIORITIES, man!

Violates the law (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529271)

This headline violates Betteridge's Law, please rephrase so the question is: Are Smart Meters Unsafe?

Seriously, which idiot editor posted this garbage? /glances up
Of course.

Re:Violates the law (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529349)

This headline violates Betteridge's Law, please rephrase so the question is: Are Smart Meters Unsafe?

Seriously, which idiot editor posted this garbage? /glances up
Of course.

Alternate Universe Headline:

Smart Meters are safe! Noted to increase children's IQ by 30 points, your penis size by 20 cm (this is an International web site, after all) and increases female libido.

Next up:

Politicians have voter's best interests in mind!

Marijuana legalized!

Supreme Court realizes that they screwed up in 'Bush vs. Gore' - promise to do better next time!

Re:Violates the law (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529647)

Is that 20 CM in length or diameter?

Re:Violates the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529873)

Yes.

CAPTCHA = snores

Really ? Unsafe amount of RF ? (5, Insightful)

Worchaa (774320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529287)

I'll be these folks lodged some of their complaints over a mobile phone. And none of them use garage door openers, or keep track of their kids at the mall using FRS radios... argh. If they don't like the idea of remote meter reading, fine-- that's one thing, and a valid discussion to be had. But unsafe RF levels ? Are you KIDDING me ?

Re:Really ? Unsafe amount of RF ? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529453)

Yeah. Anytime someone asks engineers what they think regarding "dangerous RF", 9 out of 10 responses fall in the range from "No, let me explain how it compares to all these other things you use every day, including sunlight, and about photon energy and how that differentiates visible~radio waves from ionizing radiation" to "STFU you bleeding idiot, read a grade-school science text!". And the remaining one will be blathering on about how he works at a megawatt-class radio transmitter which can absolutely kill you if you stand to close due to the high E field, therefore would everyone STFU about wavelength being the only significant parameter. (Because what would /. be without pedants pointing out things clearly unrelated to the current case that nevertheless make the conventional knowledge technically inaccurate?)

You'd think at some point they'd get tired of asking us...

Re:Really ? Unsafe amount of RF ? (5, Funny)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529649)

You'd think at some point they'd get tired of asking us...

They would, if they could remember the &#@* answer for more than 10 seconds.

Re:Really ? Unsafe amount of RF ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529621)

When it's something they just can't LIVE without, they'll fight tooth and nail to refute any report claiming it's even in the least bit dangerous. Things like cell phones, wireless mice/keyboards, garage door openers, etc, etc.

But give them something they don't like (i.e. some way that makes it easier for utilities companies to bill them and zomg take their HARD EARNED AMERICAN MONEYYYYYY), and whoa NELLY, you'll never see something MORE hypocritically demonized by any means necessary in your life. It could run at a millionth the power of a previously "proven" safe cell phone, use frequencies that haven't even proven dangerous to insects at ten million times the power they're using, CURE cancer rather than cause it, and give free ice cream to the neighborhood kids, but if it makes the bill collector's job even the slightest bit easier, every single nit will be picked out of it, complete with all their "life-threatening" consequences, in exquisite detail, copied all across the internet as a sign of TEH TRUE EVULZ OHNOEZ.

Radiation hazard? (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529297)

Not only is there no evidence that these meters are harmful, but the effect of radio frequency exposure upon living tissue (approximatly none) is well-studied and understood. These radiophobes have about as much scientific respectability as the anti-vaxers, homeopaths and creationists. They are a parody of science.

Re:Radiation hazard? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529383)

Not only is there no evidence that these meters are harmful, but the effect of radio frequency exposure upon living tissue (approximatly none) is well-studied and understood. These radiophobes have about as much scientific respectability as the anti-vaxers, homeopaths and creationists. They are a parody of science.

Hey you asshole, VMS was a fine OS for its day, show some respect ;-)

Re:Radiation hazard? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529843)

Ha!

Re:Radiation hazard? (0, Troll)

sdinfoserv (1793266) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529569)

Unfortunately, the majority of people in the US are creationists. Science has no place here. Move on.. nothing to see...

