Monday, December 05, 2011

Is your toaster watching you?

CNet reports on Siemens buying eMeter, a big data utility metering software startup.

Note how the article confuses cause and effect. Imagine you are a power utility. When you collect user information once a month no big data processing capability is necessary. But when you collect it every 15 minutes - an almost 3,000 increase in frequency - all of a sudden you have a lot of data to process. Therefore, the reason for new challenge is not the need for improved billing, but the new ability to collect and analyze private information that generate an avalanche of data.
(Dec 5, 2011. CNet) - By collecting data such as customer power consumption every 15 minutes, utilities can automatically read meters and get a better understanding of demand trends. Energy usage information can also be presented to consumers through a dashboard or dedicated device to help consumers lower utility bills. 
One of the challenges for utilities is that water, gas, and electricity meters create masses of data that has to be collected over different networks and then integrated into systems. Tying meter data into billing applications, for example, helps utilities streamline their operations. 

Last week, a lot of consumer wrath was directed at Carrier IQ collecting mobile data. The company was even accused of breaking federal wiretap laws. The case shows that the we are still in early stages of system growth, with most basic security issues unresolved. For example, enterprise use of smartphones  with unauthorized third party software is a huge security hole.

I would argue that, privacy-wise, the new big data capabilities of the utility companies is as invasive as Carrier IQ. By correlating your water, electricity, and internet use data, the utilities can figure out why, when, and how you use your home appliances.

tags: 10X, control,detection, energy, privacy, cloud

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