Are Smart Meters are a Bad Idea?

November 29, 2011

Verizon's $220 Home Monitoring and Control Kit, including an energy reader, gateway device, camera, lighting control module, smart thermostat, remote control and appliance control module.

What’s the future of home energy management?

Look to the big service providers, advises Michael Weissman, vice president of corporate marketing for Sigma Designs, the company behind wireless Z-Wave technology used in connected home/security/energy management systems being offered by Verizon, ADT, Comcast, Vivint, and likely AT&T.

Weissman may be biased in his championing of the service providers, considering Z-Wave’s prominence in their offerings. But the service companies are out there offering basic energy management services like the ability to shut off lights and control wireless thermostats remotely via smartphones. Verizon’s home control offerings even include an optional Z-Wave energy monitor.

Weissman says he has seen a shift in the past six months to a year about the need for energy management among businesses like service providers and large integrators used to roll out those systems. “It’s gone from interesting to ‘when can I get this?’ There are now more buy questions.”

What does that lead Weissman to believe? Energy management is a breakthrough app, especially for smartphones, he says. “Ten years from now energy management will be as common as the electric meter.”

As for smart meters being rolled out by utilities for energy-efficiency smart grid programs? Don’t call Weissman a fan. Like some, he believes opening a utility’s network infrastructure poses security risks, and sees limitations in home energy management services that can be provided by utilities.

Other edited highlights from a discussion with Sigma Design’s Michael Weissman:

Consumer Appeal

“Home control is attractive to people. There’s an ease of being able to control it from a mobile device. People want that ability.”

Changing Consumer Attitudes

“People have shifted from why do I need that to why doesn’t it do that? In the security space, of course you should be able to use your phone to turn your home off. Now with your phone, there’s a sense of entitlement that you should be able to do that. On the usability front, it’s an obvious feature for people in hindsight.

There’s something about using the smartphone that transforms the discussion. The other place where we’re going to see that manifest itself is on the TV.”

TV Interface for Energy Management?

“From a historic perspective, the thermostat is the least involved user interface in the house. Maybe we look at it once every few days. The alarm I interface with every day. My TV I interface with a whole lot more than other devices. I think there’s a convenience factor there that is quite useful. (Also see the recent post “Efficiency Comes to Cable Boxes)

Utilities Offering Energy Management

“There’s a realization that being inside the home is a bitch for the power company. Most utilities have realized that they don’t do well inside the home. There’s a cost to deploy [these services], and what [they realize they] should be focusing on is reducing demand. Someone has to show them the way. And telcos [now] realize that the utilities are less threatening to them.”

Smart Meters or Web-based Energy Management?

“The smart meter is a bad idea. It’s just an aggregator of demand. The data that sits in a meter is mostly useless. What I care about is I’m spending this much and here’s the big energy user and here, and what I can do to save money. Once that data sits in the Z-Wave network, I can provision that to my network and notebook.”

We’re Just Starting Out

“In the energy management stuff, software preceded the hardware. We’re just starting to get there, but we’re just starting out. Every new technology takes 20 years to really shape. Ten years from now energy management will be as common as the electrical meter.”

Also see:

Is There Really a Retrofit Market?

Q&A: Selling to Retro

Consumers Like Smart Grid, If They’ve Heard of It

Efficiency Comes to Cable Boxes

Bridge Links Electric Meters to Z-Wave Networks in the House


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One Response to Are Smart Meters are a Bad Idea?

  1. […] security and privacy issues should also slow the rollouts. And some utilities may decide whether smart meters are even worth it.Electric vehicles? We should see plug-in EVs from several car companies this year, and some are […]

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