Re:Radiation hazard? (2)

Matt.Battey (1741550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529865)

Interesting point, but I don't thin creationists are the ones who fear RF radiation. I think those tend to be the secular humanist, grow your own food group, who also fear hormones and ahem deodorant.

Re:Radiation hazard? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529867)

Not only is there no evidence that these meters are harmful, but the effect of radio frequency exposure upon living tissue (approximatly none) is well-studied and understood. These radiophobes have about as much scientific respectability as the anti-vaxers, homeopaths and creationists. They are a parody of science.

Welllll .. dang

So what am I now to do with 300,000 square yards of aluminum foil?

Yes and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529303)

Everything is unsafe, and yes they do invade privacy. But having someone come around and manually read the thing invades privacy also, potentially more as then you have a human within feet of your window. As for the hazard level, everyone on Slashdot has been in RF-flooded environments for most of their lives, adding another medium-range transmitter won't make any difference unless you go sleep on it.

It's an emotional reaction, I'm not sure if I'd want one on my place, but I'm even less sure that I'd care one way or the other.

Re:Yes and no (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529345)

A lot of the RF meters also have the capability of being shut off from remote. Having a wardriver see your electricity usage is one thing. Having someone be able to shut off electricity to people on a Friday before finals is something completely different.

Re:Yes and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529423)

Having someone be able to shut off electricity to people on a Friday before finals is something completely different.

Yes, you'll probably actually have to study instead of watching TV, playing xbox, or surfing pr0n.

Re:Yes and no (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529701)

I once pulled the off lever on a fuse box at a frat house at 2AM the night before finals. Bunch of assholes.

Re:Yes and no (1)

nugatory78 (971318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529615)

The difference between a smart meter and someone reading it manually, is the smart meter has your usage over time, not just X amount of KWh this month.

Privacy Issues Aside... (4, Insightful)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529305)

Can you editors please present the article submitted with a decent summary and leave off the inflammatory questions tagged onto the end? This trend has been getting worse as time goes on...and the answer to these questions is usually the same: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines [wikipedia.org]

Re:Privacy Issues Aside... (4, Informative)

RedACE7500 (904963) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529379)

It's an Ask Slashdot.

Re:Privacy Issues Aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529609)

Just remember, this is Slashdot... you're not the customer, you're the product.

Re:Privacy Issues Aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529675)

Sorry. Privacy issue is a concern. Why, you might ask?

Because Law Enforcement Agencies will use it against you. They'll see 2 years of consistent power usage, and then all of the sudden, a 20% increase that started in March, and hasn't quit. Result? You must be growing drugs, and here's a search warrant and SWAT team to break down the door to serve it! Think it won't happen? It already has, and this type of power reporting, and purported 'saving' for which it is being implemented, will lead to more inexcusable, questionably legal incidents.

I pay my city, when I pay my electric bill. Not any co-op or Corporation. You really think they aren't keeping tabs on peoples usage? It was in the contract when I signed up to get power. And that, is the legal loophole that makes having a smart meter, unquestionably a privacy matter.

Re:Privacy Issues Aside... (1)

SimplyGeek (1969734) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529901)

This actually does happen. Police departments have gotten warrants by monitoring electricity usage. Whether or not they got that information after some other primary evidence, I don't know.

Re:Privacy Issues Aside... (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529819)

This trend has been getting worse as time goes on

You're viewing history through rose-colored glasses. It's been pretty much always like this.

Inverse Betteridge's Law (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529307)

Yes.

Depends (0, Troll)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529313)

How are we defining 'safe' in this instance?

If by 'safe' you mean doesn't put out a harmful amount of RF, I would guess the jury's out on that one, and probably will be for quite some time, especially considering what other government agencies (TSA) have gotten away with up to this point when it comes to hiding device emission data from the public.

If by 'safe' you mean 'cannot be hacked,' I would say no right off the bat, as anything that transmits information wirelessly is inherently unsafe due to the nature of RF signal propagation.

If by 'safe' you mean that it won't spontaneously combust and take half your home with it in the subsequent atomic blast, then I would say yea, probably not a lot of risk on that one.





Also... First Post.

