Digital Switchover is Almost Finished - Next Smart Meter

  • Posted on: 25 March 2012
  • By: Patrick Oliphant

gridFor many countries in the develop world transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is either finish or in its final stages. While employees in one government department are praising the successes of switching over to digital broadcasting others are just rolling up their sleeves to start working on the smart meter switchover.  Like the broadcasting switchover the smart meter switchover will be digital except smart meter will be a more connected solution (end-to-end) involving the government, utility providers and us the consumer.

Today, governments around the world are getting more conscious about its population energy use. The abundance of fossil fuel and other energy resources (with the exception renewable energy) which we once thought we had plenty of is going down and the cost of these resources is going up. Another concern is our carbon emissions and it links to the environment.

Also the general population are becoming more aware of impact our energy use has on the environment. Therefore, we are developing technologies that will help us manage the energy our smarter, with the hope that we will reduce our energy consumption and help lower carbon emissions.

The Plan

Smart meter is one of those technologies that has been developed to help us manage our energy in a way that will save us money and reduce our environmental impact. Smart meter work by linking homes to a centralised data collection point which stores all the information about our gas and electricity use, it is manage by our utility provider.  This will remove the need to have someone come to our homes to read the meter or us having to tell the supplier. The system will provide a way for you to analyse your energy use.

The roll out of smart meter is also being done in unison with the smart grid, which is in some way the same as the utility grids we have today except it is more flexible, proactive and smarter. The smart grid is seen as a more technologically advanced infrastructure one that will allow more communication between utilities and customers and between the grid’s infrastructure and the appliances we have in our homes.

The smart grid when finished will allow utility providers to easily combine the energy harvested from other energy sources such as feed-in, solar and wind forms. All across the globe governments have set milestone and targets for the role out of smart meters. The UK for example has set it self a target of 47million meters in 26 million properties by 2020, according to its Department of Energy and Climate Change. Other EU nations are working towards the 2020 date to meet one of their EU directives.

The consumer

The roll out of the smart meter unlike the digital broadcasting switchover will mean more involvement by all parties.  First the meter reading process will be totally automated – it is proposed that readings will be sent from the customer’s residence every 5-15 minutes depending on which country you are in.

Trials of the smart meter solution suggest that on average a UK home can save approximately £28 ($43 US) a year. Utility providers will provide application and or devices for us to see how we are using the energy; some solution will show per home appliance while others will only give a break down in time hour, day, month etc.

Utilities firms are expected to make huge savings by not having to send meter readers to our homes, bills should be more accurate, there will be little need for billing enquiries staff. We will have to wait to see if some to this savings will be reflected in our bills. Another smart meter incentive is the introduction of more flexible energy tariffs such as offering discounts on weekends and evenings. It should also make it easier to switch energy supplier.


Residential smart meters are already being used extensively in the Netherlands, US, Italy, Canada and Australia, but again unlike the broadcasting switchover there are many concerns bout the security of the smart meter/grid infrastructure. Some are worried that the constant communication between the home and the grid will allow employees of the utility companies the know when homes are empty and when new appliances are bought (expensive or otherwise).  Others or concern that smart meter linking to the grid provide another avenue for hacker to get into our homes.

Although the concerns are valid and extensive research is been done to troubleshoot the technology, testing every possible way the security can be compromised.  According to ABI Research an estimated $590 million was spent on smart grid security technologies in 2010 and this amount projected to surpass $2billion that by 2016. As governments and utility plan their roll out strategy test projects are being setup all over the world and results are being monitored to make sure the infrastructure and solution will meet the strictest standards. Example project include the Isle of Wight, UK; Maui Island, Hawaii and Molise, Italy just to name a few.