Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smart Meters and Privacy

In case you haven't heard about smart meters, they are the next generation electric meters. Unlike the traditional electric meters, the provide two way communication. The goal of smart meters is to allow utility companies and consumers to better monitor the energy consumption and control electricity. Smart meters act as surveillance devices. Having such a surveillance device at your home could seriously invade your privacy though. It can be a security threat as well. Here are a couple of possible threats:
- It allows a third-party to see what equipments you are using, what time of the day, how long, how often, etc.
- An insurance company inferring what kind of medical problems you have based on the devices use and what time.
- A producer marketing products that go along with your equipments or suggest different equipments
- It gives information to a burglar to figure out a best time to break in. (Low consumption may be linked to empty house.)

The question is how much information utility companies need in order to better manage electricity while protecting the privacy? In other words, how can we balance the benefits of smart meters and the risks of using them?

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