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Shocker: UK smart meter rollout is crap, late and £500m over budget

alain williams Silver badge

Home security problem

this they never talk about.

If my lekky usage is uploaded somewhere every 15 minutes then it will be easy for someone to make a guess if I am at home or not. All it takes is a cash strapped sysadmin to write a query that looks for homes where usage dropped sharply 2-3 days ago, pass the addresses on to his mate Burglar Bill as candidates for people away on holiday.

Wake me up when these things have a householder option to delay the sending of usage by a fortnight.

Paul Hargreaves

Re: Home security problem

I assume you've got something that keeps your internet traffic running in roughly the same cycles when you're away as well?

Plus you leave your mobiles at home when you go on hols so that the local towers still log where you are?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

I'm sneering, but you know who's to blame for this?

#hashtags Amber Rudd.

It all stems from when she was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (2016), she pressed ahead with this when all the indications said not to.

#hashtags Amber Rudd is now the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, she's pressing ahead with the rollout of Universal Credit when all the indications say not to, on the back of an incredulous comment that she too, was a struggling single mother bringing up two children, yet even her ex-husband described her as the 'silver spoon'. (i.e. born with a silver spoon in your mouth).

She's a now discredited mouthpiece of utter conjecture, she was then, she is now, trouble is Theresa May needs her protection minder back, so who are we to question the suitability of Amber Rudd?

Sneering yes, but bloody hell, sometimes we need to. Utterly useless.

Lee D Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

I ring your doorbell.

Bang, I instantly know if you're at home or not*.

(*unless it's the 31st October).

This is really a dubious concern anyway. My house pulls electric at all times of the day, throughout the day, whether I'm there or not. It'd be a CINCH however for a mobile telecommunications operator to tell you whether I was at my registered address or not.

And probably most people give their details away to an airport car park every time they go on holiday and park in the long-stay car parks.

It's really a null concern. If your house is insecure, secure it. If someone's gonna break in, it's not gonna be some highly-targeted affair. And if someone breaks in, your alarm is bog-useless too (have it notify you, or it's just pointless - only you know if it SHOULD be going off, and only you care about someone burgling you, and only YOU should need to deal with false alarms).

anthonyhegedus Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

"Wake me up when these things have a householder option to delay the sending of usage by a fortnight."

All it'll take is a cash-strapped sysadmin to check who hasn't sent it a usage report for a while.

Tom 7 Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

Lee D. You ring my doorbell all you know is you're on my doorstep. I dont answer the phone or doorbell unless I feel like it, and you look worth talking to.

Rich 11 Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

If someone's gonna break in, it's not gonna be some highly-targeted affair.

That's true. Half of all domestic burglaries are carried out by a local smackhead, desperate for cash, and jewellery or electronics which can be traded for the next fix or three. The cops almost always know who to go and shake, because the average town has a dozen heroin addicts per 100,000 population with two of them usually active thieves at any one time (the rest are either in jail or doing their best to get clean, or both, though with a dismally high failure rate).

I got burgled twice in the late 90s. The cops caught one culprit as the result of an investigation into a more serious crime, and he reportedly asked for 40 other offences (all domestic burglaries) to be taken into consideration.

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

I ring your doorbell.

Bang, I instantly know if you're at home or not*.

But if you want to ring doorbells:

* you need to walk around the streets, guess where lights are 'just left on', press & wait. Takes time

* you might be noticed going from house to house

Have someone sell you a list of candidate on-holidays is much safer & faster.

Yes: there are other ways of guessing that I am away, but it does not mean that we should not add another one.

Oddlegs

Re: Home security problem

Given that mobile companies have known precisely where you are for at least 20 years we must be living through an epidemic of highly targeted burglaries right? Right??

Of all of the reasons to dislike smart meters (and there are several) this must be one of the most ludicrous.

Gonzo wizard
Facepalm

Re: Home security problem

"I dont answer the phone or doorbell unless I feel like it" - I know somebody who used to do this. Until one night, a couple of minutes after the doorbell went, the front door was kicked in in an attempt to steal keys for the car parked outside. About 11:30 at night when all the lights were off.

He always answers the door now. Or at least turns a light on and sticks his head out of the window.

EBG

OK, but why ....