Re:Depends (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529623)

If by 'safe' you mean doesn't put out a harmful amount of RF, I would guess the jury's out on that one

No, RF is well understood. If it's non-ionizing, it's not harmful.

Re:Depends (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529821)

" I would guess the jury's out on that one,"
no, it isn't. It's safe. The only people saying it isn't is dimwits and people looking to create a fake "controversy"

Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529321)

> Are these things potentially harmful?

They are every bit as dangerous as cellphones.

> Are they an invasion of privacy?

Of course. They are telling the power company how much electricity you are using. What business is that of theirs?

Re:Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529403)

But if someone does something I don't feel right about.... UNCONSTITUTIONAL! (Reference absent)

Re:Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529563)

> Are they an invasion of privacy?

Of course. They are telling the power company how much electricity you are using. What business is that of theirs?

While it's definitely the power company's right to know how much power I'm using, and even to know in aggregate how much peak versus non-peak power I'm using, but they really shouldn't need to know hour by hour or minute by minute (or even day by day) how much power I'm using.

They already have instrumentation at the substations that tells them how much power my neighborhood is using so they know how much power to generate, they don't need to know when I'm doing laundry, when I go to work, when my house is vacant because I'm on vacation, etc.

Re:Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (3, Insightful)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529707)

While it's definitely the power company's right to know how much power I'm using, and even to know in aggregate how much peak versus non-peak power I'm using, but they really shouldn't need to know hour by hour or minute by minute (or even day by day) how much power I'm using.

They already have instrumentation at the substations that tells them how much power my neighborhood is using so they know how much power to generate, they don't need to know when I'm doing laundry, when I go to work, when my house is vacant because I'm on vacation, etc.

Yeah, it is obvious the power company in intent on stealing secrets about your laundry habits rather than trying to balance infrastructure cost and capability.

Those sons-a-bitches should quit trying to provide you with better service and let you live in peace. Call and tell them to disconnect you from the grid altogether. Install PV on your roof and keep those nosy power company bastards at bay!

Re:Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529731)

Smart Meters can be set gather usage/billing data every 15 minutes to allow the electric company to charge higher rates during peak usage times (hot summer afternoons).
Rumor has it the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandated and approved this plan.

Re:Tinfoil hat! Get yer tinfoil hat on! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529575)

They are every bit as dangerous as cellphones.

People use them while driving?

Privacy issues aside... (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529341)

... I wouldn't want a remote-controllable power switch to be available to 3rd parties, authorities and who knows who else. Electricity is vital and this is just another vulnerability someone might exploit or use to control / blackmail me.

Re:Privacy issues aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529923)

I seriously doubt that they can use these meters as a switch. To build them with a remotely operated service disconnect inside would add about an extra thousand dollars to their costs (not to mention make them much larger). Plus if a house had 400 amp service, the additional cost would be closer to $2k. Just check prices on automatic transfer switches people use for whole house generators and you can put your mind to ease they don't do this. Secondly, the full current that your appliances use never go through the meter anyways, a current transformer is used to scale the measured current down (by a known factor) to a more manageable level.

They can reveal usage date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529343)

There is a proof of concept showing that the use of smart meters could reveal television usage for example:

"Researchers at the Münster University of Applied Sciences have discovered that it is possible to use electricity usage data from smart electricity meters to determine which programmes consumers are watching on a standard TV set. The experiments were carried out as part of the state-funded DaPriM (data privacy management) project. By analysing electricity consumption patterns, it is, in principle, also possible to identify films played from a DVD or other source.”

-> http://www.h-online.com/security/news/item/Smart-meters-reveal-TV-viewing-habits-1346385.html

Re:They can reveal usage date (2)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529525)

There is a proof of concept showing that the use of smart meters could reveal television usage

OH MY GOD!!

This is an outrage! I mean, it's not as if anyone driving by your house in a properly-equipped van can already know what you're watching by picking up the frequencies emitted by your TV receiver's local oscillator or anything...

Oh, wait a minute...

Re:They can reveal usage date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529527)

This is revolting. Next they'll want to install smart meters for internet access and then they'll know all about my online activities!

Re:They can reveal usage date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529567)

Fortunately, we all use LCD TVs, so it's only a privacy problem for old people.

