Is humour the best way to pass along a serious message?
I hope you enjoy the cartoon at the link below:
I certainly did.
NB: if you are interested in cell phones, you can go to www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz and type “phone” (without the speech marks) into the search box.
If you would like to keep up to date with the smart meter issue in NZ, please sign up to the free email list at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz Thank you
What impact could smart meters and the “Internet of Things” have on your privacy? This topic is explored on the link below:
In the meantime, if you want to retain control of the appliances in your home (rather than cede it to your electricity retailer and/or lines company) you may wish to consider doing the following:
1) Refuse to get a smart meter or getting an existing smart meter removed
2) Making sure that any appliances that you may purchase or already have in your home are not s0-called smart appliances.
Please see the link below for information on how a smart meter may allow your electricity company to take control over your heat pump or air conditioner – and how to choose a model that should not be vulnerable to this type of corporate hijacking:
NB: If you are interested in the smart meter issue, please sign up to the free email list on www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz Thank you.
This morning’s Dominion Post features an article by Ben Heather about how the Privacy Commissioner has received a number of complaints concerning how smart meters infringe on people’s privacy.
Smart meters pose a risk to privacy (and home security) because they collect data about electricity use in half hourly intervals 24/7 and transmit it back to the electricity company (and/or another party such as a lines company).
When this data is “deaggregated” by computers it is possible for power companies (or any other company or individual that has access to the data) to work out what appliances were in use when and thereby build up a profile of activities in a household or business. It is also easily possible to work out when people are home or not at home.
You can read the full story here:
Other links that you may find interesting if you are interested in privacy issues are here:
On Thursday or Friday (April 24 or 25, 2014) I put in a request under the Official Information Act to the Thames-Coromandel District Council for information about the trail of “smart” water meters planned for the town of Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula during May 2014. I addressed the request to Mr Bruce Hinson, who is the Thames Coromandel Council Infrastructure Manager.
On Wednesday (April 30), I received an email from a member of the engineering team stating that the Council could answer my questions, but it would cost me $114 – and payment was required before they would action the request. (Under the Official Information Act (OIA) councils and other government agencies are allowed to charge for time to prepare answers to OIA requests, but they do not usually do so.) The tone of the email was friendly, so I decided to phone the respondent to discuss the matter, so that is what I did on May 2, 2014.
I spoke at length to a very personable young man who recently graduated from university with a degree in civil and environmental engineering who is working on the “smart” water meter trial. He explained that the Council’s objective in trialing the “smart” water meters was to better manage water for Tairua.
Rationale for the trial of “smart” water meters in Tairua
Water for the town of Tairua is drawn from a river, which naturally carries lower water volumes during summer when demand for water peaks due to an influx of people arriving for summer holidays in their baches. (People “go crazy” washing things, he said, during the two weeks of the year that they live in their holiday homes.) The Thames-Coromandel Council had an obligation under its resource consent for drawing water from the river not to create an excessive impact on the river system, he said, the implication being that “smart” water meters could help achieve this. Currently there are no water meters in Tairua, he said. “Smart” water meters were considered by the team to be a better option than conventional meters because there was no need to physically access the meter box (such as by prying up the meter box cover) to get a reading, and the potential for human error in reading meters was eliminated by the wireless transmission of data.
We did not discuss what other measures, if any, the Council has trialled to reduce or better manage water demand at the peak time of year, such, as for example, public education campaigns to promote water conservation and/or promotion of installation of rain water tanks to supplement the town water supply for some applications. (This was an oversight on my part.)
Technical aspects of the “smart” water meters being trialled in Tairua
The young engineer was excited by the results of the trial so far, in which an initial test had shown that the signal from one of the “smart” water meters could be detected 600 metres from the “smart” meter, despite buildings and trees being in the way between the water meter and receiver.
The “smart” meter chosen by the Council for Tairua is the Sappel Altair Concentric V3 meter supplied in NZ by Hynds. The Council has chosen to use the 434MHz option for the transmission frequency (which presumably means that the Council engineering team has chosen to team up the meters with the Diehl IZAR RC radio transmitter.) 434 MHz is a public frequency also utilised by some common gadgets such as automatic garage door openers. However, the manufacturer of the IZAR RC radio transmitter designed to be compatible with Sappel modular meter states that its transmission range is “500 metres, depending on the environment”, so it is obviously much more powerful than a garage door opening gizmo. (In practice, as above, the transmission range may be longer than the manufacturer’s specifications.)
