Smart meters - am I making a mistake?

Having read this thread I am totally gobsmacked at the lack of insight into how smart meters help us all. It isn’t only about what they can do for us right now but how they will facilitate the changes needed to make our use of energy more efficient in the future.

Of course, I agree that the greenest lifestyle of all is not to use non-essential energy regardless of where it comes from and so yes, if you want to life the greenest of lifestyles then you wouldn’t own a car at all, you wouldn’t fly anywhere, you wouldn’t use time-saving appliances like a washing machine/tumble dryer/dish washer etc and if you are happy making those choices then I take my hat off to you… but most people want these things.

So what is the answer? I don’t pretend to know that but what seems pretty obvious to me is that if we want to do all those energy-heavy activities then we need to do them in ways that don’t impact on our environment, or at least reduce that impact overall. Smart meters are a tool to help us do that.

Right now their functionality is rather limited as it is early days in the role out. Eventually though, having a smart meter in your house will mean that there is a much greater degree of control over how we use energy… control by us the consumer as we can then choose to use energy when it is cheaper and so reduce overall load on the grid, and control by the energy companies as they can turn off heavy users (such as charging electric cars, batteries etc but all with the customers prior permission) at times of high load so reducing the need to use the less green generators. Eventually, it might get to the point where all suitable homes have a battery system allowing for grid-wide storage of renewable energy that can be controlled by the grid and used when renewable generation is at a low and this may lead to a totally renewable grid.

I realise that this is not possible right now but the switch to smart meters is the first step towards us having a smarter grid and a smarter grid will mean a greener grid and a cheaper grid for everyone.

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Refreshing to see someone with the correct forward-thinking attitude. Most of the anti smart meter rhetoric is equivalent to complaining about building roads when hardly anyone owns a vehicle yet. You’ve got to get the infrastructure in place before the facility can begin actually doing anything. If you don’t start somewhere nothing ever gets any better.

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Knowledge is power, that’s why I have just got a smart meter installed. Of course, the smart meter cannot save money by itself. As an energy consumer I will be able to make energy saving choices. Suppliers will be able to do the same. These changes will take time.

The one thing that isn’t clear to me is how I can get hold of my data without using the Samsung app. That my energy supplier has the data is unavoidable. It appears that Chameleon has access too. Perhaps there are others that have access. I don’t really want to add yet another company to that list.

Jack

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There are two types of data.

Low cadence - 30 minutes - Uploaded to Bulb via the independent smart meter data connection. Daily reads accessible via your Bulb account portal. Half hourly reads not available, but Bulb may be able to provide manually if you ask for a copy of your data.

High cadence - 10 seconds - Uploaded to Chameleon (and possibly Samsung?) via your IHD and WiFi. Accessible via the Smartthings app.

There is currently no way for any user to obtain their own data with any automated process. Bulb were planning to work on an API that would have allowed access to the half hourly data, but that seems to have stalled due to lack of developer time. In any case, that wouldn’t have provided the much more useful high cadence stream.

Ideally the IHD connected to WiFi would have a user accessible API that would enable logging of the high cadence stream directly over the local network without requiring any cloud service. Sadly there doesn’t seem any even remote possibility of that happening any time soon. Manufacturers don’t want to provide a facility like that because a) it would mean they can’t monetise your anonymised usage data, and b) it would cost money to develop and support for a potential userbase that is too small compared to those wanting ready made services such as Smartthings.

@Hooloovoo I’m glad that you’ve looked into this. If you could provide references that would save me time.

Reading “Review of the Data Access and Privacy Framework” of the “SMART METERING IMPLEMENTAITON PROGRAMME” November 2018 it appears that I can get 1/2 hour data from Bulb without involving anyone else.

If the Wifi connection isn’t going to provide data for me, without involving at least 2 other 3rd parties, then I’m not going to allow access to it, especially as access via Samsung seems to be curated.

Looks like I have to lobby my new MP and Citizen’s Advice.

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Not sure what references you’d like. These two threads are the main ones I think,

See: Smart Meter consumer access devices - #16 by mowcius and Bulb and smart meters - #129 by bored

The API is mentioned in the March 2019: Open Road Map Update and is still showing as “In Progress” on the Trello board along with IFTTT integration. But I don’t think that road map is actually updated any more, despite good intentions. Last change was 2019 July 12, and the last monthly update was 2019 April.

I think Bulb have got overwhelmed just trying to make their smart meters work at all, never mind adding any more bells and whistles like a user API.

I managed to get 12 months of half-hourly data just recently. It wasn’t easy and Bulb had to extract it manually for me. They couldn’t give me raw meter readings for some reason, but did provide average power use for each half hour period which is what I would have calculated from the meter readings anyway. I can’t imagine Bulb would be happy if everyone started asking for data. This doesn’t help with services that needs quasi-realtime information anyway.