Re:They can reveal usage date (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529767)

Or the could call your cable company.

Water (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529357)

Our water meter was just replaced with a digital one that transmits to the Powers That Be. I thought it was pretty cool. The display has a photo sensor so it only comes on when you shine a flashlight on it (it's in the basement). Our reported monthly water usage is also lower since we got the new meter... I can only assume it's more accurate.

Re:Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529803)

Water meters tend to measure less flow due to inaccuracy. Rarely will they measure high.. only when the programmed meter factor is incorrect.

More worried about government than RF cancer (4, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529367)

Under CISPA, if it passes the Senate, the government can see any private corporate record it desires. Including your smartmeter electrical usage.

Even without CISPA, governments or govt-controlled utilities at the state level have passed laws mandating rolling blackouts. So your A/C could suddenly shutoff and you'd get nice and toasty. (I prefer dumb meters that *I* control without any communication back to the central entity.)

Re:More worried about government than RF cancer (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529683)

What a bunch of nonsense.

Why would a government want to see your smart meter usage? please.
and if you are having a rolling black out, the type of meter doesn't fucking matter, it's a black out.

What the could do is smarter brownouts. Hell, if the Electrical company spent the money and considerable time, it could implement a system that shuts off electricity to everything BUT your AC during a brownout.

Why do you think you control your meter? You don't, it's not your property.

its the same as a cordless phone (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529369)

having worked on some of those meters a good chunk use 900mhz RF.

Shielding (4, Interesting)

ktappe (747125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529385)

Serious question: If you wrap your smart meter in tinfoil (or for purposes of this argument) lead, what happens?

Re:Shielding (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529705)

Assuming RF meter reading. The meter reader would note no reading and then look at their property; which you have vandalized.

Re:Shielding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529815)

Assuming you do a good enough job to prevent the signal from getting where it needs to go, then after 3 days of missing reads we send out a troubleshooter along with a new meter to resolve the problem.

Trespassing.... (4, Funny)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529395)

I remember reading one news story where a property owner was saying he considered anyone coming onto his property to be a violation of his rights and might shoot someone from the power company if they tried to install a smart meter. I wish I could have asked him how the power company reads his meter right now?

Stupidest person ever.

Re:Trespassing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529469)

I remember reading one news story where a property owner was saying he considered anyone coming onto his property to be a violation of his rights and might shoot someone from the power company if they tried to install a smart meter. I wish I could have asked him how the power company reads his meter right now?

By telescope.

Re:Trespassing.... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529509)

I remember reading one news story where a property owner was saying he considered anyone coming onto his property to be a violation of his rights and might shoot someone from the power company if they tried to install a smart meter. I wish I could have asked him how the power company reads his meter right now?

Stupidest person ever.

My power company reads my (non-smart) meter from the public sidewalk through a small window in the side of my house that's there specifically for the gas and electric meters. No need to enter my property.

Re:Trespassing.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529737)

But they have the right to enter you're property with any work dealing with their meter.

And most people the person enters their property.

Re:Trespassing.... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529857)

But they have the right to enter you're property with any work dealing with their meter.

I'm not aware of any right to entry. My meter is locked inside my house, and unless I unlock the door and let them in, they aren't allowed to force their way in. I don't even think they are legally allowed to enter in an emergency (i.e. a gas leak). They have to wait for the police and/or fire department.

Of course, they are under no obligation to provide power to me if I don't let them service their meter, but they can't forcibly come in and change out my meter.

And most people the person enters their property.

Not true. In my state, most property the person people.

Re:Trespassing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529523)

I wish I could have asked him how the power company reads his meter right now?

Very quietly, at night.

Re:Trespassing.... (5, Insightful)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529717)

This property owner fellow needs to do more research on easements, encumbrances, and fee simple property titles. Property ownership is not as simple as most hillbillies think it is.

Re:Trespassing.... (3, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529833)

Most, if not all, electricity contracts which are required to receive service have clauses in them that allow the utility to access their property. Here is the one for British Columbia [bchydro.com] .

