16 Aug 2010

Smart meter SNAFU

People are complaining that PG&E's new water smart meters are "interfering with our baby monitors" and causing "debilitating headaches and nausea"

LK says that the meters are probably running on the wrong frequency and points out that PG&E is a monopoly that may not be so hot at consumer pre-testing...

Bottom Line: Smart meters are cool, but they need smart installers.

Hattips to SJ and SR


  1. On Smart Meters: The trend in wireless sensor technology is to use Zigbee http://www.zigbee.org/Markets/ZigBeeSmartEnergy/Overview.aspx . You can understand the technology a bit better from the Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZigBee

    Reading info from both sites referenced, you see that the frequencies used are in the 2.4GHz range. The same frequency range that is used by several types of license free services Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless phones and baby monitors.

    Bottom line: PG&E (or any other user) uses the Zigbee technology to do remote sensor interfacing. The technology utilizes the 2.4MHz band shared with other services. Can you blame PG&E for using a technology that uses shared frequencies in its sensing? If you do - don't go to the Hospital! Zigbee is used there too.

    dg (not a shill for PG&E or the wireless community)

  2. They need competition. The whole electricity business needs to be de-regulated. NOT the phony "de-regulation" from 1996, which was just a bad RE-regulation (despite the hype). But a real de-regulation that gets the government out of the electricity business.

  3. Funny you mention de-regulation of the power industry and mention the government in the electricity business. I recall the first formal presentation I received in the subject was at the IEEE Power Engineering meeting in 1997. The presenter was from some private firm, slick and wore a set of gold chains like Mr. T. What he talked about didn't make much sense in the way that I could not see where the system was being adjusted to where the consumer benefited.

    Phony? You bet! Was this something that the Power Industry wanted? I don't think so. Did de-regulation work? I don't think so.

    De-regulation worked extremely well in the Telecomm industry. Why? More infrastructure and distribution could be added - where needed, as needed. Prices dropped as more infrastructure was added. Also technology advances in fiber optic carrying technologies brought the prices down.

    Now apply the same to the Power Industry. You can add more generation facilities (except in California). The distribution of the generation is another matter.

    Take the Government out of the loop? In power production, the Government's role is both in hydro production and distribution. Who then becomes responsible for stability for the infrastructure?

    The view looks different when you are inside looking out - rather than looking in from the outside.

    Nothing never seems as it really is.


  4. Delbert and John,
    Thanks for the comments.

    1. I thought that power distribution was controlled by a consortium of power companies not by the government. For instance, second by second reactive power is a responsibility of the power companies. Siting of new transmission lines includes lots of local, state and national politicals but day to day operation does not. Am I wrong?
    2. The analogy to the communication systems is interesting. It will take a while to sort through this example to see if there are opportunities hidden in it.

  5. Hi Eric,

    On Federal involvement in power distribution: Perhaps I mis-worded it. The federal government does take an active role in the distribution of power in the Western United States: http://www.wapa.gov/about/default.htm
    and http://www.bpa.gov/corporate/About_BPA/ .

    On Telecommunications: The deregulation of the Telecommunications Industry enabled multiple companies to compete in a market controlled by Ma Bell. The thing here is that more infrastructure could be added. Trick was for the competing companies often needed the 'right of way' to lay fiber optic lines. Prime example was the SPRINT phone network. The right of way in question? The Southern Pacific Railroad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprint_Nextel. Fiber optic cable right of ways often 'piggy back' on existing right of ways that someone has (high voltage power lines, pipelines, highways, etc). Advances in both Laser and communications technologies takes the bandwidth limitations of single mode fiber to higher limits. A much different world than the analog microwave systems we used twenty years ago.

    Or were we talking about ZigBee wireless? I forget.



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