...one-headed stupidity does occur in a vacuum. This is driven by the climate change / decarbonisation targets. Smart meters open the door to "demand management" - rationing, if you want a more traditional word. The targets are near impossible to meet, so the politicians are in no position to turn down anything that claims it can help meet them, irrrespective of the downsides.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Home security problem

Worry more then about your smart water meter. Do you know anyone who doesn't flush a bog within an hour of falling out of bed in the morning?

LucreLout Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

I ring your doorbell.

Bang, I instantly know if you're at home or not*.

Google "millennial doorbell" and once you've finished laughing, report back.

Keith 12

Re: Home security problem

"Worry more then about your smart water meter. Do you know anyone who doesn't flush a bog within an hour of falling out of bed in the morning?."

I'd be a bit concerned if i saw someone lying face down, for an hour, at the beginning of our driveway with his head looking down the 5 feet or so distance to the meter waiting for the crapper to flush....

Adrian 4 Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

I never understood how this was supposed to work.

I've got nothing against something that pauses certain electricity uses until later - storage heaters, obviously, but maybe also freezers, washing machines, etc.

However, how's it supposed to work through a meter that's only got control of the whole house ? Thanks, but I don't want my CPAP machine turned off along with everything else because it would be convenient to run it during the afternoon instead. Or my dishes washed after the meal, that I had to eat with dirty plates (I cook on gas).

The original 'smart meter' concept was one that negotiated the best price amongst several suppliers and bought the next hour's use from a preferred supplier. It seems to have mutated into something locked into a single supplier and providing a level of control that only permits a reduction in cost of meter reading and a cheap easy cutoff if the bill isn't paid. There's only one entity I can see gaining from this.

Even the meter reading cost argument is ridiculous. Pay by capacity, not by usage. Far cheaper to administrate - you just rent a sealed fuse of a specific size.

Cynic_999 Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

"

Even the meter reading cost argument is ridiculous. Pay by capacity, not by usage. Far cheaper to administrate - you just rent a sealed fuse of a specific size.

"

I can't see that is at all practical or fair. It would be pretty easy to have a high-power battery powered invertor to allow large peak loads even if on a low current supply. A 5 amp supply will allow you to use nearly 30kWh per day, and few households us that much 'lekky (unless they own an electric car).

adnim Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

the data is sent to a collector there is no address in that data. There numbers that identify the meter itself the MPAN.

Of course the MPAN, consumption and address can be linked. But not by someone sniffing the wire. They have to get access to your suppliers database.

I write scripts to parse these flow files.

DTC Flow descriptions

MOV r0,r0

Re: I'm sneering, but you know who's to blame for this?

I totally get that you dislike Amber Rudd (me too!) but smart meters are an EU wheeze leapt upon by Ed Miliband's Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Minister of State for Energy at that time was Mike O'Brien who told the Telegraph in July of his that, "After a while I barely looked at it, didn't use it. We got rid of it."

I think he meant the 'in home device' rather than the meter - him not knowing the difference wouldn't surprise me given that he, not Amber Rudd, is largely responsible for the present mess. OTOH he's no longer MP for North Warwickshire so perhaps he has ripped his meter out and is cultivating something entirely different to the usual Westminster disdain for voters.

DCFusor Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

@Lee and others

Well, at some point you have to draw a line...while stopping one more thing may be kind of futile in the overall picture, not trying is sending a message you don't care. This one wouldn't matter to me personally, as I have my own solar array, batteries and whatnot. Freedom from a power bill is pretty nice. I think in many cases people are realizing that a thief isn't the only threat - the state level actor who might be a problem is your own state - there is no instance of a state power that hasn't been abused.

These days they are amateurs at hiding that compared to my own youth and some people are working that out. Here, where pot isn't legal yet, smart meters would be used to discover grow operations for just one thing.

Now, I live in the extreme boonies - where if you have an emergency, the police are maybe 45 minutes away (or more, as has happened here) - thank heavens the neighborhood is pretty good people and we look out for one another insofar as we can - I for example, can't see any of my neighbor's houses from the rooftop here (which is on a hilltop!). We DO worry somewhat about security, as sometimes a stranger is here to steal something. Particularly in hunting season where they might have some excuse to be here at all. Normally we farmers are grateful for those who keep the game under control, as they eat crops.