9.5. Access to Premises
BC Hydro's agents and employees shall have, at all reasonable times, free access to the equipment supplied with Electricity, and to BC Hydro's meters, wires and apparatus on the Customer's Premises, for the purpose of reading meters and testing, installing, removing, repairing or replacing any of BC Hydro's equipment, and to ascertain the quantity or method of use of service and the amount of Electricity consumed. If access to meter rooms or other locations where BC Hydro equipment is installed is restricted, the Customer shall supply BC Hydro with lockbox keys or other keys or means of access as may be necessary to provide BC Hydro with ready access to those locations. In no case will BC Hydro accept keys to private residential Premises.
If free access to BC Hydro's equipment on the Customer's Premises is denied or obstructed in any manner, including by debris, unsafe walkways or other means of access, or the presence of animals, and the Customer does not remedy the problem upon being requested by BC Hydro to do so, service may be suspended and not reconnected until the problem is corrected;

Basically if the property owner does not let BC Hydro install a smart meter (it falls under "replacing any of BC Hydro's equipment") the electrical service can be cut off. No access, no electricity.

Smart Meters (1)

Shadyman (939863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529417)

At least one of the major brands of Smart Meter use Zigbee radios. Hardly what I'd consider unsafe.

I'm protected (1)

BobandMax (95054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529449)

I have a really awesome aluminum hat that protects me from the meters as well as other government mind control efforts. Everyone should have one.
http://zapatopi.net/afdb/ [zapatopi.net]

Get Free Electricity! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529451)

The FBI released a report on "smart meters" and how customers are exploiting them. http://krebsonsecurity.com/2012/04/fbi-smart-meter-hacks-likely-to-spread/

Utter garbage (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529461)

Privacy concern maybe, but anything else is up there with healing crystals and WiFi migraines on the quackery scale.

A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil Hat (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529471)

Given the amount of TV signals, cell phone signals, microwave Telecom signals, police, fire, ambulance, taxi radios, the cummulatinve radiation of millions of electronic goods, the RF from the power lines themselves, is the addition of a smart meter really going to make a difference? Or is this just a cynical way by people who oppose them to get the public to rally against smart meters.

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (5, Informative)

slashping (2674483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529543)

Don't forget the biggest source of hazardous radiation: the sun.

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529611)

Would you rather stand ion a sunny beach all day, or outside a container leaking highly radioactive fluid all day.

Using the sun as an example is misleading.

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (2)

slashping (2674483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529757)

We're not talking about radioactive fluid (ionizing radiation). We're talking about non-ionizing radio frequency waves. The sun produces more of those than all your electronic equipment combined, and with a shorter (more energetic) wavelength to boot.

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529549)

Powerlines don't emit RF, you dipshit

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529839)

Are you so sure of this, dipshit? http://www.epa.gov/radtown/power-lines.html

Re:A Cynical Protest or a Case of Get A Tin Foil H (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529915)

RF is just a form of electromagnetic radiation you myopic moron.

A few things... (2)

TorrentFox (1046862) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529501)

1. The power company (very likely) already knows your power consumption habits. Lots of meters send automated reads every 15 minutes anyway. This is not new, at all. The processing power and manpower to actually mine this data does not yet exist, and if power companies wanted to put this in the pipeline they'd have to spend bazillions of dollars doing so.
2. The EM radiation emitted by smart meters (especially those in the 900MHz range) is comparable to a cell phone, except for the fact that it's not placed directly against your ear, and it chirps for a few ms every few minutes, as opposed to constantly against your head

The crazies who spout nonsense about cancer and privacy are of the same sort that believe in homeopathy. You will notice that they don't cite their sources, and make generalized, unsupported claims.

Excessive, yes. Unsafe, no. (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529503)

They certainly use excessive spectrum; the 900 mhz versions, for example, tend to be spread spectrum, non sampling; they just start blazing up and down the frequency range. Very unpleasant.

Still, not harmful.

The real problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529545)

The real problem some people are going to have with smart meters is that they can't be manipulated with magnets. Smart meters will report in periodically, so folks who steal power by unplugging their meter and bypassing them will fall out of communication and the cheaters will be detected faster.

