Friday, July 29, 2011

Smart Meters - Brave New World?

I picked this up from the net. Don't remember where or even when. I just filed it away and happened to run into it this morning.

Smart Meters

The video is interesting, fairly simple and makes a solid point. Although the utility company may promise that the sole purpose of the smart meter is to help educate you on when and how much electricty you are using we all know that the method of educating you will be to say:

"Power used in the peak busy hours, 6AM-8AM and 6PM-8PM, is 35 cents/KWH. 8AM-6PM is 15 cents/KWH. 8PM-11PM is 10 cents/KWH. 11PM-6AM is 5 cents/KWH."

They want to reduce usage in the peak busy hours because if they don't they will have to increase the capacity of their distribution system much sooner than initially engineered for because of the expected use of hybrid autos that charge their batteries from an AC source (Volt) rather than strictly from a motor driven generator such as Pirus.

Let's just call it an unintended consequence.

It was another utility, the telephone company, that introduced the concept of time of day billing. Usuage billing started to become popular in the late 60's but was basically used for billing for Extended Area Service (EAS). I know this is a strange concept for a generation use to calling around the world for 98 cents, but EAS worked under the concept that calling outside your local area of interest might not be Long Distance, but it did require additional investment by the telco for a service that not everyone needed. So as populations expanded, the resistance to rate increases brought in usage billing. You could buy X minutes for calls outside your area. Or, in some cases, the telco would just bill you for more than a base number of minutes.

In the early 70's as computers became more available for commercial use, Measured Message Rate Service (MMRS) raised its head. In that concept you would pay a low flat rate but then pay for each call based on distance, length of call and time of day.

MMRS never flew. Back then we still had Public Service Commissions dedicated to providing Universal Telephone Service. Not so much anymore.

And technology, spurred by deregulation, brought us into a excess capacity situation and the low prices we currently see. But that won't last.

But I digress.

Another unintended consequence is the main point of the video.

Once personal data is available someone will collect and use it. The police, for example, can say, "We need this because by knowing what you normally use at 11AM we can call you, on your cellphone, and ask if you are at home. If you are, fine. If you're not then we can take necessary action."

Of course they don't even need to call you, they can just call the cellphone company and find our where you are.

Maybe that's good, maybe that's bad. But either way your personal habits and actions are available to others.

Brave New World?

No? Well, no police department would ever allow itself to be bribed to use your cell phone to find where you are. Right? And illegal wrire taps? Never happen. Right?

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