According to the engineer, the “‘smart” meters chosen will be transmitting every eight seconds. (The battery life of the for the transmitter is claimed by the manufacturer to be 15 years, without any sort of guarantee that this will actually be the case.) The Council is exploring different ideas for reading the meters, I was told. The trial is using a handheld or drive-by system in which a portable device is used to collect the data from the “smart” water meters as they transmit. The transmitters on the meters are unidirectional. One option the Council team is considering for the ongoing collection of data is to have a receiver mounted in the rubbish trucks which make weekly rounds of the towns to collect garbage, thereby eliminating the need for a separate vehicle (or person on foot) to patrol the streets to collect the data. This is considered an attractive option because it would reduce the cost associated with gathering data from the “smart” meters.
Possible implications for privacy if the trial is considered successful
The IZAR transmitters that are compatible with the Sappel meters used in the Tairua trial have the capacity to be used with a fixed “IZAR RECEIVER GPRS/LAN” system which is capable of collecting all the data from “smart” water meters, storing it and then transferring it to a central computer system. If the Thames-Coromandel District Council were happy with the results of the Tairua trial and chose this option for collection of data from “smart” water meters, this potentially raises privacy concerns, since if the meters transmit data every eight seconds, it should be theoretically possible to use the data to work out patterns of activity in a household, based on patterns of water consumption, in a similar way in which patterns of activity in a household can be inferred from electricity use. (See the graphic at this link http://www.smartmeterpowerstruggle.wordpress.com/ for an example of how electricity “smart meters” can compromise privacy, and for a discussion of privacy and home security issues please see these links: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/network-tasman-there-are-no-privacy-concerns-with-smart-meters-yeah-right/ and www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/how-smart-meters-can-help-burglars/.)
About 25% of households and businesses in Tairua have been selected by the Council to participate the in trial. (The properties chosen have been selected on the basis of ensuring that they represent different types of properties (i.e. permanent residential, holiday homes and business) and different areas of the town.) By contrast, the trial of “smart” water meters in Tauranga was limited to one suburb. (See this link for a discussion of the trial of “smart” water meters in Tauranga: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/smart-water-meters-in-nz-the-situation-so-far/.)
Considering that each “smart” water meter used in the Tairua trial will transmit every eight seconds around the clock for a distance of up to half a kilometre (or possibly more) at the 434MHZ frequency, the “smart” water meter trial in Tairua may represent an experiment in exposure of an entire town to this particular frequency at levels that are unique in the history of NZ.
People who have electrohypersensitivity (EHS)** may be adversely affected by this trial. Overseas, concern has been raised that exposure to the non-ionising radiation produced by “smart” meters used to measure electricity consumption appears to act as a trigger for the development of EHS in some people. (See: http://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/aaem-wireless-smart-meter-case-studies.pdf ) In NZ, many of the “smart” meters being introduced for electricity are designed to transmit for longer distances (“a few kilometres”), according to the PDF “Smart-Meter-FAQ-Aug11.pdf” on the website of the Electricity Authority, so electricity “smart” meters are obviously more powerful than are “smart” water meters. Moreover, as the strength of the signal from any “smart” meter declines with distance, “smart” electricity meters which are typically mounted on the wall of a home probably pose more of a risk than “smart” water meters on council property. (Presumably these will be installed in the footpath, as are the conventional “water” meters in Auckland.) However, the possibility that “smart” water meters may trigger EHS cannot be ruled out and the longer term effects of living in an area where “smart” waters meters transmit every eight seconds twenty four hours a day must be considered an unknown.
Possible outcome of the trial
If the trial is successful, conceivably the Thames-Tairua District Council may choose to introduce “smart” water meters in other towns in its region.
Pe0ple in Tairua (or elsewhere in the area administered by the Thames-Tairua District Council) who are not happy with the idea of being exposed to additional electromagnetic radiation from “smart” water meters may wish to notify the Council that they do not consent to the installation of a “smart” water meter to measure water consumption at their home or business. A template that can be personalised may be downloaded from the link below:
FORMAL NOTICE OF NON CONSENT FOR SMART WATER METER
Please share this post with family and friends in this area.