You could literally use a chainsaw on someone's front door and burgle for most of an hour before the neighbors would notice or the cops come if they did. Rather than encase ourselves in steel bars, well, it turns out that in farm country there are a lot of people who "Still cling to their Bibles - and their guns" as both have been known to come in handy in the presence of varmints - the latter doesn't count how many legs they have, either.

Ring my doorbell, or most others around here, and you'll be looked at either by a window or a camera.

And likely invited in and given food and other comfort. It's a nice place with nice people.

Break in by kicking or other method, well, Mr Smith and Wesson is here to greet you with a likely permanent perforation or few. Unofficially, the cops are fine with this...they know it wouldn't happen unless the situation was dire.

For some reason, there's next to zero crime here. It's kinda too dangerous - grandma knows how to shoot and is in practice. While there are some criminals living in the area, they go to the nearest town or city where they are anonymous and their victim likely unprepared to resist their attentions. If you harm someone in a tiny town - you may as well move away, if you live through the experience. Modern tech that will reveal whodunit is widely adopted even out here.

At least here, John Lott's thesis works out.

Cities promote disease. Anonymity and a constant flow of transients in a situation where no one can know all the people around are a recipe for con artists, thieves, and other predators on the dark side to ply their trades. Those sorts are by definition looking for the easy no-brainer way to get their desires.

They only have to move a couple of blocks over to regain complete anonymity and continue their bad deeds if caught. That just doesn't work in a county where pretty much everyone knows everyone else.

This points to a flaw in the "one size fits all" thinking that is always associated with strong central statist governments. I'm here to tell you, one size does NOT fit all. I completely understand that if you're going to live somewhere dense you have to be much more careful swinging your arms as someone's nose is never far away, and loss of some freedoms is required in such places to make things work. But...many people move away from that situation for that very reason. Responsible people can have more freedom without creating harm than those who have no discipline.

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

"and he reportedly asked for 40 other offences (all domestic burglaries) to be taken into consideration."

All that means is he "co-operated" in their clear up rates. I doubt they looked all that closely into whether he actually did all of them. It could be true, of course.

katrinab Silver badge
Windows

Re: Home security problem

“I assume you've got something that keeps your internet traffic running in roughly the same cycles when you're away as well?”

Yes, it is called Windows Update

veti Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

While I will cheerfully agree that the UK rollout is highly stupid - clearly designed by and for the benefit of the big, incumbent retailers - there is a also a colossal amount of the most ridiculous FUD on this topic.

Security? As already pointed out, there is nothing of value to a burglar in tracking your electricity usage. There are easier, and more reliable, ways to find out who's not home.

Load control? Unless the rollout is even dumber than I've heard, that's not done by cutting off power at the meter. It's done by selectively cutting off individual major loads, usually an immersion heater. The rest of the house remains powered.

Disconnection? Covered by the same regulations no matter what kind of meter you have. Sure, they can be changed, but that's always been true and always will be. There is no reason to imagine that smart meters will make a difference, except that they make it much faster to get reconnected.

Power consumption? A smart meter uses a fraction of the power of your mobile phone. Your old mechanical meter probably used more.

If you want to complain, forget all this FUD. It's just noise, and everyone who knows anything about the subject knows it, so as soon as you start talking about it you mark yourself as someone who can be ignored. Talk instead about the decision to put the rollout in the hands of the retailers, and not even stipulate that they must stick to common standards of communication and encryption. That's what has given the UK the unpardonable situation where meters can be used as a barrier to competition. The correct solution was to give metering responsibility to some third party, whether govt-run or private sector, who are required to deal with all retailers on a FAND basis.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

Do you know anyone who doesn't flush a bog within an hour of falling out of bed in the morning?

That might not register. Some people have alternative sources of water to flush the loo. In my case, when I empty the dehumidifier. Doesn't happen every day, but often enough to be at home without using that flush from time to time.

In any case, isn't the discussion based on a false premise? The OP's premise appears to be Debunked here.