Smart meters are bad news for cheats and thieves. RF "allergies," radiation fears, etc. seems like so much bullcrap.

Re:The real problem... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529795)

Which is why you carefully add a tap ahead of the smart meter inside your house and use that tap for transient high current loads, like a welder or kiln, but leave your house on the meter. Much less likely to get caught, as your baseline usage is unchanged.

People who steal power are usually really greedy and steal most/all of it. The effect is that the power company sees a nice step function downward in usage. Makes it easy to identify cheats.
-nB

It would be nice if they asked first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529565)

is there any evidence (besides anecdotal) that smart meters actually save money/energy?

They ar eusing the RF (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529579)

argument as the fear portion of FUD.

The RF is safe. Any controversy about that is manufactured in PR room, or stupid peoples heads.

The privacy "concern" is a policy issue. One that is way overrated.

Drug wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529593)

The only reason that exists for the electricity company to install these is to:
1) monitor when large spikes in power occur, and where.
2) monitor where large spikes in power occur, and when.

Those two are very different.

They Are Extremely Dangerous . . . (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529665)

. . . if you remove them while they are running.

Should I fear my neighbor's hamm? (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529667)

My neighbor has a big antenna for his hamm obsession. Is that thing emitting a strong signal than my smart meter? Should I fear and then smote his antenna?

Who Pays for the RF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529763)

Hopefully the power company isn't charging me for the electricity it uses to communicate?

The problem is the nature of the Digital Waves (5, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529765)

Cell phone radio waves are used for carrying voice. This means that they are analog in nature and are therefore sine waves. Now sine waves are by their very nature are curved. This means they are easily able to flow over and around DNA and other molecular structures such as proteins. This is not the case for digital computer or in this case Smart Meter WiFi EM radiation. The data computer WiFi radiation carries is digital in nature and therefore only has two values 1 and 0. This means that it is transmitted as a square wave with a flat instead of a curved leading edge. As a result it is not able to easily flow over and around a cell's DNA but rather slams into it at several hundred thousand times a second. This is like a hammer hitting a string of pearls over and over and over. Eventually the pearls and the string will break.

There's only one thing... (5, Insightful)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529775)

There's only one thing in this article that seems like a legitimate concern:: the issue with possible incorrect bills and an issue I didn't really see raised: the possibility of unauthorized access/tinkering.

The lady whose electric bill shot up 300% ... either she was somehow not being billed for the power she used all along, or else the new meter is faulty. THAT is a legitimate concern.

However, I am sick to death of all these whiny whiners and their "I'm allergic to RF" .. NO. No, you're not. You're not special, you don't have some super power that lets you receive radio waves... you're not experiencing something that science or big business is covering up... you're being hypochondriacs or else you''ve got Munchhausen's syndrome. Either way, you sure as hell don't experience RF sensitivity - not unless you're talking about the power levels inside your microwave oven.

rabble, rabble!

It's more of a wound to the ego (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529777)

I personally don't see how a smart meter is an invasion of privacy; the power company is the one supplying you with power and should be able to manage their network. If anything the downside to smart meters has been that people who think their environmentally friendly and end up using smart meters, only to find out that their power bill ends up going up, because they're not being as power conscious as they thought they were. This hurts their ego, so they declare an invasion of privacy. Even though I don't think that there are any dangers from the RF aspect of these, why don't the power companies avoid the complaints by using some sort of "broadband over the power line" solution? Ideally they could install another wire to be the communication wire from the reader, to the local hub, but the overhead on that would be tremendous.

As a former developer of Smart Meter Tech (5, Interesting)

eagee (1308589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529779)

So, I used to write server software for one of these companies, and I'd say the biggest concern is the corners they're cutting in order to get a product to market. Having an internet aware electricity grid is a terrible, terrible idea, especially when the leaders of these organizations are businessmen/women that don't understand the underpinnings of technology. It isn't a matter of if hackers will eventually be able to monitor, track, and use this information against customers (e.g. Hitting homes that have significant drops in usage while they're out of town) it's when. Furthermore, several of these meters have a remote IP enabled shutoff - can you image the havoc that could be wreaked when the encryption and authentication software in these meters is outstripped by new technologies? This is all worst case scenario stuff, and it isn't like these companies aren't always doing their due diligence; it's just that I feel social engineering and/or actual hacking makes this seem like an inevitable outcome.