Agreed. Completely pointless relying on a third party service that might be closed at any moment. It’s bad enough relying on the energy supplier for data access. This all needs to be done over the local network so that it’ll keep working even when the IHD manufacturer and/or supplier can’t be bothered supporting it any more or goes out of business.

Good luck! That’s a good idea.

The GDPR - and the UK’s implementation - is actually good. Of course, each company’s implementation might be terribe and they might not know the laws but at least the laws exist.

I had a terrible time with Virgin over GDPR. In the end they appologized and gave me all the data that I asked for. I couldn’t be bothered to take them to court after that. All my data was provided either as photocopies or printouts. Insane.

If we want them to get better at giving us data, we should all frequently request it.

Thanks for the references. I’ll be looking at them.

I found this guide https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/files/docs/Policies/Smart%20Meter%20policies%20%20consultation%20responses/2013/smart_meter_data_guide_version_1-june-13.pdf “Smart meter data -A guide to your rights and choices” at https://energy-uk.org.uk/ (links get broken).

This says that they can access our 1/2 hourly data. That means that eventually your 1/2 hour data will be easily available to everyone who wants to know (e.g. advertizers, marketeers, criminals) but, is seems, not easily available to you, the data generator.

Jack

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The thing is, the data that they will be extracting isn’t exactly complicated. A reading (or a few) and a timestamp. Not difficult to provide locally.

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Yes, but if they don’t have the facility in place to export the data then no amount of asking is going to make it happen, or at least not happen any quicker. Worst case, if you force the issue, is as you say they post you a print out of all 10k+ meter readings. What you gonna do, type them in?

Agreed. The manufacturers of CADs and IHDs don’t offer it because they don’t want to, not because it’s difficult.

They could fix it. And they will fix it if enough people request the data because it will be too expensive otherwise. Sure, it might be a pain for me, but just imagine how hard it will be for them to do manually every time.

Anyway, there’s always OCR (or whatever ocr is called these days). If they want to print it and send it to me on paper, I can’t help them.

I am thinking about a monthly request. That should be the right cadence for me. Daily would be nice.

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The OVO thread was eye opening. I remember reading in the government’s own documentation how they want to give us access to our data. Also the whole bit about conditions of licensing (49 onwards) was amazing

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I’m planning to ask quarterly. That still gets you only historic data of course, no use for any kind of automation.

To be fair to Bulb, I don’t believe they’re being actively obstructive. They just don’t have enough developers to build everything as quickly as we’d like. Now I know that basically amounts to the same thing, because of course they could just employ more people, but they are at least open to working with customers rather than being actively hostile.

For what it’s worth, I had some quite extensive discussions with Hildebrand regarding their Glow CAD and decided not to purchase in the end. Aside from Bulb not being able to pair it for me, Hildebrand are the same as everyone else in this market and are only interested in collecting our data. They flatly refused to allow direct access to my data over my local network, the system requires the round trip to their cloud service. Not because it’s difficult or they couldn’t for some other reason, but simply because selling my anonymised data is their monetisation plan.

The problem is that you can’t expect them to sell a device for 50 quid and then provide at no cost unlimited support in terms of the apps and cloud services that most of their customers would require. That’s fair enough, developing the apps and managing the cloud service with ever growing data storage requirements costs money, and once everyone that wants a CAD has got one, the basic hardware sales income stream will dry up. And that’s the very reason why I don’t want to have to rely on any manufacturer cloud service at all. I don’t expect them to make any service available to me forever. I expect it to not be cost effective and for them to close down. Presumably monetising my usage data is more lucrative than supporting open hardware.

There seems to be no way around relying on a third party service to enable access to our data. I don’t really understand why this requires third party hardware at all. I have an Elster communications hub for my Elster smart meters. Why can’t Elster sell me an already supported and approved CAD? Better still, why don’t Elster just have built-in WiFi support on their communications hubs? My guess is because if it’s a third party device then when there’s a security breach it’s somebody else’s problem.

As you point out, our smart meter data is valuable. Obviously some companies are producing devices where the business model is based on access to their data. In those circumstances the device might be sold at a loss. We can’t force them to modify the device to allow access for us. On the other hand, they need our explicit permission to access our data.

The data is valuable to domestic consumers like you and me. We need a device that allows direct access to the Smart Meters and our own data that is stored in it. Smart meters have to support at least 4 devices. One might be the IHD. The question is, does such a device exist? If one doesn’t, what would it take to produce one that will connect to our own meters?

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Is that true if the data are anonymised? Even so, it’s almost certainly in the terms of using a the app and cloud service that any given manufacturer is allowed to sell your data.

Not as I’ve seen so far.

I did find a company called Presciense that make IHDs that work exactly as we want, see this presentation. The exciting part being the “local API integration” meaning you’re not reliant on the “external API integration”. Even with this, the local API wasn’t open, it was only intended for use with their own apps. They didn’t have any documentation or offer any support.