Other countries seem to be spending much less and achieving much more rollout. Which suggests the problems we have arise from our system rather than anything inherent in the technology.

streaky Silver badge

Re: I'm sneering, but you know who's to blame for this?

smart meters are an EU wheeze leapt upon by Ed Miliband's Department of Energy and Climate Change

They're explicitly required by EU law - I'm still not sure if it's good or bad that we're miles ahead of Germany on this. The problem with it is the desperate panic with which the whole thing was rolled out - it's led to many problems. Personally speaking we love ours, it's solved many many problems that we had before (related mostly to our meter being installed within our flat and we broke their [the energy company's] system for self-reporting meter readings and shocking issues with bill estimation). Does it save energy? Probably not, it will for anybody who really doesn't understand where their energy use is going but otherwise it won't. For some it'll be nothing, for others it'll be probably be hundreds a year. The other issue is now there's a standard they're sitting on the new standard compatible meters and still trying to push the old ones out the door and nobody wants them because they have supplier-switching issues which of course is exactly what suppliers want - IMHO they should have all been prosecuted under competition law but what is a person to do?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: kippers know who's to blame for this?

"[smart meters] are explicitly required by EU law "

O'really? Citation welcome. Bear in mind that a definitive-looking citation (including extract) that contradicts your oft-repeated (but wrong?) claim has already been posted here.

Meanwhile, keep on kippering on.

Persona

Re: OK, but why ....

@veti

"Load control? Unless the rollout is even dumber than I've heard, that's not done by cutting off power at the meter. It's done by selectively cutting off individual major loads, usually an immersion heater."

How could it possibly do that? The smart meter in on the wires coming from the company fuses and going into the consumer unit. It's all or nothing. You would need a smart consumer unit to selectively cut power to individual circuits.

All a smart meter can do (in the future) is allow power to be bought with an expensive high reliability tariff or a cheaper low reliability tarif that gets turned off when power demand exceeds supply.

Archtech Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

"All it'll take is a cash-strapped sysadmin..."

Tautology alert!

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

Google "millennial doorbell" and once you've finished laughing, report back.

Mumsnet is full of women who never answer the doorbell unless they know in advance who is calling. Mind you, Mumsnet is also full of women with anxiety whose mothers are narcissists, whose children have ASD, ADHD and ODD (Bingo!) and whose husbands, sensible chaps, have long since done a runner.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm sneering, but you know who's to blame for this?

Required by EU law? I live in the Netherlands and know I can choose to have one or not. I also know I can choose the reporting period (from some lowish value to never).

A.P. Veening

Required by EU law?

Part of the traditional Whitehall blame shifting, the one single reason a majority voted for Brexit while the correct response would have been to clean house in Whitehall.

Richard 51

Re: Working as intended

and don't put on facebook/snapchat that you are on holiday

RyszrdG

Lies, dammned lies and government promises

When the government tries to give you something "for nothing" you had better check the small print (or count your fingers). Having chosen the most expensive and risky option the government needed to construct a reason for the public to buy into the idea, hence the risible savings idea. Everyone including the government and suppliers can see that this is nonsense but they don't know how to stop the programme having spent so much of the budget without achieving any meaningful result. Their mindset only allows them to plough on regardless - how many programmes have we seen in this position? It needs balls of steel (sorry Theresa, Rudd et al) to stop this nonsense and given the example of the Brexit show I doubt it could ever happen, short of war.

Voyna i Mor Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

"Even the meter reading cost argument is ridiculous. Pay by capacity, not by usage. Far cheaper to administrate - you just rent a sealed fuse of a specific size."

I downvoted that because, tbh, someone so utterly ignorant of how the electrical distribution system works really should think twice before commenting about it.

(a) Fuses are not current limiters, except in an extremely brutal one off way.

(b) Our average consumption is around 1A. Our peak consumption for the short period that the cooker is heating up, if everything else is going, is around 40A.

Danny 14 Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

these meters are utterly useless and ive actively told both the rollout board and our provider to basically fuck off and stop bothering me. It benefits me in precisely zero ways. I dont care how much I am using. Im not turning my router or web server off, i have has heating and a tumble drier that goes on when i can be here rather than schedule when im not and could catch fire without noticing. I have LED lights and know what my usage is monthly. Smart meters are an utter waste of money.

Killing Time

Re: OK, but why ....

@Veti

'Talk instead about the decision to put the rollout in the hands of the retailers, '

That was possibly driven by the fact that the retailers stand to gain by the introduction.

