Ron Adams uses the smart meter. What he does not use is too much electricity on weekends. Data from his ‘smart’ meter prompts his power supplier to suggest that he shift some of his usage to weekends at discounted tariffs.

Or take the case of Jack Smith, a plant manager. He gets an alert from his utility company that the next day will see high demand and higher rates. He shifts production schedules to optimize on efficiency and cost.

Do the above scenarios sound too good to be true? Is there a catch?

This is what is being debated today. What’s really in it for me, muses the consumer as arguments fly back and forth over the pros and cons of smart meter usage.

The smart meter, a key component of the ‘smart grid’, allows consumers to see how much power they actually use, and empowers them to modify behaviors and optimize their bills.

It opens a communication link between the consumer and the utility provider to offer:

  • Convenience of remote management
  • Knowledge to plan usage and costs
  • Reduced outages

Smart meters and appliances can form a smart Internet of Things (IoT) network to become virtual information centers. Homeowners can monitor their energy use and identify ways to reduce costs via pre-cooling the home or using the washing machine when tariffs are low. Businesses can capture energy usage from each floor of their buildings to optimize consumption. Weather information bulletins can be proactively disseminated.

On the payment front, the ‘pre-pay’ system could become prevalent. Customers can swipe pay cards to buy more electricity and refill cards at ATM-like pay centers.

Concerns – The Other Side of the Coin

But with the pros, come the fears about meter accuracy, data security and health hazards. People have seen spikes in their bills. Could the radio frequencies from the smart meters affect their health? Privacy is probably the most sensitive issue. Can information about consumers’ energy consumption reveal significant details about their lives – when and for how long they stay at home, the expensive gadgets they use, etc?

Concerns of privacy and data security can be addressed by the same technologies that keep financial and mobile data secure. And studies show that the radio frequencies from smart meters are far lower than those from cell phones and even baby monitors.

Energy companies should make information available, visible and accessible. They need to use savvy technology and communication to connect the consumer with their smart meter data in real time. This shapes behavior and creates awareness among consumers on power usage.

Consumers need to understand that smart meters are the first step to smarter advantages. It helps them save money and conserve energy. It also paves the road for energy and utility companies to look at further innovations to create more benefits. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Read our research report to learn more about how smart meter services are playing a critical role in the integration of new technologies and innovations.

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