"Smarter" smart meter

‘Smarter’ meter technology could provide breakdown of energy consumption

Image credit: 52 Technology

Triple Ohm could allow for energy suppliers to provide their customers with bills and statements breaking down electricity consumption by appliance type, sent directly to a smartphone app.

Smart meters could allow consumers to better understand their energy consumption and how to control it. However, smart meters provide very limited information about this consumption; looking at a smart meter does not help elucidate how effective it would be, for instance, to reduce use of an electric blanket or upgrade to energy-saving lightbulbs.

According to US studies, providing a higher level of detail leads to an average reduction of 12 per cent in electricity consumption at home.

Triple Ohm was created to provide a detailed breakdown of electric use to guide consumers. The technology monitors changes in the high frequency current in a power supply. These changes are caused when certain appliances are used.

It can differentiate between “characteristic traces” which signal the use of particular types of alliance. Using a complex algorithm, it is able to calculate energy consumption per device in real time. This data is then displayed on an energy monitor or smartphone app.

42 Technology claim that Triple Ohm can even tell the difference between a vacuum cleaner with an empty bag and a vacuum cleaner that needs its bag changing (which is less energy efficient).

The hope is that this could allow customers to see exactly what appliances they are using in their offices and homes that are most energy expensive and, based on this, take steps to managing their bills and cutting their carbon footprint.

For instance, some customers may not realise that leaving their devices on standby is consuming so much energy or that old appliances could be replaced with more energy-efficient alternatives (such as LED lightbulbs).

“We have already built a number of demonstration units,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director of 42 Technology. “Several team members have had them installed in their homes as part of a field trial and we are starting to collect real usage data to show to potential development partners.”

The technology could also provide energy companies with more data on exactly how their customers are using their electricity. While this could assist suppliers in balancing supply and demand while engaging with efforts to reduce carbon emissions, it could also throw up questions about whether customers’ privacy may be compromised by the technology.

Smart meters are intended to provide more helpful, accurate energy bills to businesses and homeowners and a nationwide roll-out of the meters is intended in the UK. Approximately six million homes are already equipped with smart meters, although plans to provide every home with a smart meter by 2020 are likely to fall short, as a shortage of expertise and technical issues stand in the way.

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