More information on smart water meters in NZ may be found at this post: www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/smart-water-meters-in-nz-the-situation-so-far/
**Information on electrohypersensitivity may be found at this link: http://www.es-uk.info/
For a personal story which illustrates how difficult a condition EHS is for sufferers to live with, please see this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/what-is-it-like-to-live-with-electrohypersensitivity-ehs-one-womans-story/
Health professionals may want to read this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87308119/Guideline-of-the-Austrian-Medical-Association-for-the-diagnosis-and-treatment-of-EMF-related-health-problems-and-illnesses-EMF-syndrome
The privacy implications of “smart” or “advanced” meters are quite significant given that information transmitted from the “smart meters” to your electricity company will allow the company to infer patterns of activity in your home – such as when you are using the stove or a heater, or are watching TV etc and when you are home and when you are not at home.
Is this the sort of information that you think your electricity company (whether government owned, or privately owned) has a right to know? And what if the information about your patterns of energy use falls into the wrong hands (such as criminals who may choose to plan a burglary at a time when you are not likely to be home?)
Privacy issues relating to “smart meters” are the focus of the site
If you are concerned about your privacy and home security, this is the site to visit for information that is relevant to the situation in New Zealand.
“Power is Information” is the corporate motto of Metrix, which describes itself on its website as “the leading electricity meter owner and operator in the Greater Auckland region”.
Metrix itself is owned by Mighty River Power, the State Owned Enterprise that the NZ government is planning to sell, despite strong public opposition. (One community group, Switch Off Mercury Energy has started a website (http://www.switchoffmercuryenergy.org/) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SwitchOffMercuryEnergy) to encourage customers of Mercury Energy, which is another subsidiary of Mighty River Power, to change to another electricity company and thereby make Mighty River Power a less attractive proposition for investors and thereby stop the sale of this state asset. )
Leaving aside the question of who owns Metrix now, and who may own it in the future, Metrix’s site states that “Metrix also manages non-half hour meter reading services”. By implication this suggests that the “smart meter” network that is owned and operated by Metrix is sending information about customers’ electricity use back to the company every thirty minutes. Which brings us back to the company motto “Power is Information”.
Overseas, part of the impetus for utility companies making the investment in “smart meters” and the “smart grid” has been the potential to gather additional data about their customers’ electricity use, identify periods of peak demand more accurately – and develop differentiated tariffs for those times when there is highest demand for electricity. In practice, this has the potential to mean that electricity companies put a premium on the price of electricity at the times of the day when it is most needed – such as when people arrive home from work and start cooking dinner, and turning on heaters etc in the winter. This is great for electricity companies, but not so great for families that are already struggling with high power bills. (In NZ over the past few years, median electricity prices have been rising at almost twice the rate of the average hourly wage (See: http://switchoffmercuryenergy.org/category/campaign/ ).
There are also privacy concerns about the use of “smart meters” to gather information about customers’ electricity use. Data about electricity use could be used to infer patterns of activity in a household, including when people are at home or not at home, what appliances they use at certain times of the day etc.
If this data is intercepted in transit (or if there is a problem with security within any company that handles data related to electricity use) the potential for misuse of this data – such as by criminals who might plan burglaries at times when customers are not at home – could have serious consequences for the householder.
Even if there are no data security breaches we might also ask, should a company like Metrix, which is owned by a State Owned Enterprise, be allowed to gather this sort of detailed information about what their customers are doing in the privacy of their own homes? (Overtones of “Big Brother”, anyone?)
If Metrix’s owner Mighty River Power is privatised, as the government would like to do, its new owner(s) might be a multinational corporation, or perhaps a company owned by a foreign government. (One of China’s SOE’s China Huadian’s Corp recently invested $232 million to build a new power station near Moscow.
See: http://www.cnbc.com/id/47512207/Top_10_Countries_for_Chinese_Investments?slide=3 )
Remember Metrix’s slogan: “Power is Information”? They are quite “in your face” about it, really.
Should any company, regardless of its ownership, be allowed to install technology into people’s homes that can be used to gather information about their daily activities?