I contacted them about buying one, but they were not interested in selling to the public they only wanted to partner with a supplier. Plus of course Bulb have no way to pair the device for me anyway. I see their website doesn’t work any more because their TLS certificate expired three months ago. Doesn’t say much for the security of their devices. Perhaps they’ve gone out of business.

I think there’s a lot of expensive hoops to jump through regarding regulation and certification. It’s not just a case of getting an Arduino with a Zigbee shield and knocking up some firmware. I’m sure the team behind the Open Energy Monitor project would have done this by now if it wasn’t so difficult to get anything approved for use on the HAN. I don’t know if they’re actively working on anything.

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Yes, they need our explicit permission to access the data. Some data is provided to the energy suppliers directly by the DCC via the WAN (essentially a mobile network) at a particular cadence (daily?). More granular data requires explicit, informed, permission as does providing access to anyone else e.g. Samsung.

Also your consent is to allow access to specific data for specific purposes. For example if you have agreed to “give access to hourly data to stop fraud” they can’t sell it (allow 3rd party access in the newspeak) or do anything else with it.

The whole “anonymised” thing is how the companies comply with GDPR to ensure that we can’t be identified from the aggregated data (in practice I don’t think that the data can be anonymised) when that data is passed on.

Source: I worked for Microsoft pre sales in Cloud Services (Office 365) and data location, privacy, security and GDPR is a big deal to companies and governments. Of course it isn’t a big deal to front line staff

For the standard monthly/daily/half-hourly data, yes. I meant in terms of high cadence data uploaded over WiFi. Connecting your IHD or CAD to your WiFi and allowing it to access a cloud service will be an entirely different set of T&C. e.g., it’ll most likely be a requirement to allow them to use your anonymised data (for some definition of anonymised) for whatever they want, or you’re not allowed to use the service at all.

Yes, I am sure that there will be a clause like that. Just like the GDPR notices that I get from web sites these days - “wave all of your rights and you can access our website”.

This is why I am not signing up to their services.

[Reached the new user limit for posts, so I’m adding to this post]
Actually, I would consider providing access to my data on condition that they provided me with full access to my data. When I last checked it wasn’t obvious how that would be done.

[N3rgy]
n3rgy data - accessing smart energy data promises me that I can “Have complete control over [my] data”. Sadly I don’t think that my meters have been on the network long enough. Got that link from the a forum post at the open energy project Smart meter output to windows PC

[Matt of Critical Software]
See this post
“If you have a SMETS1 Secure meter […] your data should be there.
But if you have a SMETS2 meter, then there is an issue with the DCC link right now, which means we are not able to get to the data.This should get sorted out soon and when it does, I shall let you know.”
The issue with SMETS2 is that they are “waiting to have the DCC complete our security audit - then we should be able to provide that option through our service… I shall be sure to let everyone know when that is available…”

[after other people’s posts]

You can also use “CIN Authentication” which I assume is the 4 word thingy mentioned elsewere by Bulb.

I like this quote from n3rgy data “It’s your data and you can download it at any time”

@ Springbulb you should be able to use your IHD to find your meter readings. Or use button A on the meters themselves

[Ben of Carbon Co-Op, wrote]
"At the moment many CAD suppliers are refusing to provide devices which you can hack on, primarily because they want to insert themselves between you and access to your data as a ‘platform’. For example, the Hildebrand Glow and Chaemeleon devices want you to get data through their API, but there is no particular reason why you shouldn’t be able to get it locally with a suitable device.

Carbon Co-op and Megni (OpenEnergyMonitor) are currently actively trying to source just such a device so that we can develop an open source stack which can be used to connect to UK smart meters directly through the HAN (not going through a ‘platform’). If anyone has any tips it would be great to hear them. I envision an ‘emonCAD’ project setting up once we have a suitable device (or devices) identified which we can try to get paired into a SMETS HAN and start developing on."

[N3rgy Update]
"We’ve completed the audits and submitted our material for formal governance at the Smart Energy Code panel (there’s no december panel so we now have to wait until January). This should be complete by the end of January and we will launch the service (everything else is ready to go).

Check back at the end of January, we will update the front page of https://data.n3rgy.com/ with a message regarding SMETS2 status then."

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Well that’s an interesting site. I’ll be giving that a go tonight! I don’t have my IHD MAC address for authentication right now.

Thanks for posting this. I had a smart meter fitted on 2 Sept and only learned about Economy 7 loss on the day! Should not have gone ahead as gas reading not working and I’ve had no updates from Bulb. Seems they’re just taking my monthly direct debit with no idea of how much gas has been used. Not been asked for a meter reading so we’re all in the dark now. Wish I hadn’t switched over!

No luck with this.

If I enter my MPAN and MAC address I get “MPxN or IHD MAC couldn’t be found. Verify the values you have inserted”. If I click “CIN Authentication” I get “The MPxN requested is invalid or not yet accessible with n3rgy data”. Oh well.

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