What is smart metering?Smart meters track usage of specific utilities to help users recognize their usage patterns and adjust behaviors accordingly as well as provide accurate usage readings to energy providers. Popular smart meters range in price from less than $100 to upwards of $300. In the United States, most smart meters are installed in residential homes. But businesses, too, can glean value from their functions. Regardless of the user, smart meters use a communication network called the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) to connect and transmit data.
Uses and benefits of smart metersSmart meters are convenient both for users and their suppliers. By capturing and sharing an accurate reading of energy usage, smart meters allow energy providers to bill users with precision based on their actual usage amounts as opposed to estimates or in-person meter reads, which are both standard methods of billing. In addition, smart meters provide users with in-depth information about their own energy usage, which can help them be more conscientious about their energy consumption and narrow in on the areas where they are using energy most heavily. Both parties, whether in home or business situations, will benefit from more accurate data conveyed in a more convenient way and should see lowered bills and smaller energy consumption after making behavioral changes informed by that data. There’s another less-obvious benefit that up-to-date data collection provides for energy providers. This data can help show usage patterns in specific areas, meaning companies have a more clear vision of demand. Providers can see the potential for blackouts in heavy use times in certain areas and enact counter-measures to prevent overloading, including charging users based on time and area demand.
Security risks of smart metersWith all the benefits they provide, smart meters may seem like an easy solution to any energy setup. However, as with any connected device, smart meters pose some security risk to users. One clear problem is the constantly transmitting nature of the device. Once connected to the AMI (which provides an access point for hackers and other malicious actors), smart meters transmit data 24/7, leaving an all-day window for attack. From there, hackers can adjust bills, take payment information and more, often without either party ever knowing. Although there haven’t been any major attacks through smart meters yet, it’s important for energy providers, and the users they supply, to stay on top of device security. An attack is the wrong time to be thinking about security; instead, stakeholders should make sure to maintain secure connections and use connected devices wisely all the time to ensure ongoing security.
Moving forwardAs smart metering becomes an important part of energy usage in the UK, the USA and beyond, it will become increasingly important for energy companies to figure out ways to keep them secure. Tripwire features products to help identify and defend against threats, as well as make necessary reports in case an attack happens. By integrating security solutions into your metering system, you’ll find more safety in an era of ever-present cyber threat. In spite of all the risk factors, smart meters are still considered a safe device and are relatively well-protected from attacks, but users and providers alike will need to stay on their toes to make sure they remain the only ones collecting information. To learn more about the march towards achieving and maintaining compliance, the Smart Energy Code (SEC) defines the rights and obligations of energy suppliers, network operators and other relevant parties involved in the end-to-end management of smart metering in Great Britain. See how Tripwire can help you here.