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Monday, 21 March 2011

Why we needed far smarter meters and thinkers

Smartgrids and smart meters are gonna be buzzwords this year, (finally - thanks Chattanooga for JFDI) as the competition hots up to reach consumers and achieve EU Policy requirements for energy - which as I recall were supposed to be satisfied by 2008. But, we are miles out with our thinking. Or some are.

This blog post can be read at

Chattanooga has shown the way by combining smart grids plus gigabit FTTH. We ignore such examples at our peril, I believe.

Imagine that you had a chance to install "a device" in every single premises in the country. And, just like the meters before them for electricity, this device will be in situ for years. (Mine is, I think, made of Bakelite or similar, and has Norweb on it so it could have been there since 1948! I know it hasn't - I can read too, folks. But it could have been.....)

The FT is reporting today about the partnerships for smartmeters that are springing up. The only mention of anything even vaguely 'smart' is the addition of GPRS. Where are the joined up thinkers in the electricity and utility industries these days???

Put in a smart meter, as in those I heard about in Denmark in 2004/5, that included a wireless antenna. Not so the meter reader can access the meter, but so it creates a wireless mesh network.

The Danish examples had wifi and Bluetooth (well, they had to have Bluetooth in Denmark - he was a Danish king), but why not add options for GSM, 4G, LTE, wimax and a femto cell for seriously joined up thinking?

[Who cares which wireless techs it actually includes, but stick a card slot in the side so it can be updated for all the new techs if you need forward compatability. Or upgrade, shock horror, over the network you have created. Remote upgrades are hardly new, especially in the mobile/wireless industry.]

The point is, we are missing a very serious trick. My house is, unsurprisingly, right next to my neighbours. On both sides. (Odd that!) It is within less than a mile of nearly every other house in the village. It is within 2 miles or so of pretty much every property in the Parish.

A tiny, tiny, tiny, minority of homes and businesses cannot see a single other property around them. Ditto those on grid electricity and water (Oooh look, I've just reduced the Final Third to a Final 0.001% who cannot be served directly from the SmartGrid - sorry, BT).

To put it in plain English: here is THE chance to build a wireless cloud (of multiple flavours, if we chose) which can then be fed by fibre. As they planned, and presumably built, in Denmark (I cannot find a link to the town where this happened, and would appreciate my lovely readers help in doing so....My Danish extends to bluetooth and forkbeard!) - a big fibre ring round town, smart meters in every house creating the RF wireless mesh for INTERNET connectivity.

Now, *that* is a smartgrid. Not just serving the utilities, but also the telcos, mobile operators (who are also telcos, lest we forget), the consumers, the environment, convergence, mobility, data usage etc etc etc.

So, where are the links to the consultation on the official specs of what smart meters should look like in the UK?

Because I think we should all be preventing a serious fup (no, not fair usage policy!) which will affect consumers to the tune of a fair few hundred quid each, slow down smart grid development in the UK, and hinder us yet further by permitting telcos to play in this space at their own speed.

Can we afford, once again, to not exercise the 'smartness' and innovation that used to exemplify British thinking? If I can come up with this in the middle of nowhere in Cumbria, surely some overpaid exec in the midst of things in the utility industry and government can see the potential of joining up a few dots?

Actually, whilst we are on the subject, why not hold on the BDUK money until we can have an innovative pilot that really does join the dots by including smart grids?

(Send in the trolls......)


PhilT said... "Laurence Carpanini, director of smart meters and smart grids at IBM UK & Ireland, said he expected official requirements for smart meters to be published by the end of this year"

Though if you look at is is dragging along rather. Mesh is mentioned in their assessment of comms options, but not in the way you suggest.

Somerset said...

Smart grid & metering requires a tiny data rate for communication so anything else is an extra that will cost.

Must read up on how connectivity other than GSM will work...

Cybersavvy UK said...

ROFL @somerset data reqs as slim means that is not a smart grid. That's a way of replacing meter readers.

Smart grids are waaaaay more complex than that, and if you look at LUS and Chattanooga (as starters) you might grasp the dot joining I was referring to.

Utility companies have been quick to jump on smart meters, but the reality is that at present what is being proposed in the UK are merely dumb meters.

A smart meter does what I am talking about - operates in multiple spectra, provides multiple options for connectivity, joins the dots between the 4 utilities etc.

We are back in your blinkered world again, mate....please move on. You're an engineer. Think like one.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Ofgem contact for smart meter consultation

Somerset said...

cybersavvy - smart metering is not just replacing meter readers, it also has the potential to control appliances.

But it does not need FTTP and can you really see the power companies, or is it the local distribution company, or is it National Grid getting together to sort this. Sadly, no.

The UK has so many different interests in telecomms, power etc. that this could have been achieved 30 years ago, but now?

Somerset said...

cybersavvy - thoughts on my comment please?

Cybersavvy UK said...