We have all become used to the electricity meter, the gas meter, and the water meter whirring around costing us money without really understanding how and when we have spent that money. The cost of our utilities have for many years been at best opaque and at worst deliberately confusing.
As metering and telecommunications technologies have developed we have seen a sophisticated merging of the two and a move towards the development of SMART meters. These are meters that will communicate directly with the utility supplier sending them real time consumption data and consequently more accurate billing. This will mean that you are only billed for the gas, electricity or water that you have used. The most exciting thing about the development of SMART meters is that the data can also be displayed in real time in your home, allowing you to know exactly when you are spending your money on heating, lighting and other utilities.
The UK is involved in a SMART meter roll out programme, which is planning to roll out 53 million gas and electricity meters to homes and small businesses by the end of 2020. The Government has set up a Data and Communications Company, which is responsible for linking smart meters in homes and small businesses with energy suppliers, network operators and energy service companies.
The smart meter roll out programme will enable reform to existing market arrangements such as the change of supplier processes, which can in turn make markets, work better for consumers.
The development of SMART meters should be seen against the background of the development of SMART cities. This is a vision by which cities integrate information and communication technology with the Internet of things to manage cities assets. SMART meters will feed data into this network, which will enable large amounts of information to be gathered as to how and where utilities are used and to then enable them to be used more efficiently and effectively.
This vision leads to the development of cities that will improve its citizen’s environments making cities cleaner and more pleasant places to live.
The challenges for the development of both SMART meters and ultimately SMART cities is to ensure the proper and secure use of private data, the utility companies can build a detailed picture of their customers from the data from SMART meters and we must ensure that the market can provide the security technology to enable consumers to use the meters with confidence and consequently to reap all of the benefits of SMART meters.