Gov confirms plans for Sky box in charge of your house

Smart meters remote-control spy boxes by 2020


The government has announced the results of its consultation with the public and other interested parties on plans for "smart" energy meters to be installed in all British homes and businesses. The most controversial aspects of the devices - the fact that they will effectively allow remote control of a home by energy companies and/or the grid authority - have apparently passed unchallenged.

Many of the proposed capabilities of smart meters, to be universally installed by 2020, are relatively uncontroversial. The devices are to be networked back to grid authorities and supplier companies, allowing an end to visits for meter readings and much simpler billing operations for energy firms. They will also be able to join a home network, allowing separate displays elsewhere in a house and/or the monitoring of energy use on other devices such as home computers, phones etc. The machines will be run like Sky or TiVo boxes, under remote control from outside the home - users will have no control over them.

Real time power monitoring like this already rings some alarm bells - it will usually be possible, for instance, to use such data to tell if people are in or out, and perhaps other details such as what TV programmes they like to watch, how many hot drinks they consume, whether they cook with a microwave or an oven etc. Such information is significant in a privacy context, and valuable in bulk to marketing organisations.

But this pales into insignificance compared to the more radical ideas. The smart meter is also supposed to enable remote cut off or restoration of supplies - though there has been a row over the cut-off valve which would be required in the case of gas, and the government says it will have another think before deciding on that.

Apart from being able to turn a house off and on remotely, however, the unspecified people who control the "meters" from afar will also have other capabilities. Specifically, the boxes will have "load management capability to deliver demand side management - ability to remotely control electricity load for more sophisticated control of devices in the home".

"Demand management" is industry code for power rationing or cuts. "Controlling load", as the consultation says, is a matter of turning things on or off, up or down. Quite bluntly, this is not a meter - it's a remote-control device in charge of your house, and potentially of everything in it.

According to the consultation response issued yesterday:

The Government therefore confirms the proposals [as described]. The Government will take a final decision on the gas valve issue once the further assessment work is complete.

You can read full details - and further plans to make the grid itself smart - here. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • India reveals home-grown server that won't worry the leading edge

    And a National Blockchain Strategy that calls for gov to host BaaS

    India's government has revealed a home-grown server design that is unlikely to threaten the pacesetters of high tech, but (it hopes) will attract domestic buyers and manufacturers and help to kickstart the nation's hardware industry.

    The "Rudra" design is a two-socket server that can run Intel's Cascade Lake Xeons. The machines are offered in 1U or 2U form factors, each at half-width. A pair of GPUs can be equipped, as can DDR4 RAM.

    Cascade Lake emerged in 2019 and has since been superseded by the Ice Lake architecture launched in April 2021. Indian authorities know Rudra is off the pace, and said a new design capable of supporting four GPUs is already in the works with a reveal planned for June 2022.

    Continue reading
  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021