Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Shock, horror - UK homes get connected and energy smart

Here in the UK The Daily Express, the self styled `World’s Greatest Newspaper` (that’s code for ` mid-market tabloid desperate to re-live its former glories), decided to lead its front page recently with the sensationalist headline `Gas and Electricity Spies in Your Home`.

The `Spies` to which the newspaper was referring were the consequence of the announcement from the UK Government that EVERY (they are very fond of capitalising what they believe to be the scary implication of the decision) home in Britain is to be fitted with a high-tech meter to track its energy usage.

Shock horror, the so-called `smart` meters will show precisely how much gas and electricity is consumed by households `down to the nearest penny`, says the paper

The Express can hardly control its discovery of the awful truth. `They (the meters) send the information to the power supplier, ending the need for visits from meter readers,` it gasps. Barely able to contain itself further, and in a seemingly brazen attempt to stir up at least some sort of indignation let alone fear, uncertainty and doubt in Middle England, The Express then announces that `Critics fear that the devices will give energy firms the ability to snoop on customers.`

Just to put any nascent incredulity in perspective, just bear in mind that this is a newspaper addressing a population that lives in country that houses around one quarter of the world’s CCTV cameras. And that also has a mobile phone using community that willingly or otherwise lets its network providers know exactly where you are the moment they switch on their trusty Nokia and whose every web site visit is known to their ISP? And precisely what is it that the gas and electricity meter readers have been able to do by entering our homes regularly for the last few decades or so?

The point is that under the Government blueprint, energy suppliers will have to take a lot more responsibility for green issues rather than simply selling gas or electricity. Householders will be offered free devices from May 2008 to monitor their energy usage on an LCD display in their home. The smart meters will be rolled out within a decade, believes the paper. Hurrah might those of us involved in home automation say – in raising general awareness about the importance of energy efficiency it’s precisely this sort of development that will make people keener to control their homes remotely and that’s where Intamac and others come into the picture.

As Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas, says in the article: `Smart meters will revolutionise how energy bills are calculated. They'll bring an end to estimated bills and give the householder more transparency and control over their consumption.` Yep, that seems to sum it up nicely.

Of course there is always the cash question. Such as who will pick up what The Express says is the estimated £8billion bill for installing the meters. Suppliers or customers? Whatever, given there are around 21 million households in the UK that looks like 380 quid a household including a cost – according to The Express again - of 180 pounds for the meter. For those of us actually involved pioneering internet enablement that looks like a lot of money. Maybe someone needs to look at the infrastructure model or maybe even the business plan again.

If you want to see the article in all its glory go to

Posted by Kevin Meagher, CEO, Intamac Systems (

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