volume 66 - issue 7 - July 2016
Straight talk about smart meters: safe, secure and accurate
SMECO has installed smart meters in several communities throughout Southern Maryland. This initial roll-out is part of a long-term plan to install smart meters throughout the SMECO service territory. Smart meters are just one step in the process of implementing technological improvements to our overall electric system.
These digital electronic meters utilize two-way communications between SMECO and the meter. This two-way interaction enables SMECO to offer a number of key benefits, including operational efficiencies, more detailed billing information, and the ability to respond to outages more quickly and effectively.
So how do smart meters manage this two-way communication? Smart meters use a radio signal to communicate, just like a cell phone, cordless phone, or other devices in your house that use radio signals, such as:
• Laptop computer or Wi-Fi wireless router
• Baby monitor or walkie-talkie
• Remote controlled (or radio controlled) toys
• Garage door opener
• Kindle, iPad, or other mobile devices while online
The transmissions from these communication devices, like those from smart meters, are harmless when the device is used as designed.
SMECO's smart meters are designed to use radio waves to communicate with a brief pulse, only transmitting data for 1/10 of a second each time. The meters also use a very low wattage to transmit their information, much less than a cell phone, cordless phone, or baby monitor. Under normal circumstances, the meters also only transmit once per hour. Because SMECO's smart meters operate very quickly—they only send a radio signal for less than five seconds per day.
Radio waves are used worldwide for telecommunication. Communication technology adds to the convenience we already enjoy in our daily lives, as will smart meters. Smart meters will enable SMECO to provide better customer service and more options for our members to exercise more oversight of their electric usage.
Smart meters are accurate and secure
Smart meters measure the energy use of the whole house, just like the meters SMECO currently uses. Smart meters cannot measure the energy use of individual appliances in your house, and SMECO's smart meters cannot be used to control your appliances or the amount of energy you use.
Smart meter technology has also been thoroughly tested by manufacturers and utilities using a wide range of tests and equipment to ensure that the meters adhere to the established meter accuracy guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In addition to being tested thoroughly by the manufacturer, SMECO also tests a random sample of meters before they are installed. Tests have shown that the smart meters are very accurate.
Security is a top priority for SMECO. We take all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure the services we provide are extremely secure. Smart meters employ several techniques to enforce security, including data encryption.
When data is collected from a meter and transmitted wirelessly to SMECO, the encrypted information contains specific unique identifers that must be unencrypted in order to be associated with the correct customer.
Metering information is validated numerous times to ensure accuracy before monthly bills are generated. This process is similar to cell phone technology; each cell phone has a unique number that goes with every communication which is used to identify a cell tower and connect your call to the correct location.
SMECO is committed to ensuring quality service to its customer-members with safe, accurate, and secure smart meters. If you want to learn more about this technology, visit www.smeco.coop/gettingsmarter.