No "[v]arious action groups" claim RF unsafe (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529799)

The article states "[s]ome consumers are worried about radio frequency radiation from the new meters." That's it. No "action groups," not even a sole scientist. Bad bad bad summary.

Tinfoil hats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529809)

People are missing a huge business opportunity. Where are the infomercials selling tinfoil hats and lead underwear?

Privacy and Safety (3, Interesting)

doas777 (1138627) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529835)

Though I have no idea regarding the RF tx concerns, I can speak a little about the privacy implications. first a little reading, Here is a link to the NIST-IR 7628, which describes guidelines for smartgrid security. Volume 2 focuses on privacy impact. http://www.egov.vic.gov.au/focus-on-countries/north-and-south-america-and-the-caribbean/united-states/trends-and-issues-united-states/information-and-communications-technology-united-states/cyber-security-united-states/nistir-7628-guidelines-for-smart-grid-cyber-security.html [vic.gov.au]

it is already possible with analog meters to identify devices inside a home, simply by sampling the signal at the meter at an interval of less than 2 minutes. the faster the sample the more accurate. by comparing the signals to a database of common electrical devices researchers were able to profile device usage as early as 1992. obviously, up till now, most utilities coudn't afford the staff to sample most lines at that interval however.

The smart grid exacerbates this privacy issue, because it allows and in fact requires high speed sampling to accommodate Time-Of-Use billing, and because the meters can send usage information to the utility head end effortlessly with no additional cost.

the real issue with privacy however will not come for a few years: smart appliances. Several EDUs are already selling internet service through their smart meters, but there is effectively no option to firewall this connection as it travels over the power lines and any interference would be felony meter tampering.

So, imagine 5 years from now, you are buying a new TV. you don;t care about internet connectivity, but the device comes with it embedded, and there are very few options in the TVs menus for configuring it. It uses powerline networking, so in order to just turn it on, you have already connected it to the Internet. At this point, you basically have to trust your TV manufacturer to not report to advertisers what you watch, including stuff like pr0n. with SMART devices you have to trust the manufacture implicitly..

Another big focus for the smartgrid is Electric Vehicles. The plan at present is to have the car identify itself to the power network, along with its owners billing info, so that wherever you plug in to get a recharge, it appears on your monthly bill. this can easily be used to track you over long periods of time.

SG meter data can also be used to uncover hidden sources of power generation within your property, so if you hide your usage to maintain your privacy, that will likely be accessible to any adversarial party that requests it.

So, a well monitored smart meter can be used to tell your schedule, the size of your family, when you are home, when you are away, your approximate worth, enumerate your devices, log how/when/where (in your house) you use them, track your internet usage, how far you travel each day (and possibly where you went), the day of the week you go to the grocery, and what ever any device you plug in decides to send to third parties, all with no indication that anything is happening.

Stop these stupic posts please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529841)

This is suppose to be a place for intellegence.

The physics (3, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529845)

Let's see:

Compared to being hit by sunlight:

param. .Water Meter ..Sun

energy. ..0.1 watts. .300 watts
exposure. .1 sec/month .1 hr/day
photon energy . 6E-25 Joules.. 3E-19 Joules

Looks to me like that Sun is DANGEROUS, exposing you to about 3,000 times more energy per unit time, for about 110,000 times longer, and with individual photons 500,000 times more energetic.

The 900MHz radio wave photons are so weak they can't excite any atom to any higher energy level, or cause any kind of chemical change, not by a factor of 1000 or more.

Answers to the questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40529883)

Are Smart Meters Safe? Yes.

what do you engineers out there think? I think these people need to get a gripe on themselves.

Are these things potentially harmful? No (see #1).

Are they an invasion of privacy? No.

Let's apply some logic here, shall we? (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 2 years ago | (#40529911)

These are complicated electronic data devices geared and aimed at the government sector.

That they don't kill all puppies, kittens and babies in a 10 mile radius is amazing. We should consider that a win.

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