Access to consumption data in close to real time reduces their financial risk. Allowing them to balance their finances over a shorter period than a three monthly meter reading cycle ( probably closer to five months by the time they collate all the manual readings).

It surprised me they didn't farm the work out to the DNO ( The company that handles the final connection to the home/business). Historically they held responsibility for the metering as they hold responsibility up to the 'supply tails' into your consumer unit. Collectively, they must have wanted too much to implement the change.

Regarding the protocols? Yeah what a f@*k up.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: OK, but why ....

I don't want my leccy turned off on a whim so as I have my own generator (5kW of Solar Panels) I've put together a home grown battery system using 12v Car Batteries. It means that I can go without mains leccy for a couple of days and the contents of the freezer won't go off.

I'll get a 30kW battery late next year when I get an Electric Car. If I could I'd give two fingers to the Power Companies. Then they can stick their so-called smart meter up where it hurts.

Killing Time

Re: OK, but why ....

Be careful around those batteries, mind they don't short out on your tin foil hat.....

bigphil9009

Re: Home security problem

Not that I'm complaining, but should we be able to see all that documentation?

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: OK, but why ....

"You would need a smart consumer unit to selectively cut power to individual circuits."

And some pretty major re-wiring. Most UK houses have five circuits. A ring main and lighting ring for ground and 1st floors and a separate spur for a cooker.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: pricing by capacity (kW) vs usage (kWh)

I have seen it suggested that (some?) residential Italian electricity supplies work like this - customer pays an agreed fixed amount for an agreed fixed supply capacity (enforcement mechanism wasn't clear - as you point out, traditional fuses make little sense for this unless the capacity is remarkably small). I'd be interested to hear confirmation or correction.

Regardless, if the cost of meter reading (and associated admin and maintenance) is a significant part of the cost of supply (as it allegedly is in the UK) then why not offer small scale users the option of a fixed capacity supply and forget about metering of usage. This might be particularly interesting in areas where electricity hasn't been much used for heating (space heating or hot water or cooking) because some alternative has generally been more appropriate.

Obviously it could never happen in today's UK as such a concept could make it possible to eliminate a large number of valuable paperpushing and accounting roles, and we can't have that happening in England can we.

But in some places and for some use cases it might make some kind of sense, maybe?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Working as intended

"and don't put on facebook/snapchat that you are on holiday"

Even better: don't have facebook/snapchat et al....

Bert 1

Re: Home security problem

"Do you know anyone who doesn't flush a bog within an hour of falling out of bed in the morning?"

Yes! My Kids :-(

dutchie68

Re: I'm sneering, but you know who's to blame for this?

I think the UK is one of the few countries that followed the EU direction on this, which is bizarre.

chucklepie

Re: Home security problem

I have an IoT doorbell, I can answer it from Barbados.

Tim Jenkins

Re: Home security problem

"Mind you, Mumsnet is also full of women with anxiety whose mothers are narcissists, whose children have ASD, ADHD and ODD (Bingo!) and whose husbands, sensible chaps, have long since done a runner."

I'll think you'll find you don't win Mumsnet Bingo unless your husband has changed gender and is now your best friend....

Fred West
FAIL

Re: Home security problem

I guess you don't get parcels delivered by Amazon then, or any other courier. It's far easier for them to work out your patterns and sell them on..

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

"I guess you don't get parcels delivered by Amazon then, or any other courier."

It'd take a hell of a lot of lot of such deliveries by relatively few couriers to work that out.

Semtex451 Silver badge
Facepalm

"Ten years ago, when the Cabinet Office was pondering whether to commit the country to the £11bn project"

It feels like a lot longer than 10 years since EL Reg started, rightly, pointing out that this is a stupid idea.

Please remind me, which fool conceived it, thought it was a good one and managed to get it in front of the Cabinet Office?

Zippy´s Sausage Factory

Are they still using the 2G network for this nonsense or did they finally wake up and remember that the year 2000 is actually in the past now?

Ledswinger Silver badge

Please remind me, which fool conceived it, thought it was a good one and managed to get it in front of the Cabinet Office?

Grinning idiot Ed Milliband was Sec of State for Energy & Climate Change when this was enthusiastically pushed through parliament, and I think the geneisis of the UK policy was in 2006-7 under the then Sec of State for the environment one David Milliband.

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