I am awaiting with interest the response of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Ofgem to their consultation on implementing smart metering in the UK. In a joint open letter sent on 9 December they promised a detailed response early in 2011. (I should explain to regular readers my interest in smart meters – put simply they will constitute the single largest roll-out of connected devices in the UK in the near future, will requirement significant connectivity and raise complex issues of privacy and data protection).
Amongst the issues to be addressed of interest to the telecoms and technology industries (as well as the energy industry) are:
- Customer privacy and data security requirements: The deployment of smart meters is one of the most significant deployments of what is often described as ‘the internet of things’, but its linkage to subscriber accounts and individual homes, and the increasing prevalence of data ‘mash-ups’ (cross-referencing of multiple databases) will require these issues to be thought about in a more sophisticated and nuanced way.
- Interoperability, standards and electronic communications regulation: The move to smart meters requires consideration of not only interoperability with gas and electricity supply systems but also interoperability with LAN and WAN technologies. At the moment the roll-out process is in a holding pattern whilst the functional requirements catalogue (a list of all the things smart meters will need to do) is finalised. The functional requirements catalogue will form the basis of the technical specifications for smart meters. Outstanding issues include the privacy and security aspects of the catalogue.
- Impact of central data management and communications entity. The DECC / Ofgem proposal to have a central entity – DataCommsCo (DCC) to manage data and communications providers. The establishment, ownership and management of DCC along with its procurement and supply of services will be a highly complex arrangement. I am reminding of the (stalled, and ultimately derailed by legal challenge) entity set up to procure and run a central numbering database to enable faster number portability (UKPorting), and hope that DECC will